Innovator Founder Visa to ILR

innovator founder to ilr

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The route from Innovator Founder visa to ILR is relatively straightforward, but the requirements for UK settlement must be met and evidenced in your application.

 

Eligibility requirements for Innovator Founder visa to ILR

The Innovator Founder route is a route for overseas nationals who have come to the UK to establish a business based on an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which they have generated or to which they have significantly contributed. It is also a route to settlement. This means that having lived in the UK on this route for a period of 3 years, an Innovator Founder can apply to permanently settle, otherwise known as ILR.

Once ILR has been granted, this will allow the successful applicant to live, work and study in the UK without restriction. However, the relevant requirements for an Innovator Founder visa to ILR must first be met. The different eligibility requirements when it comes to settlement under Appendix Innovator Founder of the UK’s Immigration Rules include:

  • an endorsement requirement
  • a qualifying period requirement
  • a continuous residence requirement
  • a knowledge of life in the UK requirement

 

An applicant on the Innovator Founder route must also not be in breach of immigration laws in the UK, or on immigration bail, to be able to apply for settlement.

 

Endorsement requirement for Innovator Founder visa to ILR

Under the endorsement requirement for an Innovator Founder visa to ILR, an applicant must have an endorsement letter from an endorsing body, or legacy endorsing body, dated no more than 3 months before applying, where that endorsement has not been withdrawn.

Legacy endorsing bodies are the organisations that previously accepted applications under the predecessor Innovator route, and are still authorised to maintain and monitor existing endorsed overseas nationals. The Innovator Founder route has replaced the former Innovator route, although existing Innovator visa-holders can still apply for ILR.

The applicant’s endorsement letter must contain all of the following information:

  • confirmation that the applicant’s business has shown significant achievements, as judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement
  • confirmation that the applicant’s business is registered with Companies House in the UK and that the applicant is cited as a director or member of that business
  • confirmation that the applicant’s business is active and trading
  • confirmation that the business appears to be sustainable for at least the next 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, as against current and planned expenses
  • confirmation that the applicant has demonstrated an active and key role in the day-to-day management and development of their business
  • confirmation that the business venture has met 2 or more of the following requirements:
    • at least £50,000 has been invested and actively spent in furthering the business
    • the number of customers has at least doubled within the last 3 years and is higher than the mean number of customers for other comparable UK businesses
    • the business has engaged in significant research and development activity, and has applied for protection of its intellectual property in the UK
      the business has generated an annual gross revenue of at least £1 million during the last full year covered by its accounts
    • the business has generated an annual gross revenue of at least £500,000 during the last full year covered by its accounts, with a minimum of £100,000 from exports
    • the business has created the equivalent of 10 or more full-time jobs for settled workers
    • the business has created the equivalent of 5 or more full-time jobs for settled workers, each of which has a mean annual salary of £25,000 (gross, excluding any allowances).

 

An applicant cannot meet these requirements by relying on the same criterion twice. For example, an applicant who has invested £100,000 (2 x £50,000) in their business venture, or applied for intellectual property protection in respect of more than one innovation, will be considered to have met only one criterion, and not two. Equally, if the business venture has one or more other team members applying for, or who have been granted, settlement on the Innovator Founder route, they cannot share the same means of meeting these requirements. For example, if two applicants are relying on the requirement of having created 10 jobs, then a total of 20 jobs must have been created in their joint business.

It is also worth noting that if an applicant is relying on the criteria of 10 creating jobs, or 5 jobs that pay at least £25k per year, each job must have existed for at least 12 months and comply with the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998, plus any other relevant UK legislation. Each job must also involve an average of at least 30 hours paid weekly work, although two or more part time jobs held by different employees that add up to 30 hours per week when combined will represent the equivalent of a single full-time job, provided each of the jobs has existed for at least 12 months. To be considered a job for a settled worker, the worker must meet the definition of settled worker in the rules in force at the time they started the job, and have remained employed for the whole claimed 12-month period, even if they subsequently ceased to be a settled worker.

 

Qualifying period requirement for Innovator Founder visa to ILR

To qualify for an Innovator Founder visa to ILR, the applicant must have spent at least 3 years in the UK with permission as either an Innovator Founder or Innovator visa-holder, where applicants cannot include time spent in the UK on any other route.

 

Continuous residence requirement for Innovator Founder visa to ILR

In addition to the qualifying residence requirement, an applicant must meet the continuous residence requirement as set out in Appendix Continuous Residence. The continuous residence requirement will be met if the applicant has lawfully spent the qualifying unbroken continuous residence period required by their route in the UK. This means that for the 3-year period of residence on either the Innovator Founder or Innovator route, they must have spent no more than 180 days outside of the UK in any 12-month period.

When calculating any period spent outside the UK, there are certain absences that do not count towards the 180-day limit, including compelling and compassionate personal circumstances, although the other cited reasons are relatively limited and rare.

 

Knowledge of life in the UK requirement for Innovator Founder visa to ILR

Finally, unless an exemption applies, such as being over 65 or suffering from a disability preventing someone from meeting this requirement, the applicant must meet the Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement as set out in Appendix KOL UK. This will require the applicant to take a Life in the UK test with an approved test provider before applying.

 

Application process for Innovator Founder visa to ILR

Any person applying for settlement on the Innovator Founder route must apply online on the GOV.UK website using the specified form “Settlement Innovator”. The applicant must also be in the UK to apply. The application will be sent to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the division of the UK’s Home Office responsible for settlement decisions.

If UKVI is satisfied that all of the requirements are met for ILR on the Innovator Founder route, the applicant will be granted settlement. It is possible to live and work in the UK for up to 3 years at a time on an Innovator Founder visa, with no limit to how long a visa-holder can stay in the UK, provided they apply to renew prior to expiry of their existing grant of leave and have a new endorsement each time. However, going from an Innovator Founder visa to ILR will allow the successful applicant to live and work in the UK without the need to re-apply or obtain a fresh endorsement every time they do so.

 

Documents for Innovator Founder visa to ILR application

As part of the application process, applicants will need to prove their identity, where how they do this will depend on where they are from and the type of passport or resident permit they hold. They will either use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity document or be asked to schedule an appointment to enrol their biometric information (scan of their fingerprints and a digital photo) at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. They will be told what they need to do when they apply.

Applicants should also be told which documents they need to provide in support of their application. In all cases, the applicant must have been assigned a valid endorsement letter from an endorsing or legacy endorsing body. This letter is designed to show that the requirements for growing the endorsed business have been met when applying for an Innovator Founder visa to ILR. An applicant might also need to show, for example, that they have passed the Life in the UK test and the reason for any absences in excess of 180 days.

 

How long does it take to go from Innovator Founder to ILR?

Applicants can apply 28 days before they are eligible for ILR, where their application may be refused by UKVI if they apply earlier. They must also not wait until their current visa expires. If their visa expires before they apply for ILR, they must renew this first.

Applicants will usually get a decision within 6 months of submitting their application or attending any biometric enrolment appointment. During this time, the applicant must not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man until they receive a decision from UKVI, where their application will be at risk of being withdrawn if they do.

 

How much does it cost to apply for Innovator Founder visa to ILR?

It costs £2,885 when applying for an Innovator Founder visa to ILR, although there is no charge to attend any biometrics appointment. Applicants may also be given the option to pay an extra £1,000 for the super priority service to receive a decision within 2 working days, or an extra £500 for a decision within 5 working days using the priority service.

 

Can dependants apply for Innovator Founder visa to ILR?

The dependants of Innovator Founder visa-holders can also apply for settlement on this route, including a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner or dependent children. Any person applying for settlement as a partner or dependent child on the Innovator Founder route must apply online at GOV.UK using the specified form from inside the UK.

As with any applicant on the Innovator Founder route, the applicant must not be in breach of immigration laws in the UK or on immigration bail. A dependant of an Innovator Founder applying for ILR must also meet a number of eligibility requirements, including:

  • a qualifying relationship requirement as a partner or child on this route, as set out under Appendix Relationship with Partner or Appendix Children respectively
  • a care requirement as a child on this route, together with an age and independent life requirement, as set out under Appendix Children
    a qualifying continuous residence requirement of 5 years as a partner on this route, as set out under Appendix Continuous Residence
  • an English language requirement, unless exempt by reason of age or disability, as set out under Appendix English language
  • a Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement, unless exempt by reason of age or disability, as set out under Appendix KOL UK.

Importantly, dependants can apply separately at a later date, for example, if they are not yet eligible for ILR, where they can continue to extend their visa on the Innovator Founder route, even after the primary visa-holder has been granted settlement in the UK.

 

Need assistance?

Contact our UK immigration experts for specialist guidance on your ILR application.

 

Innovator Founder Visa to ILR FAQs

Can I apply for ILR after 3 years on Innovator visa?

You can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) on the Innovator route after 3 years, even though this route has been replaced by the Innovator Founder route. However, you will need an endorsement from your legacy endorsing body.

Does Innovator visa lead to settlement?

An Innovator visa provides a path to settlement for existing visa-holders who meet the relevant requirements for indefinite leave to remain. However, new applicants cannot apply on this route, but must instead apply on the replacement Innovator Founder route.

Can I work full time on Innovator Founder visa?

On an Innovator Founder visa, you can work for the business for which your visa was granted. You can also undertake secondary employment, but only in a role that requires a skill level of not less than RQF Level 3.

How hard is it to get an Innovator Founder visa?

Getting an Innovator Founder visa can be challenging, where you must have generated or significantly contributed to a business idea that is innovative, viable and scalable. That idea must also have been endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body.

Last updated: 27 March 2024

Author

Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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