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Innovator Visa Guidance – The New Route for Entrepreneurs

What is the new Innovator Visa UK? 

For individuals looking to pursue their business idea in the UK, we offer some initial Innovator Visa  guidance on the new route for entrepreneurs.

What is the Innovator route?

The innovator visa is to be aimed at those who can demonstrate relevant experience in business. The key criteria will be:

  1. Endorsement by a relevant business sponsor. Applicants will be required to apply for and secure endorsement by a business sponsor, who will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability. Regular contact is to be maintained with the endorsing body at the 6, 12 and 24 month marks.
  2. £50,000 investment in the business from any legitimate source, reduced from £200,000 for most applicants in the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category). This investment is waived if the applicant is switching from the Start-Up visa.
  3. Satisfy the English language requirement, to Level B2.

There is no maximum time limit placed on applicants to remain in the UK under this category, but endorsement will be required at the extension and settlement stages.

The application fee for the new route has been set at the same rate as the entrepreneur visa.

Note that the new route is not a reintroduction of the old Innovator Visa, which was closed in 2008.

Will settlement be possible under the Innovator route?

The category may also lead to settlement after 3 years’ continuous UK residence, provided a minimum of two of the following conditions are met:

  • At least £50,000 has been invested and spent in the business
  • The business has created at least 10 full time jobs for resident workers
  • The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full time jobs for resident workers paying at least £25,000
  • The business has generated gross revenue of at least £1 million
  • The number of the business’ customers has at least doubled in the 3 years and is higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services
  • The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK
  • The business is generating at least £500,000 in revenue with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas

Innovator visa guidance: What are the endorsement criteria?

Endorsement must be secured from an approved body. The government maintains a list of organisations authorised to endorse applications for the Innovator route. There are currently 24 endorsing bodies, covering the breadth of sectors.

Applicants are to create a business plan when applying for endorsement, and provide along with other relevant supporting documentation to evidence that you satisfy the following innovator route requirements:

Originality will be the critical factor. The business plan is to demonstrate the product, service and/or its promotion is genuinely innovative, inventive and original and that it new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

Applicants will need to show they bring more than a great idea to the table. They must themselves possess and evidence the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business. Further, the business itself must be able to show it can maintain cash flow until profitability.

A key determinant will be potential contribution to the UK economy in the form of job creation and planning for growth into national and international markets. This is likely to be more challenging for start ups, where projections will need to be relied on.

The endorsing organisation must also be reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing the business venture and the innovator may not work for another business.

How will the innovator route differ from the existing entrepreneur visa?

The new scheme is clearly looking to address concerns previously that entrepreneur visa application processing is too subjective and dependant on the assessment of the Home Office caseworker, as raised by the MAC in its review of the Tier 1 route.

By requiring applicants to secure endorsement prior to making their application to the Home Office, it is hoped the new visa will offer a more objective evaluation of the viability of the business idea.

In a further reform, the investment amount has been significantly reduced, rom £200,000 under the old entrepreneur visa route to £50,000 under the new innovation route. A smaller capital requirement should open up the route to a wider pool of candidates and shift the focus of the application on the merit and potential for the business idea to be successful.

Interestingly, the funding requirement will be waived for those switching from the new Start-up scheme, who have made significant achievements against their business plans.

What does this mean for entrepreneurs looking to set up business in the UK?

Many entrepreneurs are now asking if they should push forward with an application under the existing route, or wait until the new scheme comes into force.

Your options will depend on your circumstances. Applicants who have been considering making an application for some time and who have already started to build their submission, it may make sense to submit your application as soon as possible, before the current route closes. Extension applications for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants will remain open until 5 April 2023, and settlement applications until 5 April 2025.

On the other hand, for people who are new to the scheme and particularly those who want to set up their own business, it may well be that the new (less subjective) rules are beneficial. As such, it may be prudent to hold off until the new route goes live.

Taking advice on your circumstances will help you understand which course of action best meets your needs and improves your prospects of making a successful application.

Applicants should also note that across the board, the Home Office is heavily scrutinising supporting documentation in respect of business visa applications. Evidencing source and ownership of funds will be critical.

Speak to our UK business visa specialists for Innovator Visa Guidance

DavidsonMorris are recognised experts in recognised in the Legal 500 UK for our expertise in advising entrepreneurs and investors to pursue their business goals in the UK.

During this period of change in UK immigration rules, it is increasingly challenging for applicants to understand their visa options and ensure they are working to current eligibility and decision-making criteria.

Before making an application under the innovator route, take professional legal advice to ensure you have selected the most appropriate route, and for guidance on how to meet Home Office requirements and make a successful application.

DavidsonMorris specialise in business visa applications. We work with applicants from across the world seeking to enter or remain in the UK by establishing, investing in or taking over a business here.

We provide advice from the initial stages of the Home Office application process, advising on eligibility and suitability of the relevant route and visa options for any dependants, through to detailed support with compiling your supporting evidence and business plan, completing the application form and guidance on visa interviews.

If you have any questions relating to your application, please contact us.

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