Innovator Visa Requirements (Am I Eligible?)

Understanding the visa requirements is essential for any Home Office application. As a new route into the UK for entrepreneurs, the Innovator Visa has come into force with general guidance on eligibility, but detail still eludes and will undoubtedly come as applications start to be processed.

We take a brief look at the guidance to date on the innovator visa requirements. Where you are confident of you meet these, extensive documentation will be required to evidence your eligibility at both the endorsement and visa application stages.

Innovator visa requirements: endorsement

Before applying to the Home Office for the visa, applicants must first secure endorsement from a business sponsor in support of the applicant’s relevant experience in business.

Endorsement must be secured from one of a number of Home Office-appointed endorsing bodies.

The endorsing bodies have been charged with assessing applicants’ business ideas against specific criteria of innovation, viability and scalability:

Innovation
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.

Viability
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.

Scalability
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.

Commitment
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.

Where endorsement is granted, and the visa ultimately approved, visa holders will be required to maintain contact with their endorsing body at the 6, 12 and 24 month marks to confirm continued compliance with the route conditions. The implication here is that endorsing bodies may be permitted to withdraw their endorsement, impacting status under the route and eventual ILR eligibility.

Innovator visa requirements: minimum investment amount

The route requires £50,000 investment in the business from any legitimate source. This is a significant reduction on the £200,000 required under the preceding Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category.

In theory, a smaller capital requirement should open up the route to a wider pool of candidates and shift the focus of the application to the merit and potential of the business idea as opposed to focusing on an arbitrary investment level.

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.

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

General innovator visa requirements

In addition to evidencing the eligibility of your business proposal and your professional capabilities and experience, you will also be assessed by the Home Office during the visa application stage in respect of general areas.

Initial requirements specify that you must be over 18 years of age and a national of a non-EEA country to apply for the Innovator scheme.

Your immigration history will be vetted to check for any breaches of the UK immigration rules, for example if you have overstayed a previous period of leave.

You also have to satisfy the English language requirement to Level B2.

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

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

Many entrepreneurs are now asking if they should proceed with an extension application under the existing route, or apply under the new route.

Your options will depend on your circumstances. Extension applications for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants will remain open until 5 April 2023, and settlement applications until 5 April 2025.

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.

Speak to our UK business visa specialists for advice on the Innovator Visa Requirements

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.