Innovator Visa to ILR Application Guide


If you are currently working in the UK on the Innovator route, and your UK business is booming, you may be thinking about making the UK your permanent home. This means, once your visa expires, you will need to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

The following detailed guide looks at the Innovator Visa to ILR rules, from what settled status will provide for you and your family, to how to apply and how long this should take. In this way, you can plan ahead to prepare to meet the requirements for settlement.


Why apply for ILR from the Innovator visa?

Having Innovator status means that you have the right to live and work in the UK, but on a temporary basis. However, the Innovator route is a path to settlement, where you may be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) if you are in the UK on a valid Innovator Visa. ILR is how you settle in the UK, giving you the right to live and to work here for as long as you like. You, and any eligible dependants, can also use ILR status to apply for citizenship.


Innovator Visa to ILR eligibility requirements

To go from an Innovator Visa to ILR, also known as an Innovator settlement application, you must first meet various eligibility requirements, including:

  • a 3-year continuous residence requirement
  • a fresh endorsement requirement, and
  • the Life in the UK test requirement.


Continuous residence requirement

You must have lived in the UK on the Innovator route for a period of 3 years, where you cannot include time spent in the UK on any other visa. This means that you must have, or have last been granted, permission on the Innovator route. You must also be inside the UK when you apply and have spent no more than 180 days in any 12 months outside the UK.


Fresh endorsement requirement

You must have a fresh endorsement from an approved body, showing that you have met the requirements for growing your business since you have been on the Innovator route.

On your initial application for an Innovator Visa, your business or business idea must have been endorsed by an approved body, known as an endorsing body. In support of your Innovator Visa to ILR application, a fresh endorsing letter will be needed. You do not need to use the same body that endorsed you for your Innovator visa, but you must use an organisation that appears on the Innovator Endorsing Bodies list at GOV.UK.

The endorsing letter must include the name of the endorsing body; the endorsement reference number; the date of issue; your name, date of birth, nationality and passport number; a short description of your business venture and the main products or services that your business provides; and the name and contact details of someone at the endorsing body who will verify the contents of the letter, if requested by the Home Office.

The endorsement letter must also provide confirmation that:

  • you have shown significant achievements while in the UK on the Innovator Visa, judged against the business plan as assessed in your previous endorsement
  • your business is registered with Companies House in the UK and you are listed as a director or member of that business
  • your business is active and trading
  • your business is likely to be sustainable for the next 12 or more months, based on its assets and expected income, and as weighed against its existing and planned expenses
  • you have demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business, and
  • your business venture has met at least two of the following requirements:
    • at least £50,000 has been invested into your business and actively spent furthering it
    • the number of customers has doubled or more within the last 3 years and is currently higher than the average number of customers for other businesses in the UK offering comparable main products and/or services
    • your business has taken part in significant research and development activity in the UK, and has applied for UK intellectual property protection
    • the business has generated a minimum annual revenue of £1 million gross in the last full year covered by its accounts
    • the business is generating a minimum annual revenue of £500,000 gross in the last complete year covered by its accounts, with £100,000 or more from exporting overseas
    • your business has created the equivalent of 10 or more full-time jobs for settled workers
    • your business has created the equivalent of 5 or more full-time jobs for settled workers, each with a mean gross salary of £25,000 or more per year, excluding allowances.


You cannot rely on the same criterion twice, for example, if you have invested £100,000 (2 x £50,000) in your business venture, you will be considered to have met one criterion, not two. Further, if your venture has one or more other team members who are applying for, or have been granted, indefinite leave on the Innovator route, they cannot share the same means of meeting these criteria, for example, if you are both relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, a total of 20 jobs must have been created. Equally, if you are relying on the criteria for creating jobs, the following requirements must also be met:

  • each job must have existed for 12 or more months and comply with all relevant UK legislation, including the law relating to the national minimum wage and working time
  • each job must involve an average of 30 or more paid hours per week, or where two or more part-time jobs held by different employees add up to 30 hours per week, this will represent the equivalent of one full-time job, provided each job has existed for a minimum of 12 months, and
  • a job will be considered one for a settled worker, if that worker met the definition of settled worker in the rules in force at the time they started, and they remained employed for the whole claimed 12-month period, even if they later ceased to be a settled worker.


Life in the UK test requirement

If you are aged between 18 to 64, you must pass the Life in the UK Test at a cost of £50. You must book your test online at least 3 days in advance. There are over 30 UK test centres, where you can choose where to take your test when you book.

To book a test, you will need an email address, your debit or credit card and an accepted form of ID. This could be either a valid passport, another type of valid travel document with a photo, your biometric residence permit or your biometric residence card, but the name you give on your booking must match with the name on the ID. You must also bring the same ID that you use to book the test, although your photo will be taken on the actual day to confirm your identity. Importantly, you will not be able to take the test or get a refund if you do not bring the correct ID or you refuse to have your photo taken.

The test comprises 24 questions about British traditions and customs over 45 minutes. You will be tested on information contained in the official handbook for the Life in the UK Test, which you should study to prepare. The handbook is available as a book, eBook, e-Learning subscription or in audio format. You must score at least 75% to pass the test.

There are certain exceptions to taking the Life in the UK. You will not need to take the test if you are under 18 or 65 or over, or if you have a long-term physical or mental condition. However, you must provide proof of your condition, by way of either a letter or a Life in the UK exemption form completed by a qualified medical professional.


How to apply for ILR with an Innovator Visa

You can submit a settlement application 28 days before you are eligible for ILR. This means that you can make an Innovator Visa to ILR application 28 days prior to having lived continuously in the UK for 3 years. However, your application may be refused if you apply earlier. You must also not wait until your Innovator visa expires. If your visa expires before you apply for indefinite leave, you will need to renew it first.

When you apply for ILR on the Innovator route, you will need to submit an online application on the GOV.UK website using the specified form ‘Settlement Innovator’, together with various documents in support. You will also need to enrol your biometric information at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. You can either upload your supporting documents online or provide them at your UKVCAS appointment.

To make a settlement application on the Innovator route, you will need:

  • a valid passport or other travel document to establish your identity and nationality
  • your endorsement letter from an approved body showing that your business has grown
  • your life in the UK unique reference number, which the Home Office will use to check that you have passed
  • if you are exempt from taking the Life in the UK test, any exemption form or letter from a qualified medical professional.

You must have been issued with an endorsement letter by an approved body no more than 3 months before the date that you apply, and that endorsement must not have been withdrawn when you make your Innovator Visa to ILR application.


How much does an Innovator Visa to ILR application cost?

An Innovator Visa to ILR application will cost you £2,404. The fee is the same per person applying. This means that if a dependent partner and/or any children are also applying at the same time, the fee will be £2,404 for each of them. You will also each need to have your biometric information taken, although there is no additional fee for this.

Any dependent partner or child can apply if you have made a valid application for settlement in the UK as an Innovator and that application has not yet been decided. Alternatively, a partner or child can apply once your application for Innovator Visa to ILR has been granted, or once you have become a British citizen, provided you had permission as an Innovator when you settled, and your partner or child had permission at that time as your dependant. If your child was born in the UK after you have settled, they can also apply for settlement under this route.


How long does Innovator Visa to ILR processing take?

Having submitted your online Innovator Visa to ILR application, paid the relevant fee, enrolled your biometric information and submitted your documents, you will usually get a decision on your settlement application within 6 months. You must not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man until you get a decision, otherwise your application will be withdrawn. If you pay to use the priority service, you should get a decision within 5 workings days, or just 2 working days for the super priority service.

The Home Office will contact you if your application is complex and is likely to take longer than the standard 6-month wait time. This could be, for example, if your supporting documents need to be verified, if you need to attend an interview or because of your personal circumstances, for example, if you have a criminal conviction.

If the requirements for settlement on the Innovator route are not met, but you meet all of the requirements for permission to stay as an Innovator, your application will instead be considered as an application for permission to stay. There will be no additional fee payable, but your fee for your Innovator Visa to ILR will not be refunded. You will also be asked to pay the Immigration Health Charge, currently set at £624 per year of stay. If you fail to pay the healthcare surcharge, the application for permission to stay will be rejected as invalid.


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are specialist UK immigration lawyers. We are on hand to provide guidance and support with ILR applications, with expertise in advising business owners on UK settlement and citizenship applications. For expert advice, contact us.


Innovator visa to ILR FAQs

Does Innovator Visa lead to ILR?

An Innovator Visa can lead to ILR, provided you meet a 3-year continuous residence requirement, pass the Life in the UK test and obtain a new endorsement from an approved body to show that you have grown your business.

Can I apply for ILR after 3 years?

You can apply for ILR (indefinite leave to remain) on the Innovator route after just 3 years. This is a fast-track route to settlement for overseas nationals who have established and grown an innovative UK business during this time.

How long does Innovator Visa last?

If you come to the UK on the Innovator visa, or you switch from another visa while in the UK, you can stay for 3 years. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can then apply for settlement.

Can I apply for ILR after 7.5 years?

It’s possible to apply for ILR (indefinite leave to remain) after 7.5 years, although it depends on your circumstances and current immigration status. In most cases, depending on your immigration route, you can apply after 5 years, although the continuous residence requirement on the Innovator route is just 3 years.

Last updated: 10 October 2022


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 500and 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.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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