From 29 March 2019, the previous Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category was essentially replaced with a new Innovator visa category.

Far more applicants may apply under the Innovator visa category than applied under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category, especially because the standard minimum investment threshold - which in some cases can include funds already invested in an applicant’s existing business in the UK - has been reduced from £200,000 (for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa) to £50,000 (for an Innovator visa). Subject to certain limits, these funds can be made available by certain third parties.

Whereas the Home Office has indicated that the new Start-Up visa category (which was also introduced from 29 March 2019) “is for people seeking to establish a business in the UK for the first time”, the Home Office has indicated that the Innovator visa category “is for more experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a business in the UK”.

What are some of key requirements for an innovator visa?

Some of the key requirements (this list is not exhaustive) for an innovator visa include the following:

  • Applicants must have a business idea that meets the “innovation”, “viability” and “scalability” tests”, eg:
    • Innovation - the applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
    • Viability - the applicant has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
    • Scalability - there is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
  • Applicants must be supported by an endorsing body, which provides an “endorsement letter” containing the necessary information. The list of endorsing bodies can currently be found here. Applicants can be endorsed by such endorsing bodies on a “same business” or “new business” basis. One of the requirements relating to the endorsing body is that it must be “reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on continuing to develop business ventures”;
  • Applicants must evidence that they have the necessary qualifying funding (i.e. £50,000) to invest in their business in the UK;
  • Applicants must meet English language requirements;
  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old;
  • Applicants must not have recourse to “public funds” (which has a specific meaning);
  • Applicants must meet the requirements around savings; and
  • Applicants must register with the police, if required to.
  • Once granted an Innovator visa, the Home Office has indicated that applicants can:
    • Set up a business or several businesses in the UK;
    • Work for their business, including being employed as a director or being self-employed; and
    • Bring qualifying family members with them.

There are various limits on what holders of Innovator visas can lawfully do whilst in the UK.

Length of Innovator visa

Those granted Innovator visas should receive leave to enter or remain in the UK for 3 years, and extensions should also be for 3 years. Further, there is no upper limit on how many times an applicant can extend their Innovator visa.

Can the Innovator visa category lead to indefinite leave to remain/settlement in the UK?

Yes, subject to applicants meeting very strict requirements.

Is it possible to switch into this visa category?

Individuals who already hold certain UK immigration visas/statuses can switch into the Innovator visa category without having to leave the UK, for instance:

  • Start-Up visa holders
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa holders
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) holders
  • Holders of any Tier 2 visa

Further questions?

Innovator visa applications are highly complex and if you have any further questions about this or any other immigration matters our immigration team can help you.