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Innovator Founder Visa

The Innovator Founder Visa allows global entrepreneurs to establish innovative businesses in the UK. Contact our immigration solicitors at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 or fill out our form for a free consultation.

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November 10, 2023

Table of Contents

What is the Innovator Founder Visa?

The Innovator Founder Visa allows foreign entrepreneurs to come to the UK and establish an innovative business, catering specifically to those aiming to create something distinct in the market.

Formerly known as the “Innovator Visa,” it replaced the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa in March 2019. As of 13 April 2023, the Innovator Founder Visa no longer mandates a minimum investment of £50,000 GBP. However, if you intend to start a new business, you must still demonstrate to the endorsing body that you have adequate and reliable funding.

This visa permits a stay of up to three years, with the option to apply for a three-year extension. A noteworthy feature of the Innovator Founder Visa is that, after three years, individuals may be eligible for permanent settlement in the UK, a shorter timeframe than the usual five years required for indefinite leave to remain (ILR).

Requirements for the Innovator Founder Visa

To successfully apply for a UK Innovator Founder Visa, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Age Criteria:
    • Applicant must be 18 years old or above.
  • Business Intent:
    • Intention to establish and operate an innovative business in the UK.
  • Endorsement:
    • Obtain endorsement for the business or business idea.
  • English Language Proficiency:
    • Meet the English language proficiency requirements, including:
      • Ability to read, write, speak, and understand English at level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.
      • Provide evidence of an English language test, or
      • Hold a degree taught in English, or
      • Be from an exempt country (e.g., Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, etc.).
  • Financial Capability:
    • Have sufficient funds to support oneself in the UK (a minimum of £1,270 in the bank account 28 days before applying).

Additional Details for Each Requirement:

1. Business Plan:

  • The business plan must:
    • Be original and genuine, outlining how the business addresses a new or existing market need and/or creates a competitive advantage.
    • Demonstrate viability, including the applicant’s experience, market knowledge, business skills, and a realistic chance of success.
    • Show scalability, proving the potential for business growth, job creation, and expansion into domestic and overseas markets.

2. Business Endorsement:

  • Obtain endorsement from an approved endorsing body in the UK, such as:
    • Envestors Limited
    • UK Endorsement Services
    • Innovator International
    • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP)
  • The endorsing body evaluates factors such as market need, uniqueness in existing markets, thorough market research, realistic and sustainable product goals, long-term venture plans, potential for market traction, and growth potential in the UK.

3. English Language Requirements:

  • Fulfil English language proficiency by meeting the specified criteria or being from an exempt country.

4. Sufficient Support Funds:

  • Demonstrate financial capability by showing £1,270 in the bank account 28 days before applying.

By satisfying these criteria and obtaining the necessary endorsements, applicants can proceed with their Innovator Founder Visa application. For further guidance, contact our immigration solicitors at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 or complete our contact form.

How to Apply for an Innovator Founder Visa:

The application process for an Innovator Founder Visa involves the following stages:

  1. Prepare Your Business Plan:
    • Develop a comprehensive business plan that highlights the innovation, viability, and scalability of your business idea.
  2. Apply for Endorsement:
    • Seek endorsement from a relevant approved endorsing body in the UK, such as:
      • Envestors Limited
      • UK Endorsement Services
      • Innovator International
      • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP)
  3. Complete the Online Application Form:
    • Submit the online application form on the Home Office website. The specific form to complete depends on whether you are switching from a different visa while in the UK or applying from outside.
  4. Prove Your Identity:
    • After submitting the application form, prove your identity through one of the following methods (as advised during the application):
      • Have fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre for a biometric residence permit (with a fee of £19.20).
      • Use the “UK Immigration: ID Check” app to scan your identity document.
  5. Pay Application Fees:
    • Pay the application fee, which is £1,191 if applying from outside the UK and £1,486 if applying from within the UK. These fees apply to dependant family members as well.
  6. Immigration Healthcare Surcharge:
    • Pay the immigration healthcare surcharge, currently £624 per person per year, covering the duration of your visa.
  7. Application Processing:
    • Applications are typically processed within 3 weeks. However, if additional evidence is required or an interview is necessary, you will be notified.

For detailed guidance and assistance throughout the application process, feel free to contact our immigration solicitors at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 or complete our contact form.

Innovator Founder Visa Extension:

Upon the approval of your Innovator Founder Visa, you will be granted up to 3 years of leave to remain in the UK to initiate your intended business. If you intend to stay beyond this initial period, you can apply for an extension at the end of the 3-year term, with no prescribed limit on extensions.

Ensuring a seamless extension process for your Innovator Founder Visa involves the following considerations:

  • Timely Application:
    • Submit your extension application before the expiry of your current visa.
  • Eligibility Criteria:
    • Continue to meet the eligibility requirements that were initially satisfied when granted the Innovator Visa.
  • Business Continuity:
    • Either continue operating your existing business in the UK or demonstrate plans to establish a new one.

Procedure for Innovator Founder Visa Extension:

To apply for an extension, follow these steps:

  • Complete Online Application Form:
    • Fill out the required online application form for the visa extension.
  • Proof of Identity:
    • Provide proof of identity using the same methods outlined during the initial visa application process.
  • Application Fee:
    • Pay the online application fee of £1,486.
  • Document Submission:
    • Submit any additional documents requested by the Home Office. A comprehensive list of required documents will be provided during the application process.

Processing and Business Continuity:

  • Extension applications for the Innovator Founder Visa typically take around 8 weeks to process. During this period, you can continue operating your business while awaiting a decision from the Home Office.

For detailed guidance and assistance throughout the extension application, feel free to contact our immigration solicitors at 020 3744 2797 or complete our inquiry form.

Pathway from Innovator Founder Visa to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR):

A significant advantage of the Innovator Founder Visa lies in its clear progression toward settlement, known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), in the UK.

Acquiring ILR grants you permanent residency in the UK, exempting you from immigration control. Furthermore, after an additional year, you become eligible to apply for British citizenship.

Key Details for Gaining ILR with an Innovator Founder Visa:

To secure ILR through the Innovator Founder Visa, adhere to the following conditions and criteria linked to the success of your innovative business:

  • Residency Requirement:
    • Reside in the UK for a continuous three-year period on your Innovator Founder Visa. Time spent under any other visa category will not contribute towards ILR.
  • Absence Limitation:
    • Stay within the UK for no more than 180 days in any one-year period.
  • Endorsement Renewal:
    • Obtain a new endorsement reflecting that you have met the business growth requirements.
  • Life in the UK Test:
    • Successfully complete the Life in the UK Test, demonstrating your knowledge of British culture, history, and society.
  • Timely Application:
    • Apply for ILR 28 days before becoming eligible.

ILR Application Process:

  • Application Fee:
    • The application fee for ILR as an Innovator Founder Visa holder is £2,885 per applicant.
  • Processing Time:
    • Decisions on ILR applications are typically rendered within six months.

Successfully navigating this pathway ensures not only the permanence of your stay in the UK but also opens avenues for British citizenship. For detailed guidance and assistance throughout the ILR application, contact our immigration solicitors at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 or complete our contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which documents are necessary for a UK Innovator Founder Visa application?

For a comprehensive and successful Innovator Founder Visa application, ensure you provide the following documents:
Letter of Endorsement:
Obtain a detailed letter of endorsement from an approved endorsing body, outlining the unique and innovative aspects of your business plan.
Identity Document:
Submit a clear copy of your passport or another valid identity document, ensuring all relevant pages are included.
Financial Documentation:
Provide bank statements indicating a minimum savings balance of at least £1,270. The statements should cover a period of at least 28 days before the date of your application.
English Language Proficiency:
Include proof of meeting the English language requirement, such as an English language test pass certificate. Ensure the certificate aligns with the required proficiency level.
Investment Funds Evidence:
Present detailed evidence confirming the availability of the investment funds mentioned in your business plan. This may include financial statements, investment agreements, or other relevant documentation.
Tuberculosis Test Result:
If applicable, provide a clear tuberculosis test result. Note that this requirement varies based on your country of origin.

What is the application fee for the Innovator Founder Visa?

The current application fee for the Innovator Founder Visa is £1,292 for extensions or switches within the UK and £1,036 for applications submitted outside the UK. Additionally, you are required to pay the healthcare surcharge along with your application.

Is it possible for my partner and children to remain in the UK if I hold an Innovator Founder Visa?

As a holder of the Innovator Founder Visa, you have the option to bring your family members, including your partner and dependant children, with you to the UK. Each family member must submit an individual online application before travelling to the UK.

Is it permissible for an Innovator Founder Visa holder to establish more than one business?

As a holder of the Innovator Founder Visa, you have the flexibility to establish one or more businesses. The Home Office allows endorsed Innovator Founder Visa holders to initiate supplementary businesses, even if they are unrelated to the primary business idea. In such instances, the endorsing body is not involved in monitoring these additional businesses.

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