UK Innovator Visa (for Entrepreneurs)

If you are an established professional or Entrepreneur, and want to start or join a business in the UK, the new (March 2019) ‘Innovator’ visa may be for you.

The old Tier1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas were difficult for the Home Office to assess, as the skills needed to assess a business plan and the associated financial forecasts are rare.  With the Innovator visa (and the Start Up visa), the Home Office outsource the assessment of your business idea to a professional body 

Unless your business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa (eg the Start Up), you must have at least £50,000 of your own, or 3rd party, investment funds.

If you have £50,000 of your own/family money, and don’t need external funding it is often very difficult to get an endorsement.  The endorsing bodies tend to limit themselves to businesses that they are already working with, and as the organisations tend to be seed funding or incubator businesses, that means selling a slice of your new business to them, often at a very cheap price.  Arguably the start up and innovator visas represent a public subsidy to the UK’s Venture Capital sector, because they give VCs & incubators additional bargaining power when negotiating with an entrepreneur 

You must show that your business idea is:

  • New: you can’t join an existing business that is already trading
  • Viable
  • Scalable (ie it has the scope to grow)

If successful, you will get a visa for 3 years.  After which you can apply for the visa to be extended for a further 3 years.  After 5 years as an innovator, you may qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘Permanent Residence’, or ‘Settlement’)  

As an Innovator visa holder, you can set up more than one business.  Each business may be

EITHER: Incorporated as a Limited Company (or PLC) of which you are a Director

OR: Incorporated as an LLP of which you are a member

OR: Unincorporated (sole trader or partnership) self employment

As an Innovator visa holder, you are not allowed to do any work outside your business, for example working as an employee (direct or disguised) for another business of which you are not a Director/proprietor 

As well as the difficult bit of getting endorsed, to make a successful Innovator visa application, you will need to:

  • Prove that you have the required £50,000 investment funds (unless exempt).   You can form a team with other innovators/prospective innovators, if you do this, the team will need to show £50,000 per innovator – ie £100,000 for a team of two.
  • Meet the English Language requirement (a CEFR Level B2 test, or a suitable degree taught in English, or be from an ENglish Speaking country, or have already proven your english language qualifications as part of an earlier successful application ) 
  • Prove you have enough savings to support yourself by showing you have £945 in your bank account and have held at least this much for the last 90 days (If you have dependent family members accompanying you, the sum required increases by £630 for each family member) 
  • Be at least 18 years old

If you have a business idea, and would like to arrange a consultation, please contact us and we will pass your details on to appropriate advisors.  The consultation is likely to cost £250/hr, and, unless you have already lined up the necessary endorsement, as you may have to go into the details of your business plan, you may need more than an hour.