UK Innovator Visa

Innovator Visa
Photo by Fas Khan on Unsplash

The UK Innovator Visa is an exciting UK immigration route that allows a person to set up and run an innovative business in the UK. The keyword for this route is innovative. The business or business idea must be something different from what is available in the UK market. The main characteristic of this route is that an approved body must endorse the business or business idea.

It is a very advantageous immigration route as it leads to settlement in the UK earlier than other visa routes. Another advantage of this route is that you can form a team with other Innovator applicants.

It is also possible to switch to the Innovator visa from within the UK from many visa types.  

How to get an endorsement from an approved body

Before you can proceed with your UK Innovator Visa application, an endorsing body has to assess your business idea. The endorsing bodies operate outside of the Home Office. The approved body will assess the business or business idea.

Another benefit, if you decide to go this route, is that these endorsing bodies often commit to mentoring you and supporting your business in the UK, for the 3 years your visa is valid for.

Criteria for the business idea  

  • The business idea must be innovative, original and different from anything else on the UK market.
  • It has to have the potential to succeed and to grow.
  • A new idea, as you cannot join an existing trading business.

If you are successful, you will receive an endorsement letter. You can then submit your endorsement letter with the Innovator visa application. Please get in touch with one of our consultants for assistance with your endorsement letter. We will provide clients with full guidance in this matter.

Will my business idea qualify?

Applicants are often unsure whether their business idea will qualify for endorsement. Fortunately, the scope of the endorsing bodies is very wide. There are endorsing bodies to cover all the different business sectors. Some endorsing bodies cover only certain sectors. Others cover very specific sectors: legal, cybersecurity, fintech, hygiene, life sciences, foods, materials, retail, science, infrastructure, education, fashion and many more.

Applicants will be glad to hear that it should be possible to find an endorsing body for your business idea. Breytenbachs have a good relationship with many of the endorsing bodies. We will connect applicants to the most relevant one for your business idea.

Endorsing Bodies

One of the advantages of getting an endorsement is that many endorsing bodies commit to mentor and support the business. Even the most experienced entrepreneurs will welcome this valuable supportin the UK market.

The Innovator need to satisfy the endorsing body that he/she is continuing his/her work on the business venture, during the validity of the visa. There are checkpoints with the endorsing body after 6, 12 and 24 months. The endorsing body has to inform the Home Office if they are not happy with the progress. This could result in an endorsement being withdrawn and the leave to remain curtailed.

It is thus important that the innovator commit to the business venture and stay in touch with the endorsing body.

How to qualify for the UK Innovator Visa

To qualify for the Innovator Visa, you have to be:

  • At least 18 years old.
  • Meet the English Language Requirement.
  • Fulfil the Maintenance Requirement.
  • If you are setting up a new business, you will have to show that you have investment funds. You will have to show at least £50,000 in investment funds.
  • You don’t have to show investment funds if your business is already established and endorsed by an earlier visa. Or if you have changed your business and this was already agreed with the endorsing body.

Investment Funds

One of the criteria of the UK Innovator visa is that you have to show at least £50,000 in investment funds. If you do not have access to investment funds, Breytenbachs recommend that you explore the UK Start-up Visa. This visa is very similar in criteria, although it is a temporary visa.

Length of Stay

The Innovator visa is valid for a period of up to three years.

After three years on this visa, you can apply to extend it for another three years. There is no limit on the number of times you can extend this visa.

However, you may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after only three years in the UK.

Right to Work

The UK Innovator visa will allow you to set up one or several businesses.

You can work for your own business as a director. You can also be in self-employment as a member of a business partnership.

However, you cannot do any work outside your own business. In other words, another business cannot employ you.  

You cannot work as a professional sportsperson or coach.

Spouses and Dependants

Your spouse, partner and any dependant children can apply to accompany you to the UK. They will also have to fulfil a maintenance requirement.

The Home Office defines dependants as any of the following:

  • A husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner
  • Children under 18 years of age.
  • Children older than 18 years of age if they are currently in the UK as your dependants.

If they are successful in their application, their visa will end on the same date as yours.

Immigration Health Surcharge

The main applicant and his or her dependents accompanying him or her to the UK will have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. This surcharge is part of the application.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

One of the biggest advantages of this visa is that it can lead to early settlement in the UK. You may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK after only three years on this visa.

However, innovators have to keep in mind that there is a residence requirement. You cannot spent more than 180 days outside the UK in a year. The 180 days are counted as days outside the UK in any rolling 12-month period during the three years leading to Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Breytenbachs thus recommend that Innovators who travel frequently keep careful and accurate records of their travels.

How Breytenbachs can help you

Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants have a highly experienced team of consultants, dealing with business visas, such as the UK Innovator Visa. We assist Innovators with the entire process, including getting an endorsement from an approved endorsing body. Contact us today for advice or to proceed with your application.

Also read our article on The Innovator Visa – all your questions answered.