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UK INNOVATOR FOUNDER VISA

The UK Innovator Founder Visa is for start-up entrepreneurs and experienced businesspersons seeking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants do not need to have any specific level of funds to invest in their proposed business, but must have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea, supported by a business plan, which has been approved by an endorsing body.  

Applicants for a UK Innovator Founder Visa must have generated, or have significantly contributed to, their business idea.  Innovator Founders must also intend to have a key role in the day-to-day management and development of their business.

Innovator Founder visas are valid for 3 years and can lead directly to indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the end of this period.  Innovator Founder Visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the UK.

If you are interested in setting up a new business in the UK, or you own an existing UK business, you may also be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa via self-sponsorship, that is by being sponsored by your own UK company.

Download our UK Innovator Founder Visa Guide

Requirements for a UK Innovator Founder Visa

In order to qualify for a UK Innovator Founder Visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You have an endorsement letter from an approved UK endorsing body that confirms that:
    • You are a fit and proper person to receive endorsement under the Innovator Founder route;
    • The endorsing body has no concerns over the source of any funds invested into your business;
    • The endorsing body has no reason to believe that you or your business may be the beneficiary of illicit or unexplained wealth;
    • You have a business plan and you either generated or made a significant contribution to the ideas in that business plan;
    • You will have a day-to-day role in carrying out the business plan;
    • You will have at least two Contact point meetings with the endorsing body at regular intervals;
    • You are either the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team; and
    • You have an innovative, viable and scalable business venture; 
  • Your endorsement letter was issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Innovator visa application;
  • You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking);
  • If you are outside the UK or have been in the UK for less than 12 months, you have at least £1270 to support yourself, plus £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child;
  • Your application does not fall for refusal on general grounds for refusal;
  • You have provided a TB test certificate, if required.

The exact requirements you will need to satisfy may vary depending on the circumstances of your case. You may want to speak to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.

To discuss your UK Innovator Founder Visa application with one of our immigration barristers, contact our business immigration lawyers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

Who Is the UK Innovator Founder Visa Suitable For?

The UK Innovator Founder Visa is suitable for both start-up entrepreneurs and experienced businesspersons who are looking to set up a business in the UK which is innovative, viable and scalable.  

Generally, applicants will have a new business idea and the business will not already exist. However, it is permissible for an individual to join a business after it has been registered with Companies House, providing the business has not already started trading. Where this occurs, the Home Office will want to be satisfied that the applicant made a significant contribution to the business plan and was not added to an existing business plan primarily for the purpose of facilitating investment. 

Innovator Founders can work on their own as a sole founder, or together as part of a founding team, providing they are an instrumental member of the founding team.

The business idea may relate to any sector, provided the idea is sufficiently innovative, viable and scalable and is supported by a business plan.  

If you wish to join an already trading business then the Skilled Worker visa may be more appropriate.  If you are a senior manager or specialist employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK then you may wish to consider the UK Expansion Worker visa instead.

To find out if your business idea may qualify for a UK Innovator Founder Visa, complete our Innovator Founder Visa Enquiry Form.

Investment Funds Requirement for a UK Innovator Founder Visa

UK Innovator Founder Visa applicants do not need to show any specific amount of funds to invest in their proposed business.

However, the requirement to have a ‘viable’ and ‘scalable’ business idea means that, in practice, you will need to demonstrate that you have access to a level of investment funds that is sufficient to set up and grow your business. 

The investment funds requirement for a UK Innovator Founder Visa is, therefore, a flexible provision that is capable of being satisfied by anyone with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and an appropriate level of funds to deliver it, based on the specific financial needs of their business. 

Endorsement Criteria for a UK Innovator Founder Visa

New Business Endorsement Criteria

In order for your new business proposal to be endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body, and an Innovator Founder endorsement letter issued, the endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you meet various requirements:

UK Innovator Founder Visa General Requirements

The endorsing body will need to confirm that:

  • You are a fit and proper person to receive endorsement under the Innovator Founder route;
  • The endorsing body has no concerns over the source of any funds invested into your business;
  • The endorsing body has no reason to believe that you or your business may be the beneficiary of illicit or unexplained wealth.

UK Innovator Founder Visa Business Plan Requirement

In order to satisfy the Innovator Founder business plan requirement, you will need to have a business plan and have either generated or made a significant contribution to the ideas in that business plan. 

You will also need to demonstrate that you will have a day-to-day role in carrying out the business plan and confirm that you will have at least two Contact point meetings with your endorsing body at regular intervals during your period of permission.  

You will also need to be either the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team.

UK Innovator Founder Visa Innovative, Viable and Scalable Business Requirement

In order to satisfy the innovative, viable and scalable business requirement for an Innovator Founder Visa, your business idea will need to meet all of the following criteria:

  • Innovation: You must have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
  • Viability:  Your business plan must be realistic and achievable based on your available resources and you must have, or be actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run your business;
  • Scalability:  There must be evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

Same Business Endorsement Criteria 

If you are pursuing a business that has previously been assessed by a Home Office approved endorsing body while you had permission on the Innovator, Innovator Founder, Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, either for a previous endorsement application or at a contact point, then you may also apply for a further endorsement as an Innovator Founder. 

This might be appropriate if you are looking to switch into the UK Innovator Founder route from one of the aforementioned routes or apply for an extension of stay as an Innovator Founder.

In order to qualify for an endorsement on the basis of running the same business as in a previous endorsement application, and receive an Innovator Founder endorsement letter, you will need to satisfy a Home Office approved endorsing body that:

  • Your business is registered with Companies House and you are listed as a director or member of the business;
  • Your business is active, trading and sustainable; 
  • You have made significant progress against your business plan;
  • You are active in the day-to-day management and development of your business

If you have, or last had, permission as an Innovator or Innovator Founder, you will also need to demonstrate that you attended at least 2 Contact point meetings with your endorsing body (or similar checkpoints with a legacy endorsing body) at regular intervals during your period of permission and confirm that you will have at least two Contact point meetings with the endorsing body at regular intervals during your period of permission.

  • UK Innovator Founder Visa Route Application Guide

List of Approved UK Innovator Founder Visa Endorsing Bodies

The following is a list of Endorsing Bodies that have been approved by the Home Office to issue an endorsement letter in connection with an application under the UK Innovator Founder route:

  • Envestors Limited
  • UK Endorsement Services
  • Innovator International
  • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP) (GEP can only endorse applicants who have already been invited to participate on their programme)

Previous Endorsing Bodies, known as ‘Legacy Endorsing Bodies’, may continue to support those Innovators who were endorsed under the former Innovator Rules until they reach Indefinite Leave to Remain. 

If you were endorsed before 13 April 2023 by a ‘Legacy Endorsing Body’ then you will be permitted to rely on your endorsement and do not need to apply to one of the currently approved endorsing bodies, provided that your endorsement letter is dated before 13 April 2023.

Richmond Chambers is a trusted introducer to Innovator Founder endorsing bodies, ensuring eligible clients direct contact with investment panel members as well as transparent and timely decision-making.  

UK Innovator Founder Visa English Language Requirement

Unless an exemption applies, Innovator Founder Visa applicants must show English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) of at least level B2.  

UK Innovator Founder Visa Financial Requirement

An applicant who is applying for entry clearance as an Innovator Founder will need to show that they have at least £1,270 in personal funds held for a 28-day period prior to the date of application.

Applying for a UK Innovator Founder Visa as Part of a Team

You do not need to be the sole founder of your business and you may be a member of a founding team.  However, if applying as part of a founding team you will need to be an instrumental member of the team and each applicant must receive their own individual endorsement from an approved endorsing body.  

Switching Into the UK Innovator Founder Visa Category

Applications for UK Innovator Founder visas can be made from outside the UK, but it is also possible to switch into the Innovator Founder visa category from within the UK provided you do not have, or were not last granted, permission as a Visitor, Short-term Student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.

UK Innovator Founder Visa Application Fee

The current Home Office application fee for a UK Innovator Founder Visa is £1,036 if applying from outside the UK or £1,292 if applying to switch into the category from within the UK.

Innovator Founder Visa applicants also need to pay a £1,000 (ex. VAT) endorsement fee to the relevant endorsing body.

UK Innovator Founder Visa Validity Period

Your initial UK Innovator Founder Visa will be valid for 3 years.  It is possible to extend a UK Innovator Founder Visa for periods of 3 years at a time, subject to being re-endorsed each time. There is no maximum time limit in the Innovator Founder category.

You will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) as an Innovator Founder after spending 3 years in the Innovator Founder Visa category.

UK Innovator Founder Visa Conditions of Stay

As an Innovator Founder Visa holder you will need to abide by various conditions of stay.

You will be expected to work for the business or businesses that you have established.  You will be permitted to engage in employment outside the running of your business, provided any such secondary employment is in a skilled role (i.e. skilled to at least RQF Level 3).

UK Innovator Founder Visa Contact Point Meetings 

You will need to have at least two contact point meetings with your endorsing body at regular intervals during your period of permission as an Innovator Founder.   A contact point  meeting is a checkpoint assessment between you and your endorsing body to assess progress against your business plan. 

The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you are continuing to work on your business venture and have demonstrated reasonable progress in relation to either your original or a new business idea that is innovative, scalable and viable. 

Your UK Innovator Founder Visa may be cancelled if you fail to undergo a contact point meeting with your endorsing body. 

To see how our immigration barristers can support your UK Innovator Founder Visa application, see ‘Stages to obtaining an Innovator Founder visa’ below.

Indefinite Leave to Remain as an Innovator Founder

In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator Founder you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:

  • You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months and you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business;;
  • You satisfy at least two of the following:
    • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering your business;
    • The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for settled workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year;
    • The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers with no average salary requirement;
    • The number of customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services;
    • The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK;
    • The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts;
    • The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
  • You have spent not more than 180 days outside the UK in any rolling 12 month period during the 3 years prior to the date of application; and
  • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK.

Stages to Obtaining a UK Innovator Founder Visa

Our UK Innovator Founder Visa application preparation and submission service is divided into 8 discrete stages:

Stage 1 – Complete our UK Innovator Founder Visa enquiry form

To receive a free initial assessment of your suitability for an Innovator Founder visa, complete our Innovator Founder Visa Enquiry Form.  A barrister will review your responses.  We aim to respond within 24 hours.

Stage 2 – Eligibility Assessment

All endorsing bodies require that applicants have checked that they are eligible as an individual for a UK Innovator Founder Visa before they are contacted for endorsement.  If Stage 1 is completed successfully, we will have an initial consultation meeting where we will check that you are able to satisfy the general eligibility requirements of the Immigration Rules for an Innovator Founder visa.

Stage 3 – Concept Assessment

All endorsing bodies require applicants to demonstrate that they have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea. We will have an initial consultation meeting where we will listen to your concept and advise as to whether it is appropriate to take forward to an endorsing body. This stage can run concurrently with Stage 1.

Stage 4 – Introduction to Endorsing Bodies

Having successfully completed stages 1 and 2, we will formally introduce you and your business plan to up to one or more Home Office approved endorsing bodies. As a trusted introducer, Richmond Chambers can ensure direct contact with investment panel members as well as transparent, timely decision-making.

Stage 5 – Concept and Business Plan Approval

The endorsing body will have an initial consultation where you can pitch your concept and business plan. If the endorsing body feels that it is appropriate to take the proposal forward then they will spend time with you to fully understand your model, the cashflows, and other requirements they deem necessary to make sure your concept has the best prospect of being endorsed.

Stage 6 – Full KYC and Due diligence

The endorsing body will need to know everything about you and the source of your funds. This process will normally run concurrently with Stage 4.

Stage 7 – Innovator Founder Visa Application

Having successfully passed stages 4 and 5 and secured an endorsement, we will prepare your Innovator Founder Visa application and submit it to the Home Office. The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the evidence that must be provided in support of an Innovator Founder Visa application. We will ensure that your Innovator Founder Visa application is professionally presented, technically correct and approved first time.

Stage 8 – Approval & Mentoring

Once your Innovator Founder Visa application has been approved by the Home Office, you will be able to enter the UK to start deploying your investment funds and developing your business concept. We will continue to support you until ILR is achieved after 3 years.  Via our trusted partners, we can also provide full wealth, tax management and education consultancy services for UK schools and universities, if these services are desired.

How Our Immigration solicitors Can Help

CITYWIDE Solicitors is widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading immigration practices for Innovator Founders.  The work of our immigration barristers on behalf of Innovator Founders has been recognised through membership of the Investment Migration Council and the Department of International Trade’s Investor Support Network.

Our team of immigration barristers has experience in assisting all types of innovative entrepreneurs and their businesses.  Whether you are a start-up entrepreneur or an established businessperson, our barristers are experts in the immigration options for innovators and will guide you through the complex Home Office rules and policies.

We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to entrepreneurs and businesspersons as part of a professional and friendly service.

 

Contact Our Managing Director

As specialist immigration solicitors, we pride in having one of the best team of specialist immigration solicitors  with wealth of knowledge and experience to deal with all types of UK visa and immigration matters. Our top rated immigration solicitors have successfully helped thousands of clients with all types of UK visa and immigration applications, immigration appeals, Administrative Review, Pre-Action Protocol (PAP) and Judicial Review.

Managing Director

Theo Mathias-Nwaulune

Managing Director

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