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.
In order to qualify for a UK Innovator Founder Visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
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.
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.
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.
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:
The endorsing body will need to confirm that:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator Founder you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:
Our UK Innovator Founder Visa application preparation and submission service is divided into 8 discrete stages:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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