The Innovator Founder Visa is designed for individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit, whether they are novices or experienced businesspeople, who are interested in starting a business in the UK. This visa does not require applicants to meet any particular financial requirements to invest in their proposed business. Instead, they must have a viable, innovative, and scalable business plan that has been endorsed by an approved endorsing body. Unlike other visas, the Innovator Founder Visa does not set a specific investment amount as a requirement, making it more accessible to a wider range of applicants.
To apply for an Innovator Founder Visa, applicants are required to have created or made a significant contribution to their business idea. Additionally, they must have a pivotal role in the everyday management and progress of their business.
After three years, the Innovator Founder Visa can lead to the award of indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Along with the visa holder, their spouse or partner and children under 18 years of age are also eligible to come to the UK.
Requirements for an Innovator Founder Visa
To be eligible for an Innovator Founder Visa, applicants must meet the following criteria and demonstrate them to the satisfaction of UK Visas and Immigration:
- At least 18 years old
- You must possess an endorsement letter from the UK endorsing body
- Your endorsement letter must be dated no more than 3 months before the date of your application
- You have the English language proficiency of CEFR Level B2
- From outside the UK, you must demonstrate at least £1270 for the main applicant, as well as additional funds of £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child, and £200 for each additional child
- Your application should not be refused on general grounds for refusal
- You must have provided a valid TB test certificate
The specific requirements for an Innovator Founder Visa may differ based on individual circumstances. Seeking guidance from an immigration lawyer can provide valuable insights and expert advice to ensure all requirements are met.
Who Is the Innovator Founder Visa Suitable For?
Both novice and experienced entrepreneurs who wish to establish an innovative, sustainable, and expandable business in the United Kingdom can apply for the Innovator Founder Visa.
If you want to become part of an established business, the Skilled Worker visa would be more suitable. On the other hand, if you are a senior manager or specialist employee of a foreign business seeking to create a commercial presence in the UK, then the UK Expansion Worker visa might be a more appropriate option to consider.
Investment Funds Requirement
There is no minimum investment requirement for Innovator Founder Visa applicants to demonstrate as part of their application.
However, to meet the requirement of having a ‘viable’ and ‘scalable’ business idea, it is necessary to demonstrate that you have access to a suitable level of investment funds that will enable you to establish and expand your business.
Individuals with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and sufficient funds to establish and grow it can meet the investment funds requirement for an Innovator Founder Visa, depending on their business’s specific financial requirements.
New Business Endorsement Criteria
To obtain an Innovator Founder endorsement letter from an approved Home Office endorsing body, your business proposal will need to satisfy several requirements.
You need to confirm that:
- You meet the endorsing body’s criteria for innovation, viability and scalability of your business idea
- The endorsing body must not have any concerns about the source of the funds invested in your business.
- The endorsing body must have no suspicion or evidence that you or your proposed business may have received any illicit or unexplained wealth.
Business Plan Requirement
To meet the Innovator Founder visa’s business plan requirement, you must have a business plan, and you should have either originated or significantly contributed to the ideas presented in that business plan.
You will also be required to demonstrate that you will have a key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business, as well as provide evidence that you have had an active involvement in generating or developing the ideas in the business plan. Additionally, you will need to confirm that you need minimum two contact point meetings with your endorsing body at intervals during your period of permission.
To satisfy the Innovator Founder Visa requirements, you must be the sole founder or play a significant role in the founding team.
Scalable, Viable and Innovative Business Requirement
To qualify for an Innovator Founder Visa, your business idea must meet the following criteria for scalable, viable and innovative business:
- Innovative: Your business idea should be original, creative, and unique in its field.
- Viable: Your business plan must be realistic and demonstrate that it can be sustained and generate a profit in the UK market.
- Scalable: Your business should have the potential to grow and expand beyond a small enterprise, creating job opportunities and contributing to the UK economy.
Same Business Endorsement Criteria
To qualify for an endorsement based on running the same business as in a previous endorsement application and receive an Innovator Founder endorsement letter, you must convince a Home Office-approved endorsing body that:
- Your business is registered with Companies House, and you are named as a director or member of the business;
- Your business is actively trading and sustainable;
- You have achieved significant progress according to your business plan;
- You are involved in the daily management and growth of your business.
English Language Requirement
Unless an exemption applies, applicants for the Innovator Founder Visa are required to demonstrate their proficiency in English language in all four components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) of at least level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
An Innovator Founder Visa applicant applying for entry clearance must demonstrate that they have personal funds of at least £1,270 held for a period of 28 days prior to the date of application, unless they are exempted.
Applying for an Innovator Founder Visa as Part of a Team
It is not mandatory for you to be the only founder of your business, and you can be a member of a founding team. However, if you apply as part of a founding team, you must play a significant role in the team, and each team member needs to receive their individual endorsement from an approved endorsing body.
Switching Into the Innovator Founder Visa Category
It is possible to apply for an Innovator Founder visa from outside the UK. However, if you are already in the UK, you can also switch to this visa category provided you were not granted permission as a Visitor, Short-term Student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household, or any other category outside of the Immigration Rules.
The fee for applying for an Innovator Founder Visa is currently £1,036 if applying from outside the UK. If you are applying to switch into this category from within the UK, the fee is £1,292.
Your first Innovator Founder Visa will be valid for a period of 3 years. You can apply for extensions of 3 years each time, subject to meeting the re-endorsement requirement. There is no maximum duration limit in the Innovator Founder category.
Upon spending 3 years in the Innovator Founder Visa category, you will become eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) as an Innovator Founder.
Conditions of Stay
Innovator Founder Visa holders are required to comply with certain conditions during their stay.
Innovator Founder Visa holders are required to primarily work for the businesses they have established. However, they may also engage in skilled employment outside of their business as long as it is secondary to their primary business activities and the job is considered skilled at RQF Level 3 or above.
Contact Point Meetings
You will need to have at least two contact point meetings with your approved endorsing body at regular intervals throughout your time in the UK. These meetings serve as a progress assessment of your business plan and ensure that you are on track to meet the goals outlined in it.
To maintain your Innovator Founder Visa, your endorsing body must be assured that you are actively engaged in developing your business and have achieved satisfactory progress towards implementing either your original or a new innovative, viable, and scalable business idea.
If you do not attend a contact point meeting with your endorsing body, your Innovator Founder Visa may be cancelled.