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UK Innovator Visa - the process, features and options available

The UK Innovator Visa was created for people looking to move to the UK who either own an established business or have a carefully created business plan for a new business. This article looks at the eligibility criteria, how to apply and when to get help.

Written on 14 September 2022

The UK Innovator Visa was specifically created for people looking to move to the UK who either own an established business or have a carefully created business plan for a new business. You will be required to set up and run a UK business once you have been approved for the visa.

Introduced in January 2021, the UK Innovator Visa replaced the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa which was phased out from 2019.

What is the Innovator Visa for?

The UK innovator visa is for people who wish to run a business, or a number of businesses, in the UK. People in the UK on an innovator visa are not allowed to work for any business or take on any other work which is outside of their own businesses. This means that you cannot be employed by another business, nor can you train for another profession (eg doctor, dentist or sports coach).

Under the innovator visa you cannot apply for any benefits, income support or tax credits.

The innovator visa enables you to stay in the UK for three years in total, and you can apply to extend this for a further 3 years once the visa has expired. You can extend the visa as many times as you wish, although after 5 years of being in the UK on the innovator visa, you may be able to apply for British nationality. In some circumstances you can settle after three years.

Innovator Visa core requirements

To be eligible for the UK Innovator Visa you will need to demonstrate that you:

  • Have an existing business or a well-structured business plan with the intention of creating a UK business – both of which will need to be officially endorsed
  • Have a minimum of £50,000 of capital to invest in your business
  • Can prove you can support yourself when living in the UK
  • Have a bank account with a minimum of £1,270 for 28 consecutive days before applying for your visa (this must be separate from the investment fund)
  • Are willing to run the UK business
  • Are over 18 years of age
  • Can speak English

If you are applying for innovator visas as a team (eg business partners) each applicant will need to meet these requirements, including each applicant must have £50,000 investment fund.

Endorsement of your business or business plan

Your business or business idea are critical to being accepted for a UK innovator visa. As the name suggests, one of the key requirements of your business is that it would need to be innovative and unlike anything else currently available on the market.

Once you believe it is both innovative and unique, you will need to get your business endorsed by a Home Office’s approved endorsing body. You can review the list of endorsing bodies on the UK Government Website

Endorsing bodies will not give any advice around hypothetical questions and their role in the application process is purely to evaluate your business to determine whether to endorse it or not. Your business will need to demonstrate that it is innovative, viable and scalable if it is to be endorsed.

Only bodies on the official government list can endorse a business or business plan, so you should double check the list before submitting your application.

Endorsement guidelines

A business or business plan is more likely to be endorsed if it meets the following guidelines:

  • You will either be the founder or one of the team of founders
  • Your business or business idea should be new and the original idea of yours or the team of founders
  • There should not be significant competition already established in the UK market
  • Your business idea should not be in an industry that is restricted under the innovator visa, such as property

Choosing an endorsing body

The UK Government (Home Office) does not provide guidance over which endorsing body to choose, so you will need to carefully select someone from the list yourself.

We recommend working with a lawyer who is an immigration and visa specialist who will be able to guide you as to which endorsing body is best to approach to maximise your chances of having your business endorsed.

Supporting documentation for your Innovator Visa application

Once you have your endorsement letter from the endorsing body, you will also need to have a number of documents to include with your Innovator Visa application including:

  • Current passport (with a blank page) or other valid travel identification
  • Bank statement showing you have had at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 or more consecutive days
  • Proof of £50,000 capital or investment funds
  • Evidence that you meet English language requirements which means you can prove you can speak, read, write and understand English
  • Any required medical tests, such as TB (this will be dependent on your previous country of residence)
  • Non-English/Welsh documents will need to have certified translation

Bringing your family to the UK

Successful innovator visa applicants can also bring family to the UK providing they have their own visas – if they are from outside the European Economic Area. Your family members are welcome to come to the UK providing they are:

  • Children under the age of 18
  • Children over the age of 18 if they live with the innovator visa holder as a dependent
  • Spouse/partner

For each additional dependent, you will need to provide evidence that you have £630 in your bank account.

Dependents will be eligible to attend state schools and will gain the right to work once they arrive within the UK.

Innovator visa application costs

The basic costs when applying for an innovator visa are:

Your visa: £1,021 (or £966 if you are from Turkey or Macedonia)

Your spouse or other dependents: £1,021.

Once you have been accepted and are living in the UK, if you need to extend your Visa further, the cost for you is £1,277 and for each dependent or spouse an additional £1,277 will need to be paid per person.

In addition to the visa costs, you will also be required to pay £400 per year for a UK Immigration Health surcharge which covers any state provided health care. This is a requirement and not optional, even if you have private health cover.

How long does an innovator visa application take?

Once you have applied for a visa, you will normally get a decision within 3 weeks if you are applying from outside the UK or up to 8 weeks if your application is made while living in the UK.

What happens if the innovator visa application is refused?

If your innovator visa application is refused, you will be issued with a ‘notice of refusal’. Unfortunately, if you live outside the UK, then you will have no right of appeal. However, if you live in the UK at the time of application, you may be able to apply for a review, the details of which will be contained within the ‘notice of refusal’.

Get help from a lawyer

The process can be complex and ensuring your business or business plan has the best possible chance of being endorsed is absolutely critical.

It is therefore recommended that you work with a lawyer who specialises in helping people successfully apply for an innovator visa.

A lawyer will be able to review your business or business plan, talk you through the financial requirements and provide advice that will give you they best possible chance of having your business endorsed.

They will also be able to make recommendations as to which endorsing body you can apply to, which can be difficult to do on your own.

The investment of working with a lawyer will ensure you have explored all avenues. If it is determined that the innovatory visa isn’t suitable for you, they may also be able to recommend a different visa which you are more likely to be accepted for.