This guidance relates to UK Innovator Visa requirements for applying leave to enter or remain and settlement (ILR) applications under Appendix W of the Immigration Rules. Accordingly covers the details of UK innovator visa requirements for investment and maintenance funds, English language, business plan, endorsement letter, endorsing bodies, application fees, processing time, success and refusal rate. Please note, from March 29, 2019, the UK innovator visa has replaced the Tier 1 entrepreneur route for doing business in the UK. Therefore, at times, the UK Innovator Visa under Appendix W is also erroneously referred to as t1 or tier 1 innovator visa, British innovation or innovative visa. Moreover, the Tier 1 entrepreneur was points based and UK innovator visa is Non-PBS.

Applying for UK Innovator Visa 2020: Guidance and Requirements

Perhaps, a start-up visa is for those migrants who are looking to establish a business in the UK for the first time. However, the innovator visa is for more experienced business people to establish an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK, which is duly supported by an endorsing body. Moreover, with some exceptions, an applicant needs at least £50,000 investment funds for doing business. The initial duration of UK innovator visa is 3 years. However, after 3 years, an innovator can apply for an ILR (settlement) under Appendix W of the Immigration Rules.

This category is for more experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. With some exceptions, applicants will have funding to invest in their business. This category may lead to settlement in the UK.

Appendix W of Immigration Rules

Requirements for Applying for UK Tier 1 Innovator Visa

To successfully apply for the UK innovator visa an applicant needs to meet the general and specific requirements under Part W3 and W6 of Appendix W, Immigration Rules, respectively. Perhaps, a genuine applicant doesn’t need to worry about most of the general requirements for applying for UK innovator visa, as these are quite easy and procedural in nature. However, meeting specific endorsement criteria for “new business”, “same business” and “settlement” is critical for any successful innovator visa application. Accordingly, for applying for Tier 1 UK innovator visa an applicant needs to meet the following general and specific requirements under Part W3 and W6 of Appendix W, Immigration Rules, respectively:

  1. Evidence provided with the application (W3.1)
  2. Min Age for applying for Tier 1 UK innovator visa is at least 18 years of age.(W3.2)
  3. The immigration status of the applicant (W3.3)
  4. Breach of Immigration Rules (W3.5)
  5. For successfully applying for tier 1 UK innovator visa the applicant must not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal. (W3.6)
  6. Credibility Assessment (W3.7)
  7. English Language Requirements for UK Innovator Visa (W3.8)
  8. Maintenance Funds requirements for UK Innovator Visa (W3.9)
  9. Endorsement from an Endorsing Body (W6.1)
  10. New Business or Same Business – Definitions (W6.2)
  11. Endorsement Criteria – New Business (W6.3)
  12. Investment Funds – New Business (W6.4)
  13. Evidence of Investment Funds – New Business (W6.5)
  14. Endorsement Criteria for the Same Business (W6.6)
  15. The Endorsement Criteria for UK Innovator Visa ILR (Settlement) Applications (W6.7)
  16. Criteria for UK Innovator Visa for Endorsing Bodies (W6.8)

Please note, a person cannot switch from Tier 4 (General) Student to UK Innovator visa. Therefore, paragraph W3.4 of Appendix W is not applicable.

You must apply online for an Innovator visa.

GOV.UK

Evidence provided with the UK innovator visa application (W3.1)

Certainly, the decision-maker may only consider documents received by the Home Office before the date the application is considered. However, the decision-maker may ask for missing documents. And can also solicit additional information. Therefore, the decision-maker can contact the applicant or his/her representative if specified evidence is missing or a document is in the wrong format, or a document does not contain all of the specified information. Accordingly, the applicant or his/her representative needs to furnish the requested documents at the specified address within 10 working days of the date of the request.

However, if a decision-maker does not think that the submission of missing or correct documents will lead to a grant because the application will be refused for other reasons then he/she may not ask the applicant for the missing documents. Furthermore, if missing information is verifiable from other documents provided with the application or elsewhere, the decision-maker may grant the application despite the error or omission, if they are satisfied that the applicant meets all the other UK innovator visa requirements.

Immigration Status for Switching to UK Innovator Visa (W3.3)

Apparently, for leave to remain applications an applicant needs to provide the information about his/her immigration status in the UK. Accordingly, for applying for UK innovator visa application leave to remain, an applicant can switch from Startup, Tier 1 entrepreneur, Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Tier 2 and Prospective Entrepreneur under Appendix V.

Switching from Tier 1 Graduate and Start-up

An applicant may be endorsed under either the “new business” or the “same business” criteria if the applicant’s last grant of leave was in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or Start-up category. And the applicant is pursuing the same business venture that was assessed in the endorsement which led to that grant of leave.

Breach of Immigration Rules (W3.5)

In fact, for applying for the tier 1 innovator visa applicant must not be in the UK in breach of immigration laws. However, the decision-maker may disregard any current period of overstaying where any of the exceptions set out in paragraph 39E in Part 1 of the Immigration Rules apply.

Credibility Assessment Requirements for UK Innovator Visa (W3.7)

For a successful innovator visa application, the applicant needs to satisfy that he/she genuinely intends to undertake and is capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in the application. Moreover, the applicant does not intend to work in the UK in breach of the conditions of stay in the UK. Furthermore, an innovator visa applicant needs to satisfy that any money, which the applicant is claiming, is genuinely available. And also the applicant intends to use it for the purposes described in the innovator visa application. Accordingly, the decision-maker will take into account any endorsement requirements for applying for UK innovator visa under Appendix W. And also take into account any or all of the following factors:

  • the evidence the applicant has submitted and its credibility
  • the applicant’s previous educational, work and immigration history
  • declarations made to other government departments regarding the applicant’s previous employment and other activity in the UK
  • any other relevant information

Additional requirements for UK innovator visa assessment

In fact, the decision-maker may request additional information and evidence from the applicant or (where relevant) the applicant’s endorsing body. Accordingly, the requested documents must be received at the specified address within 20 working days of the date of the request. Moreover, the decision-maker may ask the applicant to attend an interview. If the applicant fails to attend the interview without providing a reasonable explanation, the decision-maker may decide the application based on the information and evidence the applicant has already provided. Nevertheless, the decision-maker may not undertake credibility assessment if the application already falls for refusal on other grounds. However, the decision-maker reserves the right to carry out credibility assessment in any reconsideration of the decision.

English Language Requirements for UK Innovator Visa (W3.8)

The innovator visa applicant is required to have a CEFR B2 level of English language ability. Accordingly, the applicant needs to provide one of the following evidence to prove the English language requirement:

  1. A national of a majority English speaking country
  2. The degree taught in English – applicant needs to provide UK NARIC certificate confirming the qualification meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s degree in the UK
  3. Applicant passing a Secure English Language Test
  4. The applicant met the requirement in a previous successful application for:
    • Start-up, Innovator, Tier 1 (General), Tier 1 (Post-Study Work), Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
    • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) under the rules in place before 13 December 2012
    • Tier 4 (General), supported by a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) assigned on or after 21 April 2011

Maintenance Funds Requirements for UK Innovator Visa (W3.9)

The applicant must have at least £945. The funds must have been held in the account for a consecutive 90 days, ending no earlier than 31 days before the date of application. The end date of the 90-day period will be taken as the date of the closing balance on the most recent document provided. Where documents from two or more accounts are submitted, this will be the end date for the account that most favours the applicant. Moreover, if the main applicant and his/her partner or children are applying at the same time then there must be enough maintenance funds in total, as required for all the applications, otherwise, all the applications will be refused.

However, If the applicant is applying for an innovator visa then may not need to provide evidence of maintenance funds if the letter from their endorsing body confirms they have been awarded funding of at least £945. Nevertheless, these funds should be in addition to the £50,000 investment funds required in the innovator category.

Endorsement Requirements for Applying for Tier 1 UK Innovator Visa (W6.1)

Certainly, an UK innovator visa applicant needs to have an endorsement from an approved endorsing body for entry clearance, extension and ILR application. Accordingly, an applicant needs to provide an endorsement letter of the endorsing body with the following information:

  1. the name of the endorsing body with the endorsement reference number
  2. the date of issue, which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application
  3. the applicant’s name, date of birth, nationality and passport number
  4. confirmation that the applicant has not previously established a business in the UK (unless the applicant’s last grant of leave was under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category)
  5. short description of the applicant’s business venture and the main products or services it will provide to its customers
  6. confirmation that the applicant’s business venture meets the endorsement criteria relating to innovation, viability and scalability in paragraph W6.3 (NEW BUSINESS), W6.6 (SAME BUSINESS) or W6.7 (SETTLEMENT)s
  7. the name and contact details (telephone number, email and workplace address) of an individual at the endorsing body. Certainly, the contact person will be responsible for verifying the endorsement letter as per the request of the Home Office

Moreover, the endorsement letter needs to state that the endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of his/her working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

Additional Endorsement for New Business

For “New Business” innovator visa applications does not require separate evidence of “investment funds” if the endorsement letter states that the requisite £50,000 are either available or already invested in the business. Therefore, the endorsement letter for a New Business may confirm that the endorsing body:

  • is providing the funds or
  • has verified the funds are available from other sources (including the applicant themselves), or
  • has verified that the funds have already been invested in the applicant’s business

Entrepreneurial Team for UK Innovator Visa Application

For UK innovator visa application, a person does not need to be the sole founder of the business. Therefore, can also be a member of an entrepreneurial team.

Switching or Extension Applications

If an applicant’s last grant of leave was in Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, Start-up or Innovator category, the endorsement does not need to be from the same endorsing body as the endorsement which led to that grant of leave.

Withdrawal of Endorsement

If the endorsing body withdraws its endorsement during the decision-making process then this will lead to the refusal of the UK innovator visa application.

Definition of New or Same Business for UK Innovator Visa (W6.2)

An applicant may get endorsement under the new business endorsement criteria (W6.3) from an endorsing body if either of the following applies:

  1. the UK Innovator visa application is an initial application
  2. the UK innovator visa extension application is for a different business venture from the one that was assessed in the endorsement which led to their previous grant of leave

Please note, an initial application means any application which is not an extension or settlement application. Therefore, this usually means that the applicant is applying to enter a category for the first time.

Same Business Endorsement

An applicant gets endorsement under same business endorsement criteria (W6.6) from the endorsing body if both the following conditions are applicable:

  1. the last grant of leave was in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Start-up or Innovator category and
  2. the applicant is pursuing the same business venture for endorsement which led to the previous grant of leave

New Business or Same Business Endorsement

An applicant gets endorsement under NEW (W6.3) or SAME (W6.6) business endorsement criteria from the endorsing body if both the following conditions are applicable:

  1. the last grant of leave was in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or Start-up category and
  2. the applicant is pursuing the same business venture for endorsement which led to the previous grant of leave

Endorsement Criteria for UK Innovator Visa New Business (W6.3)

If the applicant is relying on endorsement under the new business criteria then the endorsement letter from the endorsing body needs to confirm that the applicant’s business venture meets the innovation, viability and scalability criteria as per paragraph W6.3(a) of Appendix W. Moreover, in terms of paragraph W6.3 (b) the endorsement letter also needs to confirm that the endorsement body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend his/her entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

  1. Innovation Criteria means that an applicant meets the UK innovator visa requirements of providing a genuine and original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or also creates a competitive advantage.
  2. Viability Criteria means that an applicant meets the UK innovator visa requirements of having necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business in the UK.
  3. Scalability Criteria means that an applicant meets the UK innovator visa requirements of providing evidence of structured planning, potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

Investment Funds Requirements for UK Innovator Visa (W6.4)

In an applicant has an endorsement under paragraph W6.3 then needs at least £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source. Please note the min Investment Funds requirements for Tier 1 Entrepreneur was £200,000. If the endorsement letter for UK innovator visa application confirms that at least £50,000 funds are available or have been invested in the applicant’s business then the applicant does not need to provide any further evidence of investment funds under paragraph W6.5. However, if the endorsement letter does not confirm that a full £50,000 funds are available or have been invested [W6.4(c)], then the applicant must provide the evidence of investment funds or the remaining balance of the £50,000 investment funds as per paragraph W6.5.

Third-Party Investment Funds Requirements for UK Innovator Visa

Perhaps, quite similar to Tier 1 Entrepreneur, an applicant can resort to third-party funds for doing business under the Innovator visa category of Appendix W. Moreover, the third party could be the UK or overseas organisation or individual.

Waiver of funding requirement for switching applications

The funding requirement may be waived for those switching from the Start-up category who have made significant achievements against their business plans. The category may lead to a settlement in the UK.

2 Team members cannot share the investment funds

If the business venture has one or more other team members who are applying for, or have been granted, leave in the Innovator category, they cannot share the same investment funds. There must be at least £50,000 investment funds available for each Innovator team member. Therefore, if two non-resident workers are teaming up then will need to have at least £100,000 for investment in the new business. However, if an applicant is teaming up with a person with a resident worker status in the UK then there is no need of additional funds.

Who is a resident worker in the UK?

In fact, a resident worker for UK innovator visa under Appendix W of the Immigration Rules means a:

  1. British citizen
  2. person with a right of residence under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016
  3. British overseas territories citizen, except those from Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus
  4. Commonwealth citizen with leave to enter or remain granted under the UK Ancestry category
  5. person with settled status in the UK within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971

Evidence of Investment Funds – New Business (W6.5)

For “new business” innovator application, an applicant needs at least £50,000 investment funds. However, investment funds may include already invested funds in the business. Moreover, if the endorsement letter confirms that at least £50,000 investment funds are available or have been invested in the applicant’s business then no further evidence of investment funds are required. If the endorsement letter does not confirm that a full £50,000 funds are available or have been invested, the applicant must provide the evidence of investment funds or the remaining balance of the £50,000 investment funds.

  1. A Letter from a UK Organisation employing at least 10 people OR
  2. Letter from an Overseas Organisation an Individual Person along with the letter from legal representative and bank OR
  3. Bank statements or bank letter for Own Fund for the “New Business” OR
  4. Business Accounts for Funds Already Invested in Business

Please note, any funds in a foreign currency will be converted to pounds sterling (£). Apparently, by using the spot exchange rate which appeared on the OANDA website on the date of application. However, if the Home Office is not able to verify funds then will not accept that the funds are held in a financial institution (Appendix P).

A Letter from a UK Organisation employing at least 10 people

If any of the funds are available from a UK organisation which employs at least 10 people, the applicant must provide a letter from that organisation confirming this. The letter must include a signed declaration from the funding provider, dated no earlier than 3 months before the date of application, explaining how they know the applicant, the amount of funding they are making available in pounds sterling, confirmation that this funding has not been promised to any other person or business for another purpose. And also the name and contact details (telephone number, email and workplace address) of an individual at the organisation who will verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office if requested.

Letter from an Overseas Organisation an Individual Person

If any of the funds are available from an overseas organisation, a UK organisation which employs less than 10 people, or an individual person, the applicant must provide a signed declaration from the funding provider, dated no earlier than 3 months before the date of application, explaining how they know the applicant, the amount of funding they are making available in pounds sterling and a confirmation that this funding has not been promised to any other person or business for another purpose.

A letter from a legal representative (who is registered to practise legally in the country where the third party or the money is), confirming that the declaration and signature of the fund provider are genuine.

A bank letter, confirming that the funds are held in a regulated financial institution(s). The letter must be dated no earlier than 1 month before the date of application. If the institution is outside the UK, the letter must also confirm that the funds are transferrable to the UK.

Evidence of Own Fund for UK innovator visa

An applicant needs to provide bank statements or a bank letter for own funds.

Bank statements showing own funds for UK innovator visa

Bank statements, showing the funds are held in the UK in an institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The statements must cover a consecutive 3 months, ending no earlier than 1 month before the date of application.

A bank letter confirming own funds for UK innovator visa

A bank letter, confirming that the funds are held in a regulated financial institution(s). The letter must be dated no earlier than 1 month before the date of application. If the institution is outside the UK, the letter must also confirm that the funds are transferrable to the UK. If these documents do not show that the applicant has held the funds for at least 3 months, the applicant must also provide the signed declaration and letter from a legal representative set out in paragraph (b)(i) and (ii) above, in relation to the organisation or person who provided the funds to the applicant.

What if the Funds are already invested in business?

If an applicant has already invested funds in business then needs to provide:

  • business accounts with the date and name of the accountant, or
  • business bank statements

What if the funds are available to an applicant’s business?

If any of the investment evidence shows that funds are available to the applicant’s business rather than to the applicant themselves, or have been invested in the business, the applicant must provide a Companies House document showing their connection to the business. Apparently, an innovator visa applicant may require this document if the endorsement letter confirms his/her connection to the business.

The Requirements for UK Innovator Visa for Same Business (W6.6)

If a UK innovator visa applicant is relying on endorsement under the same business criteria, then the endorsement letter must confirm that an application meets all the criteria under paragraph W6.6(a)-(e):

  1. the applicant has shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement
  2. an applicant’s business registered with Companies House. And the applicant listed as a director or member of that business
  3. the business is active and trading. And the business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses
  4. the applicant has demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business
  5. And the endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on continuing to develop business ventures.

The Requirements for UK Innovator Visa ILR Applications (W6.7)

If a migrant is making a UK Innovator Visa ILR (settlement) application, then endorsement letter must confirm that the applicant meets all the endorsement criteria set out in paragraph W6.6(a)-(e) of Appendix W and applicant’s business venture meets at least two of the following requirements:

  1. Investment Funds Requirements for UK Innovator Visa ILR Application. A migrant not only needs to invest at least £50,000 in the business but also requires to actively spend time furthering the UK innovator visa business plan assessed in the previous endorsement
  2. Customer Base Requirements for UK Innovator Visa ILR Application. The number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years. And the number of customers are currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services
  3. R & D Criteria Requirements for UK Innovator Visa ILR Application. The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK
  4. Gross Revenue Requirements for UK Innovator Visa ILR Application. The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts
  5. Gross Revenue plus Exports Requirements for UK Innovator Visa ILR Application. The business is generating 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
  6. 10 Jobs Creation Requirements for UK Innovator Visa ILR Application. The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers
  7. 5 Jobs Creation Requirements for UK Innovator Visa ILR Application. The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers with an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses)

Job Creation requirements for UK innovator visa ILR Application

If the applicant is relying on the job creation criteria then jobs must have existed for at least 12 months. And also must comply with all relevant UK legislation, including (but not limited to) the National Minimum Wage Regulations in effect at the time and the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Moreover, each of the jobs must involve an average of at least 30 hours of paid work per week. Accordingly, an applicant may add up two part-time jobs to represent the equivalent of a single full-time job, as long as each of the jobs has existed for at least 12 months. However, a single full-time job of more than 30 hours of work per week does not count as more than one full-time job.

The migrant may meet any combination of two criteria

An applicant may qualify under any combination of two of the above criteria, even if they are similar. For example, an applicant will have met two criteria if their business has an annual revenue of £1 million. Perhaps, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.

Cannot qualify on the same criterion twice

An applicant cannot qualify by relying on the same criterion twice. For example, an applicant who has invested £100,000 (2 x £50,000) in their business venture. Apparently, this will only enable an applicant to only one criterion and certainly not two criteria.

Team members cannot share the same means to meet criteria

Moreover, If the business venture has one or more other team members who are applying for, or have been granted, settlement in the Innovator category, they cannot share the same means of meeting these criteria. For example, if two applicants are relying on the Job Criterion, then instead of 10 jobs, the business must create 20 jobs.

Criteria for UK Innovator Visa Endorsing Bodies (W6.8)

To qualify as an endorsing body in this category, an organisation must have proven track record, government support, ability to assess business ventures, consent to check and report the progress of an applicant and no connection with immigration abuse.

A proven track record for UK innovator visa endorsing body

The organisation must demonstrate a proven track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs, including resident workers. However, the Home Office may waive this requirement in exceptional circumstances. For instance, if an organisation with a good track record sets up a new organisation.

Government support for UK innovator visa endorsing bodies

The request to become an endorsing body must be supported by the UK government or devolved government department as being clearly linked to that department’s policy objectives.

The endorsing body has an ability to assess business ventures

The organisation needs to competently assess business ventures against the endorsement criteria set out in the Appendix W.

The endorsing body to stay in contact with the migrant

The organisation must agree to stay in contact with the endorsed innovator visa migrants at checkpoints 6, 12 and 24 months after their application is granted. And also to inform the Home Office if, at these checkpoints that the individual has not made reasonable progress with their original business venture and the individual is not pursuing a new business venture that also meets the endorsement criteria set out in the Appendix W. Moreover, the endorsing body needs to inform the Home Office if an applicant misses any of the checkpoints. Perhaps, without the endorsing body’s authorisation.

An endorsing body can withdraw its endorsement

An endorsing body can withdraw its endorsement if an innovator visa migrant is:

  • missing checkpoints and/or
  • not pursuing a new business venture

However, if the endorsing body is aware of exceptional and compelling reasons then may not withdraw its endorsement. And accordingly, needs to inform the Home Office of such compelling reasons.

An endorsing body to keep the Home Office posted

Moreover, an endorsing body is responsible to inform and update the Home Office. For instance, an endorsing body may report if a migrant is working outside own business ventures.

No connection with the abuse of the immigration system

It is imperative that the organisation has no past or present connections with the abuse of the immigration system.

List of UK Innovator Visa Endorsing Bodies

At present, there are more than forty approved endorsing bodies for UK Innovator Visa applications:

  1. The Bakery
  2. Bethnal Green Ventures
  3. Blue Orchid
  4. Capital Enterprise
  5. Communities and Business Partners (CBP)
  6. Consilium Consulting
  7. CyLon
  8. Deep Science Ventures
  9. DRS Business Solutions
  10. Edinburgh Innovations
  11. Emerge Education
  12. Emsworth Corporate Planning (ECP):
  13. Envestors Limited
  14. Entrepreneur First (EF)
  15. Fashion Angel
  16. First Corporate Finance
  17. Fortunis Capital Ltd
  18. Founders Factory
  19. Ignite
  20. Innovate Britain
  21. Innovator International (powered by Geminus)
  22. International Innovation Hub Ltd
  23. Invest Northern Ireland
  24. Kollider
  25. Level 39
  26. MDR LAB
  27. MedCity
  28. NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator
  29. North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC)
  30. Panacea
  31. Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator
  32. The Royal Society of Edinburgh.
  33. Sapphire Capital Partners LLP
  34. Scottish EDGE
  35. Seedcamp
  36. SETsquared Bristol
  37. Severn Seed Finance (SSF)
  38. Startup Funding Club
  39. Startup Giants plc
  40. The Start-up Race
  41. Techstars London
  42. Tech X
  43. Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator
  44. University of Bradford
  45. Wayra
  46. Zinc

Please note, the Home Office continuously enlist and delist approved endorsing bodies for the UK Innovator Visa. Therefore, it is important, to check the latest list of endorsing bodies for UK Innovator Visa directly from the Home Office website.

Guidance for Applying for Tier 1 UK Innovator Visa

What are the requirements for applying for Tier 1 UK Innovator Visa?

In a nutshell, for applying for UK innovator visa (aka tier 1 or t1 business visa), an applicant usually needs to have an endorsement letter, £50,000 of investment funds, B2 level of IELTS or equivalent for proving English language ability and at least £945 for maintenance funds. Moreover, tier 1 UK innovator visa application fees in 2020, success rate (2019) and processing time after biometrics are £1,021, 96.70% and 3-6 weeks, respectively.

How to get an endorsement letter for applying for Tier 1 UK Innovator Visa?

An applicant applying for tier 1 UK innovator visa, needs to provide the business plan and market research to an approved endorsing body for the issuance of an endorsement letter. Accordingly, the endorsing body evaluates the Business Plan and Market Research against the requirements of innovation, viability and scalability criteria for applying for UK innovator visa. Usually, the endorsing body may interview the applicant and ask for clarifications. If an applicant satisfies the endorsing body then gets the endorsement letter for applying for the tier 1 UK innovator visa. In fact, after getting the endorsement letter the chances of getting the tier 1 innovator visa are more than 90-95%.

What are the UK innovator visa funding requirements?

Quite clearly, the t1 innovator funding requirements for starting a fresh business in the UK are £50,000. However, an applicant does not require a separate evidence of “investment funds” if the endorsement letter states that the requisite £50,000 are either available or already invested in the business. Moreover, the t1 innovator funding requirement may be waived for those switching from the Start-up category who have made significant achievements against their business plans.

How much is Fee for Applying for Tier 1 UK Innovator Visa?

From Feb 20, 2020, the UK innovator visa fee for entry clearance and leave to remain applications will be £1,021 and £1,277, respectively. Moreover, the main applicant can also avail a Council of Europe Social Charter (CESC) discount of £55

What is the tier 1 UK Innovator Visa Success and Refusal Rate 2019?

In 2019, 91 applications resolved and 88 UK innovator visas granted. Moreover, only UK innovator visa applications rejected. And no application was withdrawn or lapsed. Therefore, the UK innovator visa success and refusal rate are 96.70% and 3.29%, respectively.

The increasing number of UK innovator visa applications

Perhaps, there is some skepticism regarding the low number of UK innovator visa applications. However, in the light of official statistics, the criticism is quite misplaced as the number of UK innovator visa applications are showing are increasing i.e. in April-June 2019 (Q2) only 2 applications were decided; however, in July-Sept (Q3) and Oct-Dec (Q3), the number of UK innovator visa applications increased to 20 and 69, respectively. Perhaps, this increase in the number of applications, along with a very high success rate (96.70%) and a growing list of quality endorsing bodies (39), indicates that UK innovator visa under Appendix W will surely enable a number of high skilled and high value migrants to set up successful businesses in the UK.

There were only two successful candidates for the “innovator visa” between April 1 and 30 June

FT

What is the UK Innovator Visa Processing Time 2020?

In fact, when it comes to application processing, the UK Innovator Visa falls under the non-settlement visa category. Therefore, the UK innovator visa application processing is usually within 3-6 weeks. However, prospective applicants may add 4-12 weeks for preparing a business plan and getting the endorsement letter from an approved endorsement body. Please note, it expedient to get first hand information regarding the process of issuance of endorsement letter directly for the approved endorsing bodies as each body has a different internal procedure.

When UK innovator visa replaced Tier 1 Entrepreneur?

In terms of the statement of changes, applications for innovator visa UK will commence from March 29, 2019, and will also replace the Tier 1 Entrepreneur with from March 29, 2019. However, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route will remain open for extension and ILR applications until 5 April 2023 and 5 April 2025, respectively. Moreover, Tier 1 entrepreneur extensions from abroad will be for 2 years and 4 months instead of 2 years.

Is UK Innovator visa 2019 an altogether new route?

No. Perhaps, the introduction of the UK innovator visa route seems to be an improvement over the PBS entrepreneur. Apparently, Tier 1 Entrepreneur route was introduced in 2008 to replace a number of other business immigration routes. Perhaps, mainly the Business Person and Innovator routes. Certainly, when introduced in 2008, the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa route for migrants was essentially points-based. However, over the years the Tier 1 entrepreneur route, especially after Jan 30, 2013, ceased to remain points based. Accordingly, Tier 1 entrepreneur applications were not assessed and decided solely on points. And there were a lot of subjective elements in the assessment process, which resulted in unduly high refusal rates.

What is new about UK innovator visa 2019?

Perhaps, most of the general and specific requirements of innovator visa closely resemble that of Tier 1 entrepreneur. Moreover, the endorsement criteria for “New Business”, “Same Business” and “Settlement” under the Appendix W for innovator visa quite closely relates to the genuine entrepreneur test for entry clearance, extension and ILR application. However, what makes innovator visa UK different is the pre-application endorsement process. Perhaps, especially, for “new business” applications from outside the UK.

Apparently, an endorsement letter from a government-approved endorsing body is the linchpin for the innovator visa UK application documents checklist. Accordingly, an innovator visa entry clearance, leave to remain and ILR (settlement) applicant needs to provide an endorsement letter of the endorsing body listed on the gov.uk website.

Reasons for the closure of Tier 1 Entrepreneur route

In fact, the main reason for the closure of Tier 1 entrepreneur is the poor quality of business projects. Perhaps, businesses with no or little value to the UK economy. Therefore, in order to mitigate the poor quality, an endorsement model has been instituted for assessing the UK innovator visa. Accordingly, under the endorsement model business experts (i.e. endorsing bodies), rather than the Home Office, will assess an applicant’s business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability. Accordingly, the HM’s Government expects that the endorsement process may be able to identify applicants, who may be able to bring wide-ranging benefits to the UK economy.

In the recent past, especially since Jan 2013, many genuine Tier 1 entrepreneur entry clearance applications were unduly refused due to lack of a proper evaluation mechanism. Therefore, the endorsement mechanism may not be only able to mitigate the abuse of the immigration system but also ensure that applications from genuine entrepreneurs are not unduly refused.

How the innovator endorsement criteria may ensure the quality?

Perhaps, the endorsement criteria may have its shortcomings. However, it is a move in the right direction to involve approved professional endorsing bodies in the assessment and monitoring process, especially for evaluating entry clearance applications from outside the UK against the innovation, viability and scalability criteria for “new business” under Appendix W of Immigration Rules.

Apparently, any genuine entrepreneur, who intends to do business in the UK with at least £50,000 investment funds can quite easily qualify the endorsement criteria. Therefore, the introduction of UK innovator visa category under Appendix W of Immigration is a well-come change. Accordingly, a UK innovator visa applicant should take the endorsement criteria as a guide for establishing a business.

How the endorsement model may favour genuine applicants?

Perhaps, the endorsement process may work in favour of nearly all genuine applicants. Apparently, an endorsing body needs to have a proven track record of supporting entrepreneurs in the UK. Moreover, due to the involvement of the endorsing bodies, the innovator visa refusal rate may be on a lower side. Perhaps, the refusal rate for entry clearance applications for “new business” from outside the UK will be quite low as only credible applications are likely to get the endorsement letter.

Certainly, the endorsement bodies will only be issuing “endorsement letters” if an application fulfils the endorsement criteria for the innovator visa UK. Therefore, the proposed endorsement model is likely to bring quality and credibility to the UK innovator visa application process.

What type of business a genuine innovator visa applicant may do?

Apparently, there is no positive and negative list for businesses under the innovator visa category of Appendix W. Therefore, all types of businesses are eligible under Appendix W. However, what’s important is the degree of innovation, viability and scalability of the business.

Is innovator visa UK only for highly-skilled?

Maybe or maybe not! Perhaps, judging from its name viz. “innovator” may seem to prefer, high skill businesses over low skill business. Perhaps, a high skill business may relate to designing, yoga and health centre, medical research, software engineering, alternate energy, environment protection. Whereas, a low-level business may relate to a grocery store, tyre shop etc.

However, details of the settlement criteria indicate a trade-off between innovation and scalability. Accordingly, most of the applicants developing low-skill businesses can get the settlement by fulfilling the investment, customers, revenue and job creation criteria. Perhaps, the middle to high skill businesses may be keen to fulfil the exports and research and development criteria. Therefore, despite its name “innovator” visa is quite open-ended and seems to provide an even playing field to all types of applicants, who intend to do genuine business in the UK.

Take lead from the endorsement criteria for Business Plan

Apparently, the endorsement criteria for “same business” essentially relates to achievements against the business plan of an applicant. And also includes registration with Companies House, the sustainability of business and, trading activities, the role of the applicant in the day-to-day management and development of the business. Moreover, for settlement (ILR) applications, in addition to “same business” criteria, an applicant also needs to meet any of two criteria relating to:

  • investment
  • the number of customers
  • research and development
  • annual gross revenue
  • exports
  • job creation

Therefore, any business plan and market research for “new business” should take lead from the “settlement endorsement criteria”.

Applying for Tier 1 Innovator Visa Endorsement Letter

An applicant or his/her representative needs to provide a copy of the business plan and market research to an approved endorsing body for the issuance of an endorsement letter for establishing “new business” in the UK. Accordingly, the endorsing body will evaluate the Business Plan and Market Research against the innovation, viability and scalability criteria for “New Business” under the Appendix W of Immigration Rules. Usually, if required the endorsing body may ask for a few clarifications and additional information. If the endorsing body deems appropriate then may grant the “endorsement letter”.

Can an applicant reapply for an endorsement letter?

Yes. Certainly, a genuine applicant can always reapply for an endorsement letter for “new business”. Perhaps, in the light of the observations of the endorsing body. It is quite normal to learn from one’s mistake. However, intentions should be genuine.

Can innovators work for others?

An innovator cannot take any employment other than working for own business. Moreover, working for own business does not include any work pursuant to a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express or implied and whether oral or written, with another business. This means successful applicants cannot effectively fill a position or hire their labour to another business. Perhaps, even if the work is undertaken through contracting with the applicant’s own business or through recruitment or employment agency.

Conditions of Stay under the UK Innovator Visa route

Accordingly, a grant of entry clearance or leave to remain as an innovator is subject to the following conditions:

  • no employment as a doctor or dentist in training
  • no employment as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach)
  • an employment limited to own business, as explained in the preceding paragraph
  • registration with the police, if this is required by Part 10 of the Immigration Rules
  • no recourse to public funds
  • a migrant on innovator visa can study in the UK. Perhaps, subject to the condition set out in Part 15 of the Immigration Rules
  • Entry clearance or leave to remain as an innovator may be curtailed as set out in paragraph 323 in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules.
  • entry clearance or leave to remain in the innovator category may be curtailed if an endorsing body withdraws its endorsement of a migrant or loses its status as an endorsing body for the innovator category.