UK Innovator Visa: All You Need to Know!

This guidance relates to UK Innovator Visa requirements for applying leave to enter or remain and settlement (ILR) applications. To apply 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 £1,270 for maintenance funds. The initial duration of UK innovator visa is 3 years. However, after 3 years, an innovator can apply for an ILR (settlement) under the Immigration Rules.

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 is also erroneously referred to as t1 or tier 1 innovator visa, British innovation, or innovative visa.

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Innovator Visa UK Guidance and Requirements

The British Government has designed Innovator route to attract entrepreneurial talent and innovative, scalable business ideas to the UK. Launched in March 2019 the route is for individuals looking to set up an innovative UK business. Start-up visa is for those setting up an innovative business for the first time, whilst Innovator is for those with industry experience and at least £50,000 funding. Individuals require support from an Endorsing Body, before applying, which must have assessed the business idea as being innovative, viable and scalable.

The UK Government has been actively promoting the Innovator route to attract talented entrepreneurs. Therefore, the innovator route is not capped. Moreover, the Innovator route enhance the UK’s visa offers to leading international business talent and maintains UK position as a top destination for innovation and entrepreneurs. In the future, the UK Government may continue to expand coverage of the Innovator route to more sectors and businesses.

The Innovator route is for a person seeking to establish a business in the UK based on an innovative, viable and scalable business idea they have generated, or to which they have significantly contributed.

Immigration Rules Appendix Innovator

UK Innovator Visa Application Requirements 2022

An adult above 18 years person can apply for a UK innovator visa if:

  1. they want to establish and operate an innovative business in the UK. However, the business be different from any other business in the market. Accordingly, the applicant needs to demonstrate that the business idea is:
    • new i.e. the applicant cannot join an already trading business
    • innovative i.e. the business idea is original and different from any other business in the market
    • viable i.e. has the potential for growth
  2. an approved endorsing body endorses the business or business idea. Accordingly, the applicant needs to have an Endorsement Letter for the Tier 1 Innovator Visa
  3. the applicant has at least £50,000* in investment funds for setting up a new business. Moreover, the applicant needs to prove the source of funds for UK Innovator Visa. However, the applicant does not need any investment funds for UK Innovator Visa if:
    • the business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa, or
    • applicant has changed the business and the endorsing body agreed to it
    • an applicant has a key role in the day to day management and development of an existing business
  4. the applicant meets the English language requirements of CEFR Level B2
  5. they have at least £1,270 savings in the bank account for 28 consecutive days to support himself/herself in the UK

*Please note, a person can form a team with other Innovator applicants; however, cannot share the same investment funds. Accordingly, the innovator team must have at least £50,000 for each applicant. Therefore, if there are 2 Innovator applicants then the team must have at least £100,000 investment funds.

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UK Innovator Visa Requirements 2021

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    Innovator Visa UK

    UK Innovator Visa 70-Points Requirements for New Business

    1. Business Plan – 10 Points
    2. Business Venture is Innovative, Viable and Scalable – 20 Points
    3. Min £50,000 Investment Funds – 20 Points
    4. English Language CEFR Level B2 – 10 Points
    5. Min £1,270 Maintenance Funds – 10 Points

    Business Plan for Innovator Visa UK

    The applicant must have an endorsement letter from an endorsing body which confirms that the applicant has either generated, or made a significant contribution to, the ideas in their business plan; and will have a day-to-day role in carrying out the business plan.

    Business is Innovative, Viable, and Scalable

    The applicant must have an innovative, viable and scalable business venture. Accordingly, the applicant needs:

    • to have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage; and
    • realistic and achievable business plan based on an applicant’s available resources; and
    • to actively develop the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, and market awareness to successfully run the business; and
    • to have evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets

    Moreover, an approved endorsing body confirms in the endorsement letter that it considers that the applicant meets the above UK innovator visa requirements for New Business.

    Investment Funds for New Business

    The applicant needs to have at least £50,000 of funds available to invest, or which have been invested, in the business by providing confirmation from the endorsing body that the approved UK Innovator visa endorsing body:

    1. is providing the funds of at least £50,000; or
    2. has verified the funds are available from other sources (which can include the applicant); or
    3. has verified that at least £50,000 has already been invested in the applicant’s business

    If the UK Innovator visa funds requirements y an endorsing body which confirms as part of their endorsement letter that they consider that the applicant meets those requirements.

    Additionally, an applicant can also provide evidence that the £50,000 of funds are available from another source:

    1. a UK organisation which employs at least 10 people
    2. an overseas organisation, a UK organisation which employs less than 10 people, or an individual
    3. applicant’s own resources
    4. funds already invested

    UK Innovator Visa 70-Points Requirements for Same Business

    1. Applicant’s previous permission was as in the Innovator, Start-up, or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route – 10 Points
    2. Business is active, trading, and sustainable and demonstrates significant achievements against the business plan – 20 Points
    3. Applicant is active in day-to-day management and development of business – 20 Points
    4. English Language CEFR Level B2 – 10 Points
    5. Min £1,270 Maintenance Funds – 10 Points

    Business previously assessed by an endorsing body

    The endorsing body which confirms endorsement based on a business, or another endorsing body have previously assessed while the applicant had permission on the Innovator Start-up route or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur).

    Moreover, the endorsing body confirms that the applicant meets the new business requirements with the exception that applicants previously endorsed in the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) routes do not need to meet the investment funds requirement.

    Business is active, trading, and sustainable

    The applicant’s business is active, trading, and sustainable and the applicant has made considerable progress against the business plan. The applicant’s business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of the business. The endorsing body confirms the aforesaid.

    Day to day management

    The applicant is involved in the day to day management and development of the business and provides a letter confirming this from an endorsing body.

    UK Innovator visa English Language (IELTS) Requirements

    The applicant must show English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) of at least level B2. Moreover, the applicant must show they meet the English language requirement as specified in Appendix English Language. Accordingly, the applicant needs to provide one of the following types of 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

    IELTS Requirements for UK Innovator Visa

    For Innovator visa UK, if an applicant has skills equivalent to CEFR level B2 for English language in speaking and listening, then can meet the English Language requirements. Therefore, for UK innovator visa IELTS requirements is 5.5-6.5 Band Score, which is equivalent to CEFR Level B2. Please note, according to the official CEFR guidelines, the B2 CEFR Level is for Competent Elementary users in English, who can:

    • understand the main ideas of a complex text such as a technical piece related to their field
    • spontaneously interact without too much strain for either the learner or the native speaker
    • produce a detailed text on a wide range of subjects

    UK Innovator Visa Financial Requirements

    If the applicant is applying for permission to stay and has been in the UK with permission for 12 months or longer on the date of application, then automatically meets the UK innovator visa financial requirements. Therefore, in such instances, an applicant does not need to show funds for maintenance in the UK. However, a UK innovator visa applicant, who is applying for entry clearance, or who is applying for permission to stay and has been in the UK for less than 12 months at the date of application needs to show funds of at least £1,270. Accordingly, the applicant needs to show that they have held the required level of funds for a 28- day period and as per Appendix Finance.

    UK Innovator Visa Endorsement Letter Requirements

    All applicants for permission in the Innovator route must have been endorsed in this category by an endorsing body listed on the GOV.UK website. Accordingly, the UK Innovator Visa applicant needs to provide an endorsement letter issued by the endorsing body, which includes all the following information:

    1. the name of the endorsing body
    2. endorsement reference number
    3. the date of issue, which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application
    4. the applicant’s name, date of birth, nationality, and passport number
    5. a brief description of the applicant’s business venture and the main products or services it will provide to its customers
    6. the name and contact details (telephone number, email, and workplace address) of an individual at the endorsing body who will verify the contents of
      the letter to the Home Office if requested

    The Home Office/UKVI will not accept an endorsement if:

    • it has been used more than 3 months after date of issue
    • it has been withdrawn by the endorsing body
    • the endorsing body has lost its status as an endorsing body at the date of decision

    In addition to the above the endorsement letter must also include the Endorsing body’s confirmation that in their assessment the applicant meets the individual requirements of New Business or Same Business criteria.

    UK Innovator Visa Supporting Documents Requirements

    An applicant applying for UK Innovator visa needs to provide:

    1. a valid passport or other document for demonstrating an applicant’s identity and nationality, with a blank page in the passport for the UK Innovator visa vignette if they are from:
      • outside the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein
      • the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein but do not have a biometric passport with a chip in it
    2. an ‘endorsement letter’ from an approved endorsing body demonstrating the assessment of the business or business idea
    3. bank statements to show at least £1,270 in savings (maintenance funds) in the bank account for 28 consecutive days before the application date.  However, if the applicant is applying the UK Innovator visa with dependent family members, then needs addition maintenance funds:
      • £285 for partner
      • £315 for one child
      • £200 for each additional child
    4. the proof of meeting the English language requirements CEFR Level B2
    5. evidence of the investment funds (£50,000), if the applicant is setting up a new business in the UK
    6. tuberculosis test results if the applicant is from a country where they need to take the test
    7. certified translation of all the documents that are not in English or Welsh
    8. any additional documents depending on the circumstances of the applicant

    Additional Documents

    Please note, the UK Innovator Visa is endorsement base. Therefore, the approved endorsement body scrutinizes most of the documentation such as business plan, professional credentials, investment funds etc. before issuing the Endorsement Letter. Accordingly, an applicant may not need to furnish all these details at the time of application submission. However, if the Immigration Officer deems necessary then may ask the applicant to provide the details of the UK Innovator Visa Supporting Documents and also the communications with the endorsement body. Therefore, it is expedient to keep a copy of all the relevant document readily available.

    Innovator Visa ILR Requirements

    The applicant must provide an endorsement letter issued by an endorsing body, which includes all the following information:

    1. the name of the endorsing body; and
    2. endorsement reference number; and
    3. the date of issue, which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application; and
    4. the applicant’s name, date of birth, nationality, and passport number; and
    5. a brief description of the applicant’s business venture and the main products or services it has provided; and
    6. the name and contact details (telephone number, email, and workplace address) of an individual at the endorsing body who will verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office if requested; and
    7. confirmation that the applicant has shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement; and
    8. confirmation that the applicant’s business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business; and
    9. evidence/confirmation the business is active and trading; and
    10. confirmation that the business is sustainable for at least the following 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses; and
    11. confirmation the applicant has demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business

    Investment and Revenue Criteria for Innovator Visa ILR Application

    In addition to the above, the endorsement letter from the endorsing body for Innovator visa ILR application should provide the evidence or confirmation that the business venture has met at least two of the following requirements:

    • at least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business; or
    • the number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent three years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services; or
    • the business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK; or
    • business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts; or
    • 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; or
    • the business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for settled workers; or
    • the business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for settled workers, each of which has a mean salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any allowances).

    Cannot Rely on Same Criterion Twice

    An applicant cannot meet the UK Innovator visa settlement requirements by relying on the same criterion twice. For instance, an applicant who has invested £100,000 (2 x £50,000) in their business venture will be considered to have met one criterion, not two.

    Moreover, if the business venture has one or more other team members who are applying for, or have been granted, settlement on the Innovator route, they cannot share the same means of meeting these criteria. For instance, if two applicants are relying on the requirement to have created ten jobs, twenty jobs must have been created in total.

    Innovator Visa ILR Requirements for Job Creation

    If the applicant is relying on the criteria for creating jobs the following requirements must be met:

    • each job must have existed for at least 12 months and comply with all relevant UK legislation, including (but not limited to) the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and the Working Time Regulations 1998; and
    • each job must involve an average of at least 30 hours of paid work per week, but two or more part time jobs held by different employees that when combined add up to 30 hours per week will represent the equivalent of a single full-time job, if each of the jobs has existed for at least 12 months; and
    • a job will be considered one for settled worker if the worker met the definition of settled worker in the rules in force at the time they started the job, and they remained employed for the whole claimed 12-month period, even if they ceased to be a settled worker at a later date

    Innovator Visa ILR Requirements for Qualifying Period

    The applicant needs to spend at least 3 years in the UK with permission on the Innovator route. The applicant must also prove that they have met the continuous residence requirement as set out in Appendix Continuous Residence for the qualifying period.

    Knowledge of Life

    The applicant needs to meet the Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement as set out in Appendix KOL UK.

    Valid Innovator Visa ILR Application

    A migrant on the Innovator route can apply for settlement online on the gov.uk website on the specified form “Settle in the UK in various immigration categories: form SET(O)”. Accordingly, the applicant needs to meet all the following UK innovator visa settlement application requirements:

    1. payment of application fee
    2. provision of biometrics
    3. provision of passport or other travel document to establish identity and nationality
    4. the applicant must be in the UK
    5. endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body no more than 3 months before the date of application and that endorsement must not have been withdrawn

    Moreover, the applicant must have, or have last been granted, permission on the Innovator route. If an applicant does not meet all the aforesaid validity requirements for settlement under the UK Innovator visa route, then the application is deemed invalid and may also be rejected and not considered by the Home Office.

    Suitability Requirements for Innovator Visa ILR Application

    The applicant must not fall for refusal under Part 9: grounds for refusal. Moreover, if the applicant is applying for permission to stay then must not be:

    • in breach of immigration laws, except that where paragraph 39E applies, that period of overstaying will be disregarded; or
    • on immigration bail

    Decision

    If the applicant meets all the requirements, then gets the settlement under the Innovator route. If the Home Office refuses the UK Innovator Visa ILR application, then the migrant can apply for an Administrative Review.

    FAQs

    Who Can Apply for UK Innovator Visa?

    The Innovator route is open to both EU and non-EU citizens. Applicants can be individuals or teams. The Innovator route is for those with industry experience and at least £50,000 funding, who can dedicate their working time to their business ventures, or those moving from Start-up who are progressing their business. The maximum duration of Innovator visa is 3 years and afterwards migrants can apply for ILR for permanent settlement in the UK.

    When has 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.

    Who are Innovator Visa UK Endorsing Bodies?

    Each applicant for UK Innovator visa must have the support of an approved Endorsing Body. Endorsing Bodies are either Higher Education Providers or business organisations who have a track record of supporting UK based entrepreneurs and the support of a Government Department. Endorsing Bodies assess business plan for innovator visa application. The assessment ensures that business is innovative, viable and scalable. The endorsement bodies are also responsible for monitoring the progress of the businesses they endorsed for innovator visa UK.

    Who assesses the Innovator Visa Business Plan?

    To deliver and ensure an improved service to innovator visa applicants the Home Office has partnered with some of the UK’s leading business development experts. It is the endorsing bodies, rather than the Home Office, who assess applicants’ business ideas. It may take 4-12 weeks for preparing a business plan for innovator visa UK and getting the endorsement letter from an approved endorsement body. To get first-hand information regarding the process of issuance of endorsement letter for innovator visa UK it is expedient to directly approach the approved endorsing bodies.

    How much is Innovator Visa UK Fees?

    From April 6, 2022, the Innovator visa UK fee are £1,036 for main applicant and dependants. The main applicant can also avail a Council of Europe Social Charter (CESC) discount of £55.

    What is the UK Innovator Visa Processing Time after Biometrics?

    The UK Innovator visa application processing time is usually within 3-6 weeks. However, applicants may fast track if they can use the 5-working days priority or 24-hours super-priority service.

    What is the Duration of Innovator Visa UK?

    The maximum period of Innovator visa UK is 3 years, subject to the following conditions:

    1. no access to public funds; and
    2. no work, other than working for the business(es) the applicant has established and
    3. study is permitted, subject to the ATAS condition in Appendix ATAS; and
    4. if Part 10 applies the applicant will be required to register with the police

    Please note, working for the business(es) does not include any apprenticeship or any work pursuant to a contract of service, whether express or implied and whether oral or written, with another business, (which means successful applicants cannot fill a position or hire their labour to another business, even if the work is undertaken through contracting with the applicant’s own business or through a recruitment or employment agency).

    What to do if Innovator Visa UK is refused?

    If Innovator visa UK is refused than one can reapply or file an administrative review. Please note there is no right of appeal against the refusal of Innovator visa UK. However, an applicant can file an immigration judicial review after an unsuccessful administrative review. If an applicant used false documents or misrepresented fact, then can get 10-year deception ban.

    What is the Success Rate of Innovator Visa UK?

    So far, since 2019 (i.e. from 2019 Q2 to 2022 Q1) 1,814 applications resolved, and 1,512 UK innovator visas granted. Moreover, 289 applications rejected, 13 applications withdrawn, and no application lapsed. Therefore, the UK innovator visa success and refusal rate are 83.35% and 15.93%, respectively. The UK innovator visa success rate in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022Q1 is 96.63%, 89.36%, 83.86% and 62.61%, respectively.