Innovator Visa UK: what you need to know? Best Expert Advice!

UK Innovator Visa Requirements under Appendix WIn terms of the statement of changes dated March 7, applications for innovator visa UK will commence from March 29, 2019. 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 businesspeople, who are seeking 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 duration of entry clearance and extension visa is 3 years. And after 3 years, an innovator can apply for settlement (ILR) in the UK under Appendix W of the Immigration Rules.

The post first provides a general overview of the innovator visa UK. However, the subsequent section will provide the details of the endorsement process for New Business, Same Business and Settlement. Accordingly, the post covers the following topics:

  1. Innovator visa UK under Appendix W to replace Tier 1 Entrepreneur
  2. Innovator visa UK requirements and credibility assessment
  3. Endorsement Criteria: “New Business” Innovator Visa Application
    • Innovation, Viability and Scalability Criteria for “New Business”
  4. Contents of endorsement letter for “same business”
  5. Applying for settlement as an innovator under Appendix W
  6. Requirements for endorsing bodies

Innovator visa UK under Appendix W to replace Tier 1 Entrepreneur

Certainly, the innovator visa category of Appendix W will replace the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route from March 29, 2019. However, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route will remain open for extension and ILR (settlement) applications until 5 April 2023 and 5 April 2025, respectively. Moreover, successful Tier 1 Entrepreneur migrants applying for an extension from abroad will be granted 2 years and 4 months leave instead of 2 years.

Accordingly, this section will cover the following details:

  • Is Innovator visa an altogether new route?
  • What is new about innovator visa UK?
  • Poor quality of applications led to Tier 1 Entrepreneur closure
  • How to qualify for innovator visa UK?
  • What is the endorsement criteria for innovator visa UK?
  • How the innovator endorsement criteria may ensure the quality?
  • Who can be an endorsing body for innovator visa?
  • How much Investment Funds required for the Innovator Visa?
  • English language requirement for the innovator visa UK
  • Maintenance funds for the innovator visa UK
  • Eligible immigration routes for switching to innovator visa
  • Innovator visa applicants can form entrepreneurial teams
  • What is the Application Fee for Innovator Visa UK?
  • What is the duration of innovator visa UK?

Is Innovator visa an altogether new route?

Certainly, not. Perhaps, the introduction of an innovator visa UK seems to an improvement of the PBS Tier 1 entrepreneur.

Apparently, Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route was introduced in 2008 to replace a number of other business immigration routes, 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 due to the abuse of the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa route, especially after Jan 30, 2013, ceased to remain points based. Accordingly, since early 2013, Tier 1 entrepreneur applications were not assessed and decided solely on points and there are a lot of subjective elements in the assessment process, which resulted in unduly high refusal rates.

What is new about innovator visa UK?

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 from Tier 1 entrepreneur is the pre-application endorsement process, 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.

Poor quality of applications led to Tier 1 Entrepreneur closure

Perhaps, the main reason for the closure of Tier 1 entrepreneur is the poor quality of business projects with no or little value to the UK economy. Therefore, in order to mitigate the poor quality of business projects, an endorsement model has been instituted for assessing the innovator visa UK. 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 to qualify for innovator visa UK?

To qualify for the innovator visa UK 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 innovator visa UK, 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.

What is the endorsement criteria for innovator visa UK?

In the context of innovator visa UK, the innovation criteria for “new business” mean that an applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage. Whereas, the viability criteria means that the applicant has necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business. Moreover, the scalability criteria mean that an applicant needs to provide evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

Perhaps, these innovation, viability and scalability may sound strange and difficult. However, these are quite the usual subject matter of any factual business plan and market research report to establish a business successfully.

The endorsement criteria for “Same Business” and Settlement

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, 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 any of two criteria relating to investment, number of customers, research and development, annual gross revenue, exports and job creation. Therefore, any business plan and market research for “new business” should take lead from the “settlement endorsement criteria”.

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 genuine innovator visa applicant should take the endorsement criteria as a guide for establishing a business in the UK successfully.

How the endorsement model may favour genuine applicants?

Perhaps, the endorsement process may work in favour of nearly all genuine applicants as it will be handled by endorsing bodies having 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 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 high-skill businesses?

Maybe or maybe not! Perhaps, judging from its name viz. “innovator” may seem to prefer, high skill businesses such as a designing, yoga and health centre, medical research, software engineering, alternate energy, environment protection etc. are preferred over low skill business such as 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.

Who can be an endorsing body for innovator visa?

In terms of Appendix W, an endorsing body means an organisation which has been approved by the Home Office to endorse applicants in the relevant category. Accordingly, in future, an endorsing organisation may include government approved business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers.

Innovator visa applicant can change the endorsing body

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.

An endorsing body can withdraw its endorsement!

It is important that the endorsing body does not withdraw the endorsement during the decision making process. If an endorsing body withdraws the endorsement then this will lead to the refusal of the innovator visa application.

How much Investment Funds required for the Innovator Visa?

An applicant will need at least £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source (reduced from £200,000 for most applicants in the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category).

Endorsement Letter and Evidence of Investment Funds

Apparently, for “Same Business” and “Settlement” innovator applications under Appendix W do not require any separate evidence of “investment funds”. Moreover, even 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.

If the endorsement is under the “new business” criteria, an innovator visa applicant does not require to provide the evidence of Investment Funds, as enumerated at paragraph W6.5 of Appendix W, if the endorsement letter confirms that the endorsing body is providing the funds, or the endorsing body has verified the funds are available from other sources (including the applicant themselves), or the endorsing body has verified that the funds have already been invested in the applicant’s business.

Third Party Investment for an Innovator Visa UK

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.

English language requirement for the innovator visa UK

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. 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 for the innovator visa UK

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.

Spouse and children: maintenance funds requirement

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.

Maintenance funds exemption for the innovator visa UK

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. However, these funds should be in addition to the £50,000 investment funds required in the innovator category.

Eligible immigration routes for switching to innovator visa

For leave to remain innovator visa applications, an applicant can switch from start-up, Tier 1 entrepreneur, PBS Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 2. And also prospective entrepreneur under Appendix V qualifies for switching to an innovator visa category under Appendix W of the Immigration Rules.

Innovator visa UK: 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.

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.

Innovator visa applicants can form entrepreneurial teams

An innovator visa applicant does not need to be the sole founder of the business. Therefore, can be a member of an entrepreneurial team, even with a resident work. For innovator visa under Appendix W, resident work means:

  1. British citizen
  2. a person with a right of residence under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 (as amended)
  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. a person with settled status in the UK within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971 (as amended)

Innovator Team Members Cannot Share 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. These additional funds are not needed for team members who are resident workers or who have leave under another category of the Immigration Rules, which allows them to engage in business.

Team members cannot share the same means to meet settlement 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 both relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, 20 jobs must have been created in total.

What is the Application Fee for Innovator Visa UK?

From March 29, 2019, the UK visa fee for innovator visa 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 £55Apparently, the application fee for Tier 1 Entrepreneur entry clearance and leave to remain visa applications is also £1,021 and ££1,277, respectively. Therefore, there is no difference in the application fee for the UK innovator visa and PBS Tier-1 Entrepreneur.

What is the duration of innovator visa UK?

If an applicant meets the entry or extension requirements, then the applicant gets the innovator visa UK for 3-years, subject to employment and other conditions. However, if an applicant fails to meet the general and specific requirements then the innovator visa application is refused.

The innovator can only work in his/her own business

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, even if the work is undertaken through contracting with the applicant’s own business or through recruitment or employment agency.

Checklist of Conditions for entry and leave as an innovator

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)
  • 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, 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.

Innovator visa UK requirements and credibility assessment

To qualify for the innovator visa UK an applicant needs to meet the general and specific requirements under Part W3 and W6 of Appendix W, Immigration Rules, respectively. The min age of the applicant for the innovator visa application is 18 years and the applications attract general grounds for refusal. Moreover, for leave to remain applications an applicant needs to provide the information about his/her immigration status in the UK and must not be in breach of immigration laws. An applicant needs to provide evidence of English language (CEFR B 1 or equivalent) and also that of £945 maintenance funds. And also an endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body. Accordingly, an applicant needs to provide all the requisite evidence with the application. Certainly, the decision maker may ask for additional or missing documents. And also may schedule an interview for credibility assessment. 

Credibility assessment for the innovator visa UK

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 for an innovator migrant under Appendix W.

Money is genuinely available for doing business

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.

How the decision maker will assess the innovator visa application?

The decision maker will take into account any endorsement of the applicant required 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 information from the applicant and endorsing body

The decision maker may request additional information and evidence from the applicant or (where relevant) the applicant’s endorsing body. The requested documents must be received at the specified address within 20 working days of the date of the request.

The decision maker may schedule an interview

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.

Refusal of innovator application without credibility assessment

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.

Endorsement Criteria: “New Business” Innovator Visa Application

An applicant may be endorsed under the “new business” endorsement criteria if the application is an initial application. Moreover, “new business” endorsement criteria are also applicable for extension application if an applicant is pursuing a different business venture from the one that was assessed in the endorsement which led to their previous grant of leave.

Innovation, Viability and Scalability Criteria for “New Business”

The endorsement letter for new business needs to confirm that the applicant’s business venture meets the innovation, viability and scalability criteria.

Certainly, in the context of innovator visa, the innovation, viability, scalability criteria mean that an applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage. And also the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business. Moreover, an applicant needs to provide evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

Contents of endorsement letter for “same business”

Accordingly, an endorsement letter for “New Business” must provide 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 of Appendix W for new business
  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.

How to apply for an 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”, in the light of the observations of the endorsing body. It is quite normal to learn from one’s mistake; however, the intentions should be genuine.

An applicant requires £50,000 investment funds for “new business”

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.

However, 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.

Evidence of investment funds for “new business”

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

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 the “New Business”

If any of the funds are held by the applicant, they must provide either bank statements or a bank letter

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 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.

Business Accounts for Funds Already Invested in Business

If any of the funds have already been invested in the applicant’s business, the applicant must provide either business accounts, showing the name of the accountant and the date they were produced or business bank statements.

An applicant may need Company House’s document

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. This document is not needed if the endorsement letter confirms the applicant’s connection to the business.

Conversion of Funds in Foreign Currency

Any funds in a foreign currency will be converted to pounds sterling (£) using the spot exchange rate which appeared on the OANDA website on the date of application.

Acceptance of Investment Funds subject to verification

Funds will not be accepted if they are held in a financial institution which the Home Office is unable to make satisfactory verification checks with, as listed in Appendix P of the Immigration Rules.

What is the endorsement criteria for “same business” application?

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

What the endorsement letter for “same business” must confirm?

If the applicant is relying on endorsement under the same business criteria, the endorsement letter must confirm that the applicant has shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement. And also that the applicant’s business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business.

Moreover, the letter must confirm that 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. Furthermore, the letter must confirm that the applicant has demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business. 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.

Contents of an endorsement letter for “same business”

Accordingly, an endorsement letter for an innovation visa application for needs to provide 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 in paragraph W6.6 of Appendix W for the same business
  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.

Endorsement criteria for settlement as an innovator

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

  1. Investment Funds: At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan assessed in the applicant’s previous endorsement.
  2. Customer Base: The number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services.
  3. R & D: The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK.
  4. Gross Revenue: 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: 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: The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers.
  7. 5 Jobs Creation: The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses)

Criteria for job creation for UK innovator visa migrant

If the applicant is relying on the criteria for creating jobs the jobs must have existed for at least 12 months and 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 fulltime 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.

Innovator visa 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 annual revenue of £1 million, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.

An applicant 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 both relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, 20 jobs must have been created in total.

Requirements for Innovator Visa UK Endorsing bodies

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

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

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.

Ability to assess innovator visa business ventures

The organisation must be able to competently assess innovator visa business ventures against the endorsement criteria set out in these Worker rules.

Check and report the progress of an applicant

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 without the endorsing body’s authorisation.

An endorsing body can withdraw its endorsement if either an innovator visa migrant missing checkpoints or not pursuing a new business venture, unless it is aware of exceptional and compelling reasons not to withdraw its endorsement, and informs the Home Office of those reasons.

Moreover, an endorsing body is responsible to inform and update the Home Office if it has any reason to believe that an endorsed innovator visa migrant is working outside of his/her own business ventures, in breach of their conditions.

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.

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