Following the closure of the Start up visa and Innovator routes, the sole route for foreign nationals to set up and manage their own business in the UK is the Innovator Founder route.
The Innovator Founder visa is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to start and run a successful business in the UK. If you are interested in applying for this visa, it is important to do your research and start planning early.
What is the Innovator Founder Visa?
The Innovator Founder visa is a UK visa that allows entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start and run an innovative business. It is a highly competitive visa, but it offers a number of benefits, including:
- The ability to live and work in the UK for up to three years
- The ability to bring your family to the UK
- The ability to access funding and support from the UK government
- The ability to apply for permanent residency after three years
If you are successful in your application, you will be granted a three-year Innovator Founder visa. You will be able to live and work in the UK during this time, and you will also be able to bring your family to the UK. After three years, you can apply for permanent residency.
Innovator Founder visa requirements
To be eligible for the Innovator Founder visa, you must have a business idea that is innovative, viable, and scalable; have an endorser for your business idea; meet the English language requirement and meet the financial requirement.
Innovative business idea
Your business idea must be new and original, and it must have the potential to be successful. You should be able to demonstrate that your business idea is different from anything else on the market and that it has the potential to create jobs and grow into national and international markets.
Tips for meeting the “innovative business idea” requirement can include:
- Identify a problem or need that is not being met by existing businesses. This could be a problem that you have experienced yourself, or it could be a problem that you have identified through your research.
- Come up with a solution to the problem or need. Your solution should be new and innovative, and it should have the potential to be successful.
- Do your research to make sure that your business idea is feasible. This includes researching the market, the competition, and the regulatory environment.
- Develop a business plan. Your business plan should outline your business idea, your target market, your competitive strategy, and your financial projections.
- Get feedback from others. Talk to potential customers, investors, and mentors to get their feedback on your business idea.
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of an innovative business idea. What is considered to be innovative in one industry may not be considered to be innovative in another industry. The key is to come up with a business idea that is new, original, and has the potential to be successful.
If you are unsure whether your business idea is innovative enough, you can seek advice from an approved UK endorsing body. Endorsing bodies are organizations that are experts in assessing the innovativeness and viability of business ideas.
Your business idea must be endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body. Endorsing bodies are organisations that are experts in assessing the innovativeness and viability of business ideas.
To get endorsed for the Innovator Founder visa, you will need to approach one of the approved UK endorsing bodies.
Once you have found an endorsing body, you will need to contact them to find out how to apply for endorsement. Each endorsing body has its own application process, but there are some general things that you will need to do:
- Provide the endorsing body with information about your business idea, including a business plan.
- Demonstrate that your business idea is innovative, viable, and scalable.
- Get your business idea endorsed by a panel of experts.
When applying for endorsement, you will also need to select whether you are applying as a ‘new business’, or a ‘same business’ if you are already running a business in the UK and applying to extend your Innovator Founder visa, or as a ‘settlement application’ of you have been in the UK on an Innovator Founder visa for three years and are applying for indefinite leave to remain.
If your business idea is endorsed by the endorsing body, they will issue you with an endorsement letter. This letter will state that the endorsing body believes that your business idea is innovative, viable, and scalable. You will need to submit this letter with your Innovator Founder visa application.
Here are some tips for getting endorsed for the Innovator Founder visa:
- Start early. The endorsement process can take several weeks, so it is important to start early.
- Choose the right endorsing body. When choosing an endorsing body, it is important to consider your business idea and your target market. Some endorsing bodies specialize in certain industries or sectors.
- Be prepared to answer questions. When you meet with the endorsing body, be prepared to answer questions about your business idea, your business plan, and your goals.
- Be passionate. The endorsing body will be looking for entrepreneurs who are passionate about their business ideas. Show them that you are committed to making your business a success.
English language requirement
You must have a good understanding of English in order to live and work in the UK. You will need to provide evidence of you language capability unless an exemption applies. You can prove your language by either:
- Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) at level B2
- Being a national of a majority English speaking country.
- Having an academic degree taught or researched in English.
- Having met the language requirement at the relevant level in a previous successful Home Office application.
To be eligible for the Innovator Founder visa, you will need to show you have at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before making your application.
The bank account must be held in your name and it must be located in the UK.
You can also meet the financial requirement by showing that you have the required amount of money in a bank account that is held in the name of your spouse or partner. However, your spouse or partner must be accompanying you to the UK and they must be included on your visa application.
How much do you need to invest for the Innovator Founder visa?
You do not need to invest any specific amount of money to be eligible for an Innovator Founder visa. However, you will need to have a business plan that shows that you have a viable and innovative business idea, and that you have access to sufficient funds to make your business operational. As such, you will need to show you have enough to cover the costs of starting and running your business, such as:
- Office space
- Marketing expenses
If you are able to raise investment from third parties, this will be seen as a positive factor, although it is not essential to have external investment. You can also use your own personal savings to fund your business.
If you are unsure how much money you need to invest, you should speak to an immigration adviser. They can help you to assess your financial needs and to develop a business plan that is likely to be successful.
How to apply for the Innovator Founder visa
You apply for the Innovator Founder visa online by completing the application form and paying the application fee. You will then arrange to attend a visa application centre to submit your biometric information, such as your fingerprints and photograph.
Once you have submitted your application, it will be processed by the UK Home Office to determine whether you meet all of the eligibility requirements.
Supporting documents for the Innovator Founder visa application
In addition to the online application form, you will need to submit the following supporting documents for your Innovator Founder visa application:
- Endorsement letter: This letter must be issued by an approved endorsing body and it must state that the endorsing body believes that your business idea is innovative, viable, and scalable.
- Evidence of English language proficiency: This can be a copy of your English language test results or a certificate from a qualified English language teacher.
- Evidence of financial support: This can be a bank statement showing that you have the required amount of money in your account or a letter from a financial sponsor confirming that they will support you financially while you are in the UK.
- Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your planned entry date to the UK.
- Passport-sized photographs: You will need to submit two passport-sized photographs. The photographs must be recent and they must meet the UK passport photo requirements.
You may also need to submit additional supporting documents, depending on your individual circumstances. For example, if you have dependants, you will need to submit their passports and birth certificates.
Applying as a team
The requirements for team members applying for Innovator Founder endorsement are as follows:
- Each team member must have a significant role in the business.
- Each team member must have a clear understanding of the business plan and be able to demonstrate their contribution to the business.
- Each team member must have the skills and experience necessary to carry out their role in the business.
- Each team member must have a strong track record of success in business or academia.
- Each team member must meet the financial requirements for the Innovator Founder visa.
In addition to these general requirements, there are some specific requirements for team members who are applying for a same business endorsement or a settlement application endorsement.
For a same business endorsement, team members must show that they have made a significant contribution to the business since it was first granted an Innovator Founder visa. They must also demonstrate that they are continuing to innovate and grow the business.
For a settlement application endorsement, team members must show that they have met all of the requirements for the Innovator Founder visa and that they are now eligible for permanent settlement (ILR).
How long is application processing for the Innovator Founder visa?
Once you have submitted your Innovator Founder visa application, you will usually receive a decision within 3 weeks if you are applying from outside the UK, or 8 weeks if you are applying from inside the UK.
However, it is important to note that processing times can vary depending on the complexity of your application and the workload of the UK Home Office. In some cases, it may take longer than 8 weeks to receive a decision.
If you have not received a decision within 8 weeks, you can contact the UK Home Office to check the status of your application.
To avoid issues and delays with your application, you should:
- Make sure that you have completed the application form fully and accurately.
- Gather all of the required supporting documents and submit them with your application form.
- Attend your visa application appointment on time and prepared.
Can you extend the Innovator Founder visa?
Yes, you can extend an Innovator Founder visa. You can apply to extend your visa by up to three years at a time, for a maximum of six years in total. To be eligible for an extension, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must have a valid Innovator Founder visa.
- You must continue to have a valid endorsement from an approved endorsing body.
- You must continue to meet the English language requirement.
- You must continue to meet the financial requirement.
Can you settle in the UK with an Innovator Founder visa?
The Innovator Founder visa can lead to settlement in the UK. After three years on the Innovator Founder visa, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), provided you meet the requirements.
Innovator Founder visa FAQs
What is a Innovator founder visa?
The Innovator Founder visa is a visa that allows overseas entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start and run an innovative business. It is suitable for both start-up entrepreneurs and experienced businesspersons. Applicants must have a business idea that is endorsed by an approved endorsing body.
How hard is it to get an Innovator founder visa?
It is possible to be granted an Innovator Founder visa provided you have a strong business plan and the endorsement of an approved endorsing body.
How do I get an Innovator founder visa?
To obtain a UK Innovator Founder visa, you will need to secure endorsement for your business and then apply to the Home Office for the visa.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.