UK Innovator Visa Explained

UK Innovator Visa illustration

The UK Innovator Visa opens the door for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Britain.

The visa is for setting up and running an innovative business that offers something different from anything else in the marketplace.

Entrepreneurs cannot just set up shop, as an endorsing body must green-light the business idea.

The visa lasts for three years with no limit on extensions and is a route to settling in the UK and taking British citizenship.

The Innovator Visa takes the place of the scrapped Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa.

Please read our guide for more options to get a UK Visa.

Who Can Apply For An Innovator Visa?

Applying for the Innovator Visa is a two-part process.

Entrepreneurs must have a business idea that fits the bill and then match the personal profile needed to qualify for the visa.

The business test

Entrepreneurs must show that their business is:

  • A new idea – a business that is already up and running is not acceptable
  • Fresh thinking – the idea must fill a gap in the market
  • Viable – displaying potential to grow

In addition, you need £50,000 in the bank for investment in the business, and an endorsing body must approve the idea.

Entrepreneurs not only need proof of funds but must show the source of the cash. However, businesses endorsed for an earlier visa do not need proof of funds.

The personal test

Applicants also have to fulfil a list of conditions that mean you must:

  • Be 18  or older
  • Be in good health
  • Have a clear criminal record

Entrepreneurs also must have £1,270 in the bank for 28 days in a row before applying for the Innovator Visa to prove they can look after themselves and any dependents. The money cannot come from dipping into the business investment or from working illegally in the UK.

You’ll need more than £1,270 if you come to the UK with your family.

The rates are £285 for your partner, £315 for the first child and then £200 each for any other children.

If you come to the UK with a partner and two children, you need to show £2,070 in the bank for 28 days in a row. (£1,270 for you + £285 for a partner + £315 for the first child + £200 for the second child)

Teams of entrepreneurs

Teams working on the same business idea can apply for an Innovator Visa but cannot pool their money to make the £50,000 investment fund. Instead, each entrepreneur must have £50,000 to invest.

For example, three entrepreneurs working on the same business idea would show they have £150,000 to invest as £50,000 each. One investor cannot put up the money for colleagues.

Team members do not have to come from the same family.

Entrepreneurs from Europe

Entrepreneurs from a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland would not need an Innovator Visa if they lived in the UK before December 31, 2020.

Instead, they should have registered for settled status by June 30, 2021, under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Settlement status was also available to entrepreneurs with close relatives living in the UK before December 31, 2021.

Irish citizens do not have to apply for a visa or settlement status.

Applying For The Innovator Visa

Before applying for the Innovator Visa, entrepreneurs have to take their idea before an endorsing body.

The endorsing body will want a comprehensive business plan explaining why the idea is innovative and how the business will grow.

If successful, the endorsing body will issue written confirmation that the idea is suitable for progress under an Innovator Visa application.

Please do not make an application before receiving the endorsement, as the letter is an integral part of the visa process and will fail without it.

For the visa application, you will need:

  • A valid passport and other documents that prove who you are and which country you come from
  • Bank statements proving you have £1,270 in a personal account for at least 28 days in a row before making the application
  • Proof you pass the English test
  • Bank statements confirming you have the £50,000 investment for your business
  • Tuberculosis test results if you come from a country on the watch list

If the documents are not in English or Welsh, you should get them translated.

Your passport should have a blank page for the visa if you come from outside the EEA or Switzerland or do not have a biometric passport.

Proving your identity

Proof of identity for the Innovator Visa means either:

Making the Innovator Visa application

Once you have your business endorsement letter and other documents, go online to apply for the Innovator Visa.

If you intend to come to Britain with your family, each person must make a separate application.

After completing the online application and proving your ID, the visa decision takes up to three weeks.

Entrepreneurs from some countries can pay to speed up the result.

Extending The Innovator Visa

Entrepreneurs can extend the Innovator Visa beyond the initial three years, providing you still run a business in the UK or intend to set up a new one.

The extension application must show you and the business meet the visa’s eligibility requirements.

You do not need proof of £50,000 investment funds if the business was endorsed for a prior visa application or the endorsing body has agreed to any business changes.

Switching To An Innovator Visa

Entrepreneurs already in the UK on a different visa can switch to an Innovator Visa under some circumstances.

The conditions of the business and personal tests still apply.

You cannot switch from the visas on this list:

  • A visit visa
  • A short-term student visa
  • A parent of a child student visa
  • A seasonal worker visa
  • A domestic worker in a private household visa
  • Immigration bail
  • permission to stay outside immigration rules, like compassionate grounds

Make sure to read our guide to the Tier 1 Investor Visa to understand the options available fully.

UK Innovator Visa Explained FAQ

Below we cover several frequently asked questions regarding the innovator UK visa.

How much does the Innovator Visa cost?

The application fee for the Innovator Visa differs slightly depending on where you make the application.

The current costs are:
£1,021 from outside the UK
£1,277 from inside the UK

Some countries have a reduced fee:

The cost is £966 for applying from inside the UK and £1,222 from outside if you are from Turkey or Macedonia.

The application fee is £1,222 if you are from an EEA country

Does the Innovator Visa come with Indefinite Leave to Remain?

Innovator Visa holders can apply for indefinite leave to remain after three years from first entering the UK. Entrepreneurs should attach an endorsement letter to the application that explains how the new business has performed and that you are actively involved in the business.

However, if you seek ILR, you cannot leave the UK for more than 180 days in a rolling 12 month period in the three years before making the application.

Does my business idea have to relate to a specific industry?

No, the business sector is unrestricted, but the idea should offer a new product or service.
The idea should propel the business to create jobs and grow financially in the UK and global markets.

Progress is checked at six, 12 and 24 months to see you are on track with your business plan.

Is there a limit on renewing the Innovator Visa?

No, providing you remain within the eligibility criteria, you may renew the visa every three years for as long as you wish.

As an Innovator Visa holder, can I apply for British citizenship?

You can apply for British citizenship, and a passport 12 months after indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is granted, providing you have spent five years in the UK.

The visa is not a shortcut to obtaining citizenship, so you must still meet eligibility.

Below is a list of some related articles, guides and insights that you may find of interest.

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