Innovator Visa: All you need to know
What is an Innovator Visa?
An innovator visa is a category of endorsement provided to experienced businesspersons looking to set up a business in the UK. This government-backed visa is an excellent option for interested individuals if they hope to get on a pathway to settle a successful business in the UK. However, to get this visa, there are certain conditions that must be met. This article will take a detailed look at the Innovator Visa, its eligibility criteria, how you can get it, and everything else related to it.
Who Is It Suitable for?
An innovator visa allows an individual with a unique business idea to put their business idea into action and set up a business venture in the UK. The business idea needs to be fresh, innovative, viable, and scalable in order to be accepted for the visa. Generally, the business applying for an innovator visa will not exist, even if they do, they should not have started trading.
This mode of visa is best suited for individuals that have some experience in the world of business because, unlike a Startup visa, there are a few conditions involved with the application of an innovator visa which will be discussed later in the article. One such condition is that the applicant needs to have enough funds required to support themselves during their stay in the UK without having to depend upon public funds.
Eligibility Criteria For An Innovator Visa
To ensure that you are eligible for an innovator visa, you have to make sure you fulfil the following criteria.
- You must be at least 18 years of age.
- You are from outside the EEA (European Economic Area) and Switzerland.
- Moreover, you must have at least £50,000 available to you to invest in the business or have already invested £50,000 amount into the business. This condition is ignored if you switch from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa or Start-up visa category to innovator category to pursue the same business venture, or have filed for an extension as an innovator in the same business venture. However, you would have to provide proof showing significant progress in your business plan.
- If it’s a new business venture, your business idea needs to be assessed and approved, based on levels of innovation, viability and scalability, by a ‘Home Office’ verified endorsement body.
- Your endorsement letter was issued to you not more than 3 months earlier than your visa application.
- You wholeheartedly intend to undertake and are capable of undertaking business in the UK, as stated in your application.
- You have the basic required knowledge of the English language and have scored at least a CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking).
- If you reside outside of the UK, you would need to have enough funds to support yourself during the period of your visa, i.e. £1270 for yourself, £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child.
Applying to continue the same business venture
- If you are applying to continue the same business venture as in your initial application, you would need to:
- be endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body.
- Measurable progress in your business venture.
- You are registered with the Companies House as a director or member of your business.
- Your business is actively trading and appears to be a sustainable business for the next 12 months.
- You play a vital role in the day to day management of the business.
- You will spend the entire working time in the UK to further develop your business venture.
However, these conditions may be flexible based on your circumstances so we advise that you talk to an immigration officer to get advice on how to proceed with your application.
What Are The Requirements For An Innovator Visa?
Before putting forth your application for an innovator visa, you need to make sure that a few requirements are fulfilled.
To apply for your innovator visa, you would need to bring a business proposal talking about the business idea behind your venture that you plan to undertake in the UK. Your business proposal needs to include the following in order to be approved by the endorsing body.
- Innovation: Your business idea needs to be innovative while addressing a gap present in the UK marketplace. You would have to demonstrate how your business will help individuals meet old and new market needs, and how it will provide benefit to the UK economy.
- Viability: You would need to provide proof of your capabilities in undertaking the proposed business venture. This requires you to produce evidence testifying for your skills, knowledge, and market awareness.
- Scalability: As an applicant, you would need to deliver proof in regards to the potential of your business in creating job opportunities and growth.
Before you send in your application, you would need to have access to at least £50,000 that they could invest in the business venture, or in the case of an existing business, they have already invested the amount in the business. On top of this, you would also need to provide evidence for the existence of support funds that will be used by you to live in the UK. To do this, you will have to show £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days.
English Language Proficiency
Similar to your regular visa applications, an innovator visa also requires you to have a certain proficiency level with the English language. As an applicant, you would need to meet a B2 level of English proficiency set by the Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR).
Note that you will not need to pass the test if,
- You hold a higher qualification recognised by the UK NARIC.
- You already hold the B2 CEFR in reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Moreover, You will also not need to present the proficiency test qualification if you are from,
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
As mentioned earlier, the most basic criteria that need to be fulfilled when looking for an endorsement would be your business proposal. Firstly, you would need to incorporate innovation, viability, and scalability into your business proposal. Afterwards, you would pitch the proposal in front of your selected endorsing party and prove to them how you plan on creating value in the UK economy along with your absolute dedication towards the business.
In case of an application of continuation towards an existing business project, concrete proof has to be provided for the achievement of a certain milestone or achievements claimed. The business should be registered with the Companies House, and you are required to be listed as either a director or a member. Financial reports proving the activity of your business are to be produced, stating a revenue good enough for the business to survive for another 12 months. It is also necessary to declare your role in the business and how your presence is required to help everyday processes take place.
To get your business idea endorsed you have to reach out to one of the endorsing bodies approved by the home office. If you are unsure of who to get in touch with, you can find the list of all approved endorsing bodies along with their particulars here.
Getting your business idea is the first, and arguably the most important step in getting yourselves an innovator visa.
After you have gained the visa, you will need to stay in touch with your endorsing body at different intervals of time called the checkpoints. These checkpoints are usually placed at 6, 12 and 24 months of the approval of your application. This is done by the endorsing body to ensure that you have kept up with all the terms of the visa and are continuing to work on the business. You would also have to show appropriate progress at these checkpoints to ensure your idea’s scalability, viability, and innovation. In case of not being able to produce the expected results, your visa may get withdrawn.
Besides the funding source and the maintenance funds required to apply for the visa, applicants would also need to pay an appropriate application fee for their innovator visa. The fee structure for the innovator visa is,
|Who is it for?||Who is it for?||The extension (Inside The UK)|
|Family Members||£1,021 Per Person||£1,277 Per Person|
Immigration Health Surcharge
The Immigration Health Surcharge is a fee levied on immigration and visa applicants. This fee is charged on top of all other fees involved with your application and will raise the price of your visa. On average, it will add £624 per person for each year, to the total cost of the visa.
If you are making your visa application online, you must pay the health surcharge during your application process. You must make the payment and return to continue the immigration application process within 30minutes.
If you’re applying online, you’ll be asked for:
- The issuance and expiry dates on your certificate of sponsorship (If applicable)
- your course dates, if you’re applying as a student
In the case of an application via post, the healthcare surcharge is to be paid before completing the application.
If you’re applying by post, you’ll also be asked for:
- The type of visa you’re applying for
- Your passport or travel document number
- An email address
To get a basic idea of how much your IHS would cost, you can use this calculator.
Documentation Required for Innovator visa
The exact portfolio of documents required along with your application depends on the personal circumstances you’re applying in. However, there are a few necessary documents that are required regardless of the nature of your application.
- Valid travel identification documents such as passports.
- Proof of clearing the B2 English language test with the appropriate score.
- Financial documents provide evidence of the existence of £945 in your bank account, consecutively for 90 days before the date of application.
- Financial evidence of your investment funding.
- Your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where the test has to be taken.
If the documents provided are in any other languages than English and Welsh, they would need to be translated by an accredited translator. It is extremely important that all your documents adhere strictly to the guidelines provided by the Home Office and failure to do so would result in an automatic rejection.
A successfully acquired innovator visa would be valid for a period of three years. However, there lies a possibility of extension if you are able to get your business re-endorsed. To do this, you would need to provide concrete evidence regarding the progress of your business. After completing the three year period, you would also be able to apply for indefinite leave to gain settlement and remain as an innovator in the country.
Indefinite Leave To Remain As An Innovator
The ultimate goal of every individual opting for the innovator visa would be the indefinite leave that provides them settlement in the country and allows them to continue working as an innovator without any restrictions.
To be eligible for the indefinite leave, you would need to satisfy the UK Visas & Immigration that:
- You had been endorsed by an approved endorsing body.
- You are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business.
- Your last checkpoint assessment showed impressive progress.
- Appears to be sustainable for the next 12 months.
- You have an active role in day-to-day operations.
- You have spent no more than 180 days outside of the UK during the rolling period of 12 months during your three years prior to your visa application.
- hold sufficient knowledge of the UK lifestyle and the English language.
Additionally, you would need to satisfy two of the following criteria:
- At least £50,000 has been invested into the business or has been actively spent furthering your business plans.
- The business has created at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers or an equivalent opportunity, with an average salary of at least £25,000 a year.
- The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers with no average salary requirement.
- The number of customers has at least doubled within the recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for your competitors.
- The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK.
- The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last year. This amount should be provable through the business accounts.
- The business has generated 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.
How To Get an Innovator Visa?
The process of applying for an innovator visa is a straightforward one.
The first step in the process of getting your innovator visa is to get yourself verified with the eligibility for the visa application. To do this, you can seek out a professional barrister firm that can help you find out all the necessary requirements you fulfil, and the ones you need to work upon to be eligible.
The most vital requirement to fulfil when it comes to the application is to get your business plan endorsed. To do this, you first need to ensure that your plan is innovative, viable and scalable. You have one shot to pitch this proposal in front of the endorsing party so the next step would be to get your business proposal assessed by a professional business advisory, to ensure it fulfils all the requirements.
Business Plan Approval
After you have taken all the precautionary measures and are sure that your business idea has what it takes to be brought in front of an endorsing party, you can check this list of all approved endorsing parties and select the party that best fits your business. Pitch your business proposal to the party, and do your best to get its approval.
Full KYC and Due diligence
The next step is to provide all the evidence backing your business plans, such as the availability of fundings, the presence of maintenance support, and how you were able to procure these sums.
After all the prior steps have been undertaken, it is time to submit your visa application to the Home Office. There are strict immigration requirements set in place when applying for an innovator visa, so make sure to go through them before submitting your application and ensure that you’re not missing out on anything.
Approval & Mentoring
Once your application has been approved, you would be allowed access to the UK. Once there, you can then deploy your funds to set up a business according to your business plan. Clear House Accountants will help you set up and run your business while staying compliant with UK business law.
Applying For An Innovator Visa As A Team
There are no such requirements that state that a team cannot apply for an innovator visa. However, you need to keep in mind that if you want to apply for an innovator visa as a team, each member of the team would need to get endorsed by an approved body as an individual. Additionally, each member of the team would have to procure the £50,000 required to be eligible for an innovator visa.
Switching to The Innovator Visa Category
If you are already located inside the UK on a different visa, you can switch to the innovator visa category, however, there are a few requirements that are needed to be fulfilled.
Firstly, to switch towards an innovator visa, you need to be a holder of one of the following visas.
- Visa Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
- Tier 2
Additionally, you would be required to provide evidence that you are a part of a sustainable business, and it has been providing benefits to the UK economy.
Who Cannot Switch?
You are unable to switch to an innovator visa if,
- You have been granted permission as a Visitor
- Or you are on a short term student visa.
- You have been granted access to the UK as a parent of a child student
- You are a Seasonal Worker or a Domestic Worker
The innovator visa has been an amazing opportunity for bright minds to come to be a part of something better. Although it can get a little complicated at times, the benefits it holds clearly make up for all the hassle you would have to go through. However, if you require any assistance with your business plan drafting and assessment, we would advise you to get in touch with professional accountants and advisors, so that you can make the most out of your shot.
Thao is a Senior Accounting Manager at Clear House Accountants. Her experience in the industry has led her to her current position in which she is responsible for a team of accountants, tax planners and bookkeepers.
Thao works with her team to help clients from a variety of industries, grow, save money and plan for the future. Thao holds a Bachelor and Masters degree in Accounting and Finance and is currently working towards her ACCA, she is also a Xero and Quickbooks Certified Advisor.
Thao’s expertise lies in high-level tax planning, management accounting and strategic business planning based on financial performance and business analytics. Her experience, expertise and knowledge make her an exceptional contributor at Clear House.