The UK Innovator Visa: All You Need To Know
Are you one of those who have always dreamt of living in the UK? Enjoying London come rain or shine, getting your tea at five o’clock, or making new friends in the famous pubs? If so, we’ve got the good news: You can start your new life in the UK through the innovator visa if you have an innovative business idea.
But, how? In this article, we’re going to explain how to be eligible for a UK Innovator Visa and how to make an application.
What Is UK Innovator Visa
The Innovator visa is for experienced business people who want to establish a new business in the UK. If you want to start and manage an innovative business in the UK, it has to be something that stands apart from the competition.
If you meet the following criteria, you can apply for an Innovator visa:
- An approved body, often known as an endorsing body, has endorsed your firm or business idea
- You match all of the other eligibility criteria
This visa was previously named Entrepreneur visa (Tier 1).
When you’re applying for an Innovator Visa, first get your business or business idea evaluated by an endorsing organization.
You’re required to show that your business concept meets the following criteria:
- It’s new - you can’t qualify if you’re planning to join an existing firm
- It’s unique - you must have an original business idea that is unlike anything else on the market, with room for expansion
What Is an Endorsing Body?
An endorsing body is an organization that has been accredited (and so approved by the government) to endorse a proposed business. An endorsing body should assess your business to decide if it’s innovative and viable. Also, you should be able to demonstrate that you’ll spend your entire working time in the country to develop your business.
- When you’re setting up a new business and applying for the innovator visa for the first time, you’re required to show that you have at least £50,000 to invest
Note that you’ll be required to prove the source of your funds. Also note that you can join a team with other innovator applicants, but you won’t be able to share the investment money. For each applicant, your team must have £50,000. If you have two innovator applicants, for example, your team will need £100,000 to invest.
If your firm is already established and has been endorsed for a previous visa, or if you’ve altered your business and have agreed with your endorsing body, you don’t require any investment capital.
- £1,270 is secured in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before you make an application
The money from your investment funds can’t be declared as supporting funds.
When applying for the UK Innovator Visa, you’ll be required to prove your English language proficiency. The requirement is that you can read, write, speak and understand English to a level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages scale.
If you’ve already proven your English level on a previous successful visa application, you may not need to take an exam again.
How To Prove Your English Level
You can show your proficiency by:
- Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from a recognized testing center
- having earned a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English from a school in the UK where you started when you were under the age of 18
- having an academic qualification at the bachelor's level that was taught in English - if you studied abroad, you’ll need to prove that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD
If you are a citizen of one of the following countries, you’re not required to prove your language your English proficiency:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
UK Innovator Visa: How To Apply
Check Your Eligibility
Before contacting any endorsing body, check if you meet the eligibility criteria. This stage is essential and we suggest that you speak to professionals before you move to the next step.
Prepare Your Business Plan
As we’ve mentioned above, your business plan needs to be an innovative and unique one. Again, checking with professional advisors is important as they can advise if your plan is appropriate or needs improvement.
Contact an Endorsing Body
If you and your business plan are meeting the criteria, it’s time to contact an endorsing body. You can present your business plan at your initial appointment with the endorsing body. Also, note that you’ll need to present the source of your funds and they’ll run a full KYC and due diligence.
Get Your Endorsement Letter
If the endorsing body is satisfied with your business proposal, they’ll approve it. After your endorsement is secured, you can move to the next step.
Visa Application - if you’re applying from outside the UK
UK Innovator Visa Application is done online through the official website of the Home Office. At this stage, you’ll need to present your documents and prove your identity. How you can prove your identity differs depending on your passport type. You’ll either get your biometric data taken at a visa application center or through the UK Immigration ID Check app.
When Can You Expect To Get Your Approval
If you’ve provided all related documents, you might expect to get a reply within three weeks.
You'll need to keep in touch with your endorsing body after your application is approved. This happens with checkpoints at six, 12, and 24 months.
Note that you’ll need to prove that you are still working on your business and have made reasonable progress toward your business idea. If this is not the case, your endorsement may be revoked.
Validity of the UK Innovator Visa
The UK Innovator Visa grants you a three-year stay right in the country.
Extending Your Innovator Visa
When your visa expires, you can request to extend your stay for another three years. There is no limit to how many times you can get an extension.
After three years in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for settlement.
The cost of an Innovator visa varies depending on your situation and where you apply.
Who you’re applying for
Apply (outside the UK)
Extension or switching visas (in the UK)
Your partner and children
£1,021 each person
£1,277 each person
If you are from one of the following countries, your application fee will be automatically reduced by £55:
- The Republic of Cyprus
- The Netherlands
- North Macedonia
This discount is only applicable for you, as the main applicant, not for your partner, or children.
Benefits of UK Innovator Visa
When you’re granted an Innovator visa you can:
- Set up a business or several businesses
- Work for your business - you can be employed as a director, or self-employed as a part of a business partnership
- Bring your partner and children to the UK - if they’re eligible
- Travel outside the UK and come back
- Become eligible for “indefinite leave to remain” after you’ve lived in the country for three years
With UK Innovator Visa, you’re not allowed to:
- Do any other business than your business
- Work as a professional sportsperson
- Get public funds or State Pension
- Endorsement letter from an endorsing body
- A valid passport or a document proving your nationality and identity
- Proof of investment funds (minimum £50,000)
- £1,270 is secured in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before your application
- Proof of your English proficiency
- Tuberculosis test results (applicable if you’re from a country where taking the test is obligatory)
There you have it. We’ve tried to give you a basic outline for the UK Innovator Visa.
The UK is a country with high quality of life, an attractive lifestyle, and many business opportunities. It’s also a favorite destination for many digital nomads and entrepreneurs who want to reach national and international markets.
Have you ever thought of working and living there? Let us know…
Don’t worry if you’re not eligible for a UK Innovator Visa. Check out the UK Startup Visa which is suitable for applicants who don’t have enough funds to apply. Good luck with your search!
Frequently Asked Questions on Innovator Visa
1. What is an innovator visa in the UK?
An innovator visa is designed for experienced business persons who desire to start a new venture in the UK. If you want to create and operate an innovative firm in the UK, it must be distinct from the competitors.
2. Do I have to pass a language exam to get an innovator visa in the UK?
Yes, innovator visa applicants have to prove their English level. If you can prove your English language proficiency either by taking a test or by proving your past education.
3. What is an approved endorsing body?
An endorsing body is a government-approved institution that has been accredited to endorse a proposed enterprise. An endorsing body will evaluate your business proposal and see if it’s a scalable business idea.
4. What is the financial requirement for innovator visa applicants?
When applying for an innovator visa, you must demonstrate that you have at least £50,000 to invest. Also, you need to make sure £1,270 is held in your bank account for 28 days before you make your application.
5. Can I get indefinite leave to remain in the UK through an innovator visa?
Yes, you can. Innovator visas can lead straight to indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
6. How long is an Innovator Visa valid for?
Your initial innovator visa is valid for three years. You can later ask to extend it on the condition that your business proposal is still valid and you get it re-endorsed.
7. What are the endorsement criteria for an innovative visa?
A recognized endorsing body must be satisfied that your company idea fits all of the following requirements in order for your business proposal to be endorsed:
Uniqueness: You have a genuine, unique company strategy that addresses new or existing market demands and offers a competitive edge
Viability: You have the required abilities, expertise, experience, and market awareness to manage the business successfully
Scalability: Your company strategy demonstrates organized planning as well as the potential for employment creation and expansion into national and international markets