The Tier 1 Innovator visa category was introduced by the government as a replacement for the Entrepreneur visa and applications are due to open in April 2019, although some delays are anticipated. You can apply for an Innovator visa if you are a non-EEA national and you wish to establish or run a business in the UK. You will need to have your business or business idea endorsed by an approved body (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/endorsing-bodies-innovator) and they will provide you with an endorsement letter if approved.
The Innovator visa is very much different from the Entrepreneur visa in that the financial requirement is much lower at £50,000 as opposed to £200,000 previously required to apply as an Entrepreneur. Moreover, the Innovator visa allows current business owners to expand in the UK which would benefit the British economy and workforce. As an Innovator, you are able to set up a business or multiple businesses and work for that business. You are able to become an Innovator and stay in the UK with your family members. Restriction do apply as you will not be able to undertake work outside your business as an employee for another business, work as a Doctor or Dentist, professional sportsperson or claim public funds.
You are able to apply for an Innovator visa if:
Supporting yourself in the UK
- You are looking to start or run/ expand a business in the UK;
- Your business idea is endorsed by an approved body as innovative, viable and scalable;
- You have at least £50,000 available to invest in your business. Your funding can come from any source. Please note: you will not need any investment funds if your business is established and has been previously endorsed for an earlier visa.
- You must be at least 18 years of age;
- You must meet the English language requirement; and
- You must be able to show you have enough personal savings to support yourself whilst in the UK.
This aspect of the requirements is important as, even if you have the investment secured, you must have proof that you have enough personal savings to support yourself once you come over to the UK.
It is essential that:
Shared investment funds
- You have not earned your money illegally while working in the UK or have taken money from your investment fund.
- You have held at least £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before making an application.
- In addition, you must have held £630 in your bank account for each dependant for 90 consecutive days to show that you and your dependants can be supported whist in the UK.
You are able to have a number of partners who each have their own Innovator application. The only limitation is that you cannot share the same investment fund of £50,000. Each partner must invest £50,000 each. For example, if you have 4 partners who wish to make an application each, they must each have £50,000 where the investment pool is £200,000.
The current published fees are as follows;
Amount of time it takes to process the visa
- Application from outside the UK for you, the Innovator = £1021
- To extend or switch your visa from within the UK = £1277
- If you are applying for the Innovator visa from Turkey or Macedonia = £966
- If you are from Turkey or Macedonia but wish to extend or switch your visa from inside the UK = £1222
- All dependants of you, the Innovator applicant, from outside the UK = £1021 each
- All dependants from within the UK wishing to extend or switch their visa = £1277 each
- In addition to the aforementioned fees (where applicable), the Healthcare Surcharge = £500 per year each (https://www.immigration-health-surcharge.service.gov.uk/checker/type)
- If applying to extend or switch you visa, to have biometrics taken (photo and fingerprints) = an additional £19.20
The earliest you can apply through the Innovator route is 3 months before you travel. For example, if you plan to travel on 20 September you can apply 19 June. A decision should be made on your application within 3 weeks.
To see how long it takes to obtain a visa from your specific country you can check the processing times on (https://www.gov.uk/visa-processing-times).
Length of stay as an Innovator
If you arrive in the UK on an Innovator visa, or switch to this stay from another form of leave to remain, you can remain for 3 years.
You can extend your visa when it is due to expire for an additional 3 years and there is no limit on the number of times you can extend. You may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) when you have been in the UK for 5 years.
It is important to note that your visa may be cut short if your endorsement is withdrawn. In the event that your endorsement is withdrawn, if you wish to continue staying in the UK, you must reapply with a new endorsement before your visa expires.
Documents needed to apply for an Innovator Visa
It is important to attach the following documents in order to submit a valid application for consideration:
Dependants/ family members
- Endorsement letter
- A current passport (where a blank page in the passport is needed for the visa) or other valid form of travel identification
- Bank statements showing at least £945 in savings for 90 consecutive days before submitting the application
- Proof that English language requirement is met (https://www.gov.uk/innovator-visa/knowledge-of-english)
- If you are setting up a new business then you need to give evidence of the investment
- If you are from a country where you have to take a tuberculosis test, your tuberculosis test results (https://www.gov.uk/tb-test-visa)
- Additional documents will need to be provided depending on your specific application
Your dependants can join you when you travel to the UK on this visa though they must also have a visa if they are outside of the EEA or Switzerland.
A dependant includes:
- A partner,
- Your child (under 18),
- Your over 18 child, if they are currently in the UK as a dependant.
It is important to note that adult family members must produce a criminal record certificate from any country they have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years.
Switching into the Innovator Visa
If you meet the necessary requirements, apply before your current leave runs out and are currently in the UK, you can switch from the following:
- Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur
- Any Tier 2 visa
- Start-up visa
- If you came to the UK to obtain funding and have a supporting letter from an endorsing body – Standard Visitor Visa
For specialist advice on the Tier 1 Innovator Visa please contact author, Business Immigration Director Ayan Yalchin,
or 020 7275 2011
. He has more than 18 years’ post-qualification experience acting on behalf of businesses and individuals in a variety of immigration related proceedings and is a leading expert on all aspects of Business Immigration.
Ayan Yalchin heads our business immigration team and continues to be recommended by Legal 500 2019 for his immigration work in London. Ayan specialises in Tier 1, Tier 2, and sponsorship licences for companies including renewals and advising on processes and compliance, Tier 4 (students) and Tier 5 (temporary workers), as well as all types of entry clearance, FLR, settlement, EEA and ECAA/ Ankara Agreement applications.
Ayan has a strong practice representing high net worth individuals and has extensive experience providing bespoke immigration solutions to a wide range of industries including fashion, food and beverage, precious stones, finance, insurance, media, IT, energy and healthcare.
Duncan Lewis Business Immigration Solicitors
Our Immigration department is ranked as a top-tier practice in Immigration: human rights, appeals and overstay matters in The Legal 500 2019. As leading immigration specialists we advise on business immigration, right to work in the UK, Tier 2 visa applications, student/ graduate visas, spousal visas and visa overstays.
Our broad practice provides a full service to SME business clients across the UK in relation to the Points Based System (PBS); Sponsorship license applications and immigration strategy/compliance advice. Our specialist solicitors are also able to advise businesses and individuals on any changes to UK immigration law during Brexit negotiations and after 29 March 2019, post-Brexit.