In March, the UK government published the latest Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules which introduced the Innovator Founder visa route for foreign nationals who want to establish a business in the UK. This new visa route replaces the Innovator route and also closes the Start-up route to new initial applications, except for those supported by endorsements issued before April 13, 2023.
The Innovator Founder route is intended to provide a more flexible option for individuals with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and sufficient funds to execute it. Unlike the previous Innovator route, applicants are no longer required to demonstrate a minimum of £50,000 in funds to establish their business.
As a result, the Start-up route is no longer necessary for entrepreneurs who do not have access to this level of funds, and hence the route has been closed to new initial applicants. However, applicants for the Innovator Founder visa are still required to obtain an endorsement from an approved body, as was previously required under the Innovator and Start-up routes.
What is the Innovator Founder visa?
The Innovator Founder visa is now available for applications, and interested parties must meet the eligibility requirements and follow the application process described below.
The Innovator Founder visa is intended for foreign nationals who wish to establish and run an innovative business in the UK that is unique and different from anything else on the market. With this visa, applicants can stay in the UK for up to 3 years and must meet with their endorsing body after 12 months and 24 months to demonstrate progress in their business. If their endorsement is withdrawn, their visa may be shortened. Applicants can apply for an extension for an additional 3 years, with no limit on the number of extensions. Settlement may be an option after 3 years of residency.
To apply for the Innovator Founder visa, applicants must demonstrate to the Home Office that their business idea is:
- Innovative – Your business idea must be unique and unlike anything currently available on the market.
- Viable – Your business idea should have the potential for growth.
- Scalable – You should be able to demonstrate a plan that includes expanding your business by creating employment opportunities and venturing into domestic and global markets.
An endorsing body must assess and confirm that the business or business idea meets these requirements before the visa application can be submitted. Applicants must also prove that they have sufficient funds to establish their business unless their business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa or they have agreed upon changes to their business with their endorsing body.
In addition to obtaining an endorsement letter, applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Demonstrate proficiency in the English language, unless it was done in a prior successful visa application
- Prove that they have enough personal savings to support themselves while in the UK.
Applicants must apply for the Innovator Founder visa online and provide proof of their identity.
Applicants will have their fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre or by using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity document.
The decision on the visa application is usually made within 3 weeks if outside the UK or 8 weeks if inside the UK.
How much it costs
The Innovator Founder visa costs £1,036 to apply from outside the UK or £1,292 to extend or switch to this visa from inside the UK. The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) of £624 per person per year or £470 per year for under 18s must also be paid by main applicants and dependants. Applicants must also show that they have at least £1,270 in their bank account for 28 consecutive days before applying to support themselves in the UK.
Innovator Founders are permitted to set up one or more businesses in the UK, work for their business, undertake skilled work outside their business, and be employed as a director or self-employed as a member of a business partnership.