Innovator founder visa to UK

The United Kingdom has a favourable geographical position as well as a certain business environment that has been developing here over centuries. It allows you to comfortably start your business and confidently reach a competitive level. England is one of the top five most favourable investment destinations. Economic stability and security are the main pillars of financial growth, as they create great conditions for setting up and running your business.

What is UK innovator founder visa: who can apply and can it be extended

One foreign entrepreneur or a group of businesspeople (a team of business co-owners), willing to invest in a new unique business in the UK, can apply for an Innovator Founder visa. The Innovator Founder visa is issued for three years and can be extended any number of times. If a business grows and complies with all the requirements, there is an opportunity to apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after the visa expires.

Opportunities of innovator founder visa for applicants and their family

  • The main applicant can simultaneously set up and run one or several businesses;
  • They can manage a British company as a director or be a self-employed partner in a business partnership;
  • It is allowed to do any training to develop necessary skills;
  • The main applicant can work outside their business, for example, do a job from the Skilled Worker eligible occupations list or a job where at least level 3 qualification is required;
  • They can bring their spouse and children to the UK;
  • Return trips abroad can be made without any restrictions.

The main applicant of the Innovator Founder visa and their dependants can apply for ILR after three years of staying in the UK. Twelve months after ILR is granted, they can apply for UK citizenship which will open up new opportunities, both personal and business.

What can i not do on innovator founder visa?

  • Work as a professional sportsperson or train professional athletes;
  • If you are a businessperson and have chosen a UK Innovator Founder visa, you won’t be able to claim social benefits.

Requirements for UK innovator founder Visa

Apart from the relevant education and experience of running a business, applicants must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years old;
  • Have exceptionally clean criminal and immigration records;
  • Be in good health – both the entrepreneur themselves and their family. Nationals of some countries must provide a certificate from a licensed medical institution confirming they don’t have tuberculosis;
  • You must have enough funds to start the business and support yourself and your dependents while the business is growing. Your money must be legally sourced. Applying for government support is not allowed;
  • Be fluent in English, with at least CEFR level B2;
  • Relevant education and experience in managing a business are required too;
  • A well-drafted and professionally looking business development plan;
  • The business idea must be unique, if not ingenious, and designed to solve certain problems and meet current consumer needs.

Requirements for businesses

In the United Kingdom, there are special bodies, authorised by the government, that conduct comprehensive evaluations of business ventures. You can apply for an Innovator Founder visa only after such a body endorses your innovative idea. Please remember that your endorsement letter must be issued not more than three months before you apply for a UK Innovator Founder visa.

Potential candidates sometimes face problems with adjusting their plans to meet the British criteria. An experienced immigration advisor can provide comprehensive support in dealing with any issues. Make sure that your business meets important UK criteria:

  • Innovativeness. You cannot join a business that is already trading on the market. You must have an original business idea or offer an out-of-the-box solution to problems;
  • Viability. The business foundation in the UK is built on robustness, experience, and expertise;
  • Scalability. The company’s motto is to provide a solid foundation for the growth, development and scaling of the business, which inevitably leads to creating new jobs and benefits the country’s economy.

Documents required to apply for UK innovator founder visa

An Innovator Founder visa will be granted if applicants submit the correct documents:

  • A letter from an approved body endorsing the outstanding business. This letter must be requested and received based on the business plan before submitting a visa application;
  • A business plan;
  • A language certificate for passing the English B2 test;
  • A bank statement showing you have at least £1,270 to cover living expenses in the UK. The money must be in your account for 28 consecutive days before you apply;
  • A proof of having sufficient investment funds to cover the start-up costs of your business. There is no obligation to use your own money; you can find a sponsor willing to fund your business;
  • Diplomas, certificates, and documents confirming your business management expertise and skills;
  • A certificate of marriage or birth if you bring a family with you;
  • Certificate confirming you have no criminal offences;
  • Certificate confirming the absence of infectious and contagious diseases;
  • A confirmation of payment of the visa application fee.

Costs of Innovator Founder Visa

The payment for the visa comes in two parts: you pay an application fee upon submission of the application, and then an immigration health surcharge (IHS). The fees depend on where you apply from: from the UK or another country:

  • When applying outside the UK, a fee for an applicant and their family is £1,036 per person;
  • If you apply from the UK, the fee is £1,292, if you are extending your current Innovator visa or switching from another visa.

IHS is not the same for everyone and depends on the period of stay in the UK, and the number of family members. It is £624 per person, multiplied by the number of years the visa is valid.

How long does it take to get UK innovator founder visa?

Once all the requirements of the Home Office are fulfilled, it will take:

  • Up to three weeks, if you applied from outside the UK;
  • Up to eight weeks, if you applied from within the UK.

When applying, you can also pay for a fast-track premium service. If you apply from within the UK, it will cost you £500, and the super-priority service is £800. The cost of the services for applicants outside the UK is calculated individually.

Importance of endorsement letter and how to retain it

An Innovator Founder visa gives you the right to stay in the UK for up to three years, provided the endorsement letter is valid. If for any reason, your endorsement letter has been withdrawn, you must get an endorsement letter from another approved body or leave the UK as soon as possible. There are certain requirements to prevent this from happening. The body that endorsed your business cares about its reputation. So, if your business deviates from the initial business plan, you should:

  • Contact your endorser six months, one year and two years after getting a visa to demonstrate the progress and viability of your company. It’s also an important requirement for ILR eligibility: a company must meet at least two of the seven evaluation indicators of an approved body;
  • Re-apply submitting a new endorsement letter if your business wasn’t approved by your current endorser. If all is good, you can extend your Innovator Founder visa for up to 3 years.

Apply for UK indefinite leave to remain (ILR)

An Innovator Founder visa holder can be granted ILR after three years of staying in the UK on this visa. In this case, support from the approved body is crucial.

Endorsement criteria

  • In the last three years, you have spent more than £50,000 on developing the business;
  • Your company has been involved in science and technology studies which resulted in patents (patent applications);
  • You have doubled the number of customers in the period of operation of your company, and this number is higher than the average for similar businesses;
  • You have generated more than £1 million in revenue in the last 12 months and can demonstrate it by accounts;
  • You have made £500,000 in revenue in the last year covered by accounts, with £100,000 of this from overseas exports;
  • You have created at least 10 jobs for UK citizens and settled people since you set up your business. Foreign nationals arriving with you do not count;
  • You have created and staffed at least five jobs for UK citizens at your company, with a gross salary of £25,000 a year.

Other criteria for ILR

  • You have spent less than 180 days outside the UK in any 12 months during your stay in the UK;
  • If you are over 18 years old, you must pass a B1 level English language test as well as the Life in the UK test. If you have passed the B2 language test when applying for a visa, it will be credited automatically when you apply for an ILR, and you will not need to take the B1 test.

A spouse and children under 18 can apply for ILR with the main applicant of an Innovator Founder visa.

UK citizenship and British passport

Your family members and you can apply for UK citizenship 12 months after ILR is granted, provided you have stayed in the UK for at least five years. It usually takes 4-6 weeks to get a decision on your application. All the applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • In 5 years before applying for citizenship, you have not spent more than 450 days outside the UK and more than 90 days in the last year;
  • You must have clean criminal and immigration records;
  • You must speak fluent English;
  • You have passed a Life in the UK test.

Assistance in applying for innovator founder visa

Our immigration advisors are happy to guide you through all stages of obtaining an Innovator Founder visa. We are flexible when it comes to arranging a meeting – you can come to our office or we can make an online appointment.

FAQ about innovator founder visa

What are the requirements for the business plan of the Innovator Founder applicant?

First of all, a body approved by the Home Office, that can evaluate your business, must review the business plan of the Innovator Founder applicant. There is an updated list of endorsing bodies on the official government website.

You will feel confident when applying if your business plan meets the following criteria:

  • Innovativeness. Your idea must be unique for the English market or offer a brand-new service or product for current or future consumers;
  • Viability. A business plan must be well-elaborated, solid and financially sound. Thus, the ability to implement it and strengthen its position is of great importance;
  • Scalability. The business must have the potential for expansion and job creation within and outside of the country.

Experienced immigration advisors will help you with drafting a business plan, getting an endorsement letter from an approved body and other business matters.

What family members can settle in the UK with the Innovator Founder applicant?

Only the immediate family can apply to stay in the UK:

  • A spouse of the applicant;
  • An unmarried partner who the main applicant has lived together with for at least two years;
  • Children under 18;
  • Adult children (over 18) supported by the main applicant and who came of age in the UK.

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