Innovator Visa

As an Immigration specialist and forward thinking law firm, OTS Solicitors, was awarded “The most Innovative Business Immigration Law Firm 2019’’ from SME News.

The Business Immigration team at OTS Solicitors understands the needs of innovators for commercially astute and proactive legal advice and can help entrepreneurs and innovators successfully apply for an Innovator Visa.

What is an Innovator Visa?

The Innovator visa is a new category of visa for non-European experienced business people who want to establish a business in the UK and have a viable, scalable and innovative business idea. The business idea and plan have to be endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body. The visa category can lead to UK settlement.

Why should I apply for an Innovator Visa?

The UK is a country of opportunity that welcomes entrepreneurs and those with business ideas and skills. The UK has a long history at being at the forefront of innovation in industry and science and wants to remain innovative to continue to grow its economy.

The new Innovator Visa category opened in March 2019 for innovators wanting to set up a business in the UK. OTS Solicitors Business Immigration team are specialists in business visas and are able to assist entrepreneurs apply for the new Innovator visa.

What are the eligibility criteria for the Innovator visa?

As with all immigration applications, there are certain Home Office imposed requirements that have to be met to obtain a grant of leave to enter the UK via an Innovator visa.

The eligibility requirements are:

  • applicants must be at least 18 years old;
  • meet an English language test;
  • have  the required maintenance funds that the applicant must hold for a consecutive period of at least 90 days as specified by the Home Office rules (this requirement is not necessary if the endorsing body is certifying maintenance);
  • want to set up or run a business in the UK (the business or business idea will need to be endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body);
  • applicant is from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland;
  • applicant has at least £50,000 in investment funds if they want to set up a new business (this requirement is not necessary if the business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa).

What is the application process for the Innovator visa?

The application and endorsement process for an Innovator Visa depend on whether an applicant is applying for an Innovator Visa with a new business idea or with an existing or same business idea.

If an applicant is applying for a first Innovator Visa from overseas, then the application will come under the Home Office “new business’’ rules. However, if an applicant had a Graduate Entrepreneur or a Start-up Visa, and is applying to extend their Leave to Remain in the UK in order to continue in the same business that was previously assessed as part of an earlier visa application, the applicant can choose to make an application under either the new or same business criteria.

The main difference between a new business and a same business application is that a new business applicant has to have a minimum investment of £50,000 into the business. A “same business” criteria application does not have to meet a funding requirement.

The business plan criteria for a new business Innovator Visa

If an innovator or Entrepreneur wants to start a new business, the applicant’s business idea and plan must meet the following criteria:

1.     Innovation
The applicant must have a genuine, original business plan that meets a new or existing market need and/or creates a competitive advantage.

2.     Viability
The applicant must have the skills, knowledge, and experience and market awareness to run the new business.

3.     Scalability
The applicant must be able to show evidence of scalability of the business with the potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

The investment criteria for a new business Innovator visa

If an applicant is setting up a new business then they have to show that they have:

  • access to at least £50,000 to invest in the business; or
  • that they have already invested at least £50,000 in the new business.

An applicant does not need to prove an investment of at least £50,000 if the endorsing body is providing the investment funds or if the business is not a “new business”, for example because the applicant is switching from a Start-up visa to an Innovator Visa.

The endorsement criteria for an Innovator visa

Applicants for an Innovator visa have to obtain an endorsement letter from a Home Office approved endorsing body to submit with their Innovator visa application.

An endorsing body will assess the business idea and plan of a visa applicant and decide if the plan meets the criteria of innovation, viability and scalability. If the business meets the criteria, an endorsement letter will be provided and the endorsing body will have the responsibility of monitoring the business performance at regular intervals.. Without an endorsement letter an applicant for an Innovator Visa cannot go on to submit their Innovator Visa application to the Home Office.

If the endorsing body is asked to endorse an existing business, for example because of a visa switch application from Start-up Visa to Innovator Visa, the endorsing body will want to see:

  • the applicant’s business is active and trading;
  • the business is registered with Companies House;
  • the applicant is a director or member of the business and is playing an important role in the development or management of the business;
  • the business is sustainable for at least the next 12 months, based on its assets and projected income and expenditure;
  • the applicant has made significant progress judged against the business plan initially submitted to the endorsing body.

Endorsement bodies and Innovator Visa applications

An applicant for an Innovator Visa has to secure an endorsement letter from a Home Office approved endorsing body. The Home Office guidance states that an endorsing body has to have a proven record of supporting UK entrepreneurs and must be able to assess business plans against the endorsement criteria set out in the immigration rules.

The Home Office has published a list of endorsing bodies and this list will be updated as endorsing bodies are added or removed from the list.

The Home Office assessment of Innovator Visa applications

After an applicant for an Innovator Visa has secured an endorsement letter and met the general criteria for the Innovator Visa, they need to ensure that their visa application addresses the additional Home Office criteria.  

The applicant has to be able to show that they genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, the business as set out in their business plan and application.

The Home Office considers an applicant’s work, education and immigration history when assessing if an applicant is genuine and it is therefore important that an Innovator Visa application is thorough and well prepared.

Each visa category has complex guidance notes instructing applicants on the specific documents required as evidence to demonstrate eligibility; failure to adhere to these guidelines will result in the refusal of an application.

The length of an Innovator Visa and extension applications

An Innovator Visa lasts for three years. Under the immigration rules, an applicant can apply to extend the Innovator Visa for a period of three years. There are no limits on the number of times an application can be made to extend an Innovator Visa.

The Innovator Visa as a route to settlement in the UK

An Innovator Visa holder can apply settlement or Indefinite Leave to Remain after three years of continuous UK residence, provided at least two of the following conditions are met:

  • at least £50,000 has been invested and spent in the business;
  • the business has created at least 10 full time jobs for resident workers;
  • the business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full time jobs for resident workers paying at least £25,000 a year;
  • the business has generated gross revenue of at least £1 million;
    • the number of business customers has at least doubled in the three years of the visaand is higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services;
    • the business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK;
    • the business is generating at least £500,000 in revenue with at least £100,000 from exporting outside the UK.

Switching to an Innovator Visa

If an applicant has Leave to Remain in the UK because they hold a Start-up Visa; Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur); or Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) they can apply to switch to an Innovator Visa.

Innovator visa restrictions

Under an Innovator visa, you cannot:

  • do any work outside the business, for example, take on employed work;
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training;
  • work as a professional sportsperson;
  • access public funds.

Why choose OTS Solicitors as your Business immigration solicitors?

The Business Immigration team at OTS Solicitors, led by Paul Gulbenkian and Teni Shahiean, are ranked in the Legal 500 directory. Senior immigration solicitor and former judge of the immigration tribunal Paul Gulbenkian is an advisor to the UK Government’s Migration Advisory Committee. With many years of combined expertise, the Business Immigration team provides a flawless and strategic business immigration service .

As an innovative and an award-winning law firm, OTS Solicitors understand that your success is our success. We understand that entrepreneurs and investors are vital in continuing the fast economic growth in the UK. At OTS solicitors, we help act as a gateway to that success by providing world class Business Immigration services to Innovators and entrepreneurs. OTS Solicitors can assist you to enter the UK and take full advantage of opportunities to invest in the UK and set up an innovative business.

For detailed and tailored advice to your individual circumstances, please contact the OTS Solicitors Business Immigration department on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

One-Stop Business Immigration Service

To provide clients with a one-stop business immigration service, our Immigration Solicitors work with business plan writers, business consultants, financial advisors and accountants to ensure your visa application is successful. OTS Solicitors Employment and Corporate lawyers can also provide support to ensure you are advised on the specific immigration rules and requirements to help make your business a success. Providing a one-stop business service our legal teams work with your professional advisors to provide the best seamless business immigration service in the UK.

For detailed and tailored advice on your individual circumstances and planned Innovator Visa application, please contact the OTS Solicitors Business Immigration department on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

For a more detailed discussion regarding your case, or to book an appointment with a member of our business immigration team, please call us now on 0203 959 9123 

Innovator Visa Success Stories

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