A Guide to the Innovator Founder Visa
The innovator founder visa has replaced the innovator visa and the start-up visa.
In this guide, our immigration solicitors look at what the innovator founder visa means for entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in the UK.
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors
The innovator founder visa is open for business
The innovator founder visa opened to applicants on 13 April 2023. The new visa amalgamates the start-up visa and the innovator visa so visa applicants no longer have to debate if they fall within the entrepreneur visa for ‘newbies’ (the old start-up visa) or the innovator visa that was designed to cater for experienced entrepreneurs.
Endorsement is required for the innovator founder visa
Just like the start-up visa and innovator visa, securing an innovator founder visa is a 2 stage process:
- Endorsement from an independent endorsing body on a Home Office approved list – the endorsing body assesses the visa applicant’s business plan and the applicant’s business credentials
- Home Office application
The endorsing bodies for the innovator founder visa
The UK government has approved the following 3 bodies to endorse applicants for the innovator founder visa:
- Envestors Limited
- Innovator International
- UK Endorsement Services
In addition, The Global Entrepreneurs Programme can endorse applicants provided the applicant has already been accepted by the organisation.
Endorsing body eligibility criteria
The 3 innovator founder visa endorsing bodies each have their own eligibility criteria for applications and endorsement. Business immigration solicitors recommend that applicants take immigration law advice on which endorsing body is likely to prove the best fit for their business idea to give them the best chance of securing endorsement.
Obtaining an endorsement letter does not mean you will obtain an innovator founder visa because an application can be rejected at the Home Office stage of the application process. The endorser looks at the business plan and whether there are business credentials to make a success of the planned venture whilst Home Office officials look at whether an applicant meets the immigration rules to secure entry clearance. For example, meeting the English language requirement or checking the previous immigration record and history.
Legacy endorsing bodies
The endorsing bodies for the old start-up visa and innovator visa are referred to as ‘legacy endorsing bodies’ (LEB).
A LEB can continue to support a start-up visa or innovator visa holder or an applicant for an innovator founder visa who received an endorsing letter from a LEB dated prior to 13 April 2023.
If you are a start-up visa holder or innovator visa holder and you are concerned about continued support from your LEB, how to move from a start-up visa to an innovator founder visa, or how to apply for indefinite leave to remain from an innovator visa, then our business immigration solicitors can help you. Call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123.
Business plans for the innovator founder visa
Applicants for the innovator founder visa need to produce a business plan and the plan needs to demonstrate that the business idea is:
It remains the case that business plans need to be bespoke to the business idea and should not be downloaded off the internet if an innovator founder applicant wants to stand a reasonable chance of obtaining endorsement. Whilst it is sensible to get professional help with the business plan so all the essential boxes are ticked it is equally important that the plan reflects the applicant and highlights his or her business ‘spark’ that makes their business idea worthy of endorsement.
Investment and the innovator founder visa
Unlike the innovator visa, applicants for the innovator founder visa do not need to invest £50,000 in their business. This is a significant improvement as sometimes the required £50,000 put off innovators from applying for a business visa because they did not have £50,000 to invest and did not want to apply for the start-up visa because the start-up visa did not lead directly to settlement in the UK.
Business immigration solicitors warn that there is a caveat. When applying for endorsement from an endorsing body an applicant has to show that their business idea is viable and that involves showing that the applicant has the necessary money to launch their business or the financing or the means to secure it. An applicant with a business idea involving considerable start-up costs may need to be able to show its endorser that it can raise more than £50,000 whilst businesses with lower initial overheads may not require an applicant to demonstrate access to a large amount of funding.
When it comes to investment and endorsement, the endorsing body needs to be able to confirm that the applicant is a fit and proper person to endorse and that there are:
- No reasons to believe that the applicant or their business is the beneficiary of unsatisfactorily explained wealth
- No concerns over the sources of funds or the transfer of funds by the applicant into the business
Employment and the innovator founder visa
Under the old routes, visa holders could not obtain employment in addition to setting up and running their businesses. The innovator founder visa is more flexible as visa holders are allowed to take up employment provided that the employment is secondary to their business and is skilled employment. The skill level is set at RQF Level 3 or above. This is equivalent to A-level skilled jobs.
Eligibility criteria and the innovator founder visa
The eligibility criteria for the innovator founder visa are:
- Endorsement by an approved endorsing body
- Meeting the English language requirement unless exempt from sitting the English language test (for example, because the applicant has qualifications from an approved list or the applicant is from a majority English-speaking country on a Home Office list). For the innovator founder visa, the English language requirement is set at CEFR level B2
- Meeting the financial requirement and able to show that the applicant has held at least £1,270 for 28 days or has been in the UK for at least 12 months
- Meeting the general immigration requirements. For example, not fall foul of immigration rules on immigration history or past criminal offending so admission would be deemed to not be conducive to the public good
Settling in the UK after entry on the innovator founder visa
The innovator founder visa is a route to accelerated settlement in the UK as an applicant for indefinite leave to remain only needs to meet the residence requirement for 3 years when applying for ILR based on entry as an innovator founder. This definition includes those who secured entry under the innovator visa.
If you have questions about the new innovator founder visa our business immigration team, headed by Hans Sok Appadu, can help you.
UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors