Changes to the Start-up and Innovator Visa Eligibility Criteria

It isn’t that long ago that we reported on the introduction of the Start-up visa and Innovator visa. These visas were introduced as part of the government campaign to attract the ‘’brightest and best’’ to set up business in the UK. The government has announced changes to the eligibility criteria for the Start-up and the Innovator visa. These changes will come into force on the 4 June 2020. In this blog we look at the planned changes to the Start-up and Innovator visa eligibility criteria.

Start-up visa and Innovator visa solicitors

If you need help with a Start-up visa or Innovator visa application then the business immigration solicitors at the Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession recommended OTS Solicitors can help you. 

Call the Start-up visa and Innovator visa solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete the online enquiry form. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or telephone appointments. 

Changes to the Innovator visa and Start-up visa routes 

The Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules dated May 2020 introduces some key changes to applications for both Start-up visas and Innovator visas. The changes will be introduced on the 4 June 2020 and are summarised here: 

Requests for information from an Endorsing Body

Home Office officials deciding if Start-up visa or Innovator visa candidates meet the eligibility criteria will be able to request further information or evidence from the visa applicant or the Endorsing Body that endorsed the visa application.

Prior to the Immigration Rule changes, endorsement by the Endorsing Body was effectively a ‘’passport‘’ to the second stage of the visa application process. After the 4 June, Home Office caseworkers will be able to ask questions and raise concerns if they don’t think that the endorsement by an Endorsing Body has been issued appropriately to the Start-up visa or Innovator applicant.

The rules provide that at the second stage of the Start-up and Innovator visa application process a Home Office official will be able to refuse the visa application if they are not satisfied the endorsement criteria set by the Endorsing Body have been met.

Start-up visa and Innovator visa solicitors are disappointed by this change to the Immigration Rules as it almost calls into question the independence and professionalism of the Home Office approved Endorsing Bodies.

The Endorsing Bodies were set up as the specialist and neutral arbiters of whether the visa applicant’s new business had the necessary attributes to secure a Start-up visa or Innovator visa. Endorsing Bodies were widely applauded as a far better and more robust assessment of a business than review by a Home Office caseworker without the specialist sector or business knowledge. There was approval of the two stage assessment process but the Immigration Rule changes blur the boundaries between the two stage processes.

Business immigration solicitors are also pointing out that the ability to question the decision of the Endorsing Body has only been brought in for the Start-up visa and Innovator visa and has not been extended to cover the Global Talent visa. To some that doesn’t make a lot of sense as one would think that if the Home Office has question marks over the endorsement process it would extend to all three visa routes.

Higher Education Institutions as Endorsing Bodies

At present, Higher Education Institutions can only qualify as an Endorsing Body for the Start-up visa. When the new Immigration Rules are brought in, educational institutions will also be able to secure approval as Endorsing Bodies for the Innovator visa.

The Start-up visa and Innovator visa viability eligibility criteria

All applicants for the Start-up and the Innovator visa have to be endorsed by a Home Office approved Endorsing Body who has to assess the visa applicant’s business ideas for:

  • Innovation

  • Viability

  • Scalability.

The “viability” criteria for both the Start-up visa and the Innovator visa has been amended to change the wording to say that the applicant’s business plan must be realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources. 

Innovator visa and already trading business

An Innovator visa applicant can now apply for a visa if their business is already trading provided that they were one of the founders of the business.

Changing business venture

The new Immigration Rules will clarify that Start-up and Innovator visa applicants can change their business venture provided that the Endorsing Body is satisfied the new venture meets all of the eligibility criteria. That means that visa applicants won't have to apply for fresh endorsement or submit a new visa application.

The Start-up visa and Innovator visa business plan

Changes to the Immigration Rules say that Start-up and Innovator visa applicants must be:

  • Founders of their business

  • Relying on their own business plans and have generated the ideas in the business plan or made a significant contribution to those ideas

  • Responsible for executing the business plan.

Business immigration solicitors assume that theses Immigration Rule changes are being brought in to avoid the scenario where a visa applicant relies on someone else to come up with a business idea, then employs a business plan writer to prepare the business plan forming the basis of the endorsement process for the Start-up or Innovator visa, and once they have secured their visa employs a manager to execute the business plan.

Start-up visa and Innovator visa solicitors say it is best to take early legal advice if you are thinking about applying for a Start-up or an Innovator visa to get guidance on the professional help you can seek when drawing up your business plan and executing your business ideas. That is because whilst you may be a brilliant entrepreneur with a very innovative business idea you may not be the best at writing a business plan. Likewise, whilst you may be excellent in design and product development, your skills may not lie in sales or business figures. The changes to the Immigration Rules don’t mean that you can't rely on professional help where you need it as, after all, the Start-up and the Innovator visa were designed to attract those with entrepreneurial spirit wanting to start up business in the UK.

Start-up visa and Innovator visa solicitors 

Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession recommended central London OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration visas. The Start-up visa and Innovator visa solicitors can guide you through the changes to the Immigration Rules and help you secure your Start-up visa or Innovator visa.

With a vast amount of experience in representing Start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, our London business immigration solicitors understand the needs of entrepreneurs for no nonsense clear Immigration advice tailored to personal and business needs.

Call us on 0203 959 9123 to discuss how our experienced London Start-up visa and Innovator visa solicitors can help you or complete the online enquiry form . Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or telephone appointments. 

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