The innovator visa category is suitable for experienced overseas entrepreneurs who seek to set up and run a new business in the UK. There is no limit to what your business idea may be, as long as it is viable and different from any other business on the UK market.
As an Innovator, you may choose to work on your own or as part of a team of Innovators.If you already reside in the UK on a Start-Up visa, you may be able to extend your stay by switching to an Innovator visa.
Your Innovator visa will be granted for 3 years, after which you may be able to extend it for another 3 years. Alternatively, you may be able to settle in the UK after spending 3 years as an Innovator in the UK.
Before you can apply for your visa, you should contact an endorsing body who can be either universities or approved business sponsors that will assess your business idea against their own criteria, which includes assessing your detailed business plan and potentially include inviting you for an interview. If successful, you will receive an endorsement letter and long-term support to develop your business in the UK. Some endorsing bodies may be able to offer you some financial support in exchange for a share in your business.
You will need to show at least £50,000 available to you in investment funds if you want to set up a new business on an Innovator visa in the UK.
You may not need to show funds if your business is already established and you have been endorsed for a previous visa (for example, a Start-up visa). Alternatively, if you changed your business and this has been agreed with your endorsing body, the proof of funds will also not be needed.
You must still show that you have sufficient funds of at least £945 for your maintenance in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you can apply. If you apply with your dependent family members, you will need to show additional funds for their maintenance.
As with most visa categories, you must be at least 18 years old to apply and meet the English Language requirement..
Once you receive your Innovator visa, you should note that the following conditions will apply to your stay in the UK in this category.
You will be permitted the following activities on your Innovator visa:
- Set up your own business or businesses
- Work for your own business or businesses
- Bring your dependent family members
You will not be able to do the following in the UK on your Innovator visa:
- Work anywhere outside your business
- Work as a doctor or dentist in training
- Claim public funds (most benefits)
- Work as a professional sportsperson
Fairmont Lawyers can help you match your business idea with an appropriate endorsing body and provide you with professional legal assistance every step of the way to obtain an Innovator visa.
The Home Office has published a list of authorised endorsing bodies for Innovator Visa applications. You can find the most recently updated list here: The webpage contains links to the endorsing bodies’ websites and information about the application process and endorsement criteria.
The current visa application fee for a Start-Up visa (from October 2021) is £1021 for applications made outside the UK and £ 1,277 for applications inside the UK (plus £19.20 foe biometric enrolment if you are in the UK). The Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) is £624 per each year of the visa unless you are exempt. The fees are the same for your dependents. The Home Office reviews its fees and these may be subject to increase in the future
It takes around:
- 3 weeks if you apply from outside the UK
- 8 weeks if you apply from inside the UK
However, some delays may occur depending on your individual circumstances or the Home Office/UKVI.
You may be able to choose Priority Service, subject to availability. You will need to pay an additional fee to use this service, and the cost depends on the visa centre.