What is the Innovator Founder Visa?
The Innovator Founder Visa allows foreign entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start an innovative business. It is specifically intended for those who want to create and operate something different from anything else on the market.
The Innovator Founder Visa was previously known as the ‘Innovator Visa’ and replaced the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa in March 2019. From 13 April 2023, the Innovator Founder Visa no longer requires a minimum investment of £50,000 GBP. However, if you intend to start a new business, you will still need to demonstrate to the approving body that you have sufficient funding and a reliable source of funding.
Innovative Founder Visa Requirements
To successfully submit an application for a UK Founder Innovator visa, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- 18 years or above
- Intention to set up and run an innovative business in the UK
- Have approval for their business or business idea
- Meet English language proficiency requirements
- Have sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK
Business planTo gain approval (as explained below), you will need to carefully prepare a comprehensive business plan for your existing innovative business or new business idea.
The business plan with the need to demonstrate that your idea is:
- Innovative: You will provide an original and genuine business plan that clearly and detailedly outlines how you will meet a new or existing market need and/or create a competitive advantage;
- Feasible: The plan must demonstrate that you have a realistic chance of making the business a success. This includes demonstrating that you have the experience, market knowledge, business skills and experience to make this happen.
- Scalable: The core of your business plan will need to be evidence that there is real potential to grow the company, create jobs and expand into domestic and foreign markets.
Perhaps the most important aspect of applying for an innovative founder visa in the UK is that your existing innovative business or new business idea must be approved by an approved approving body in the UK. Organizations that can issue approvals for Founder Innovator visas are:
- Limited investors
- Approval Services in the UK
- International innovator
- The Global Entrepreneur Program (GEP)
In deciding whether to grant approval, the approval body may consider:
- Is there a need for business in the UK?
- Does the company bring something new to existing markets?
- Has the applicant carried out sufficient market research?
- Are there realistic and sustainable product objectives?
- Is there a long-term plan for the business?
- Will the company get enough “traction” in the market?
- Is there growth potential in the UK?
Approval is required before you can apply and ensures that only companies that are likely to be successful can move on to the next stage: applying. When you speak to your approving body, they will explain their approval process and provide you with the necessary resources to enable you to apply. If your approval request is successful, you will receive an approval letter that you can use to process your Innovator Founder Visa application.
English language requirements
To successfully submit an Innovator Founder Visa application, you will need to demonstrate that you meet the English language requirements. This means that you:
- Can read, write, speak and understand English up to level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale and have evidence of an English language test to prove this, or;
- Do you have a degree taught in English or;
- You are from an exempt country, including: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.
Sufficient support funds
You will also need to demonstrate that you have enough money to support yourself in the UK (you will need to demonstrate that you have £1,270 in your bank account 28 days before applying to meet this requirement)
How to apply for the Innovative Founder Visa
The steps of applying for a Founder Innovator visa are as follows:
Prepare your business plan
Require approval from an approved approval body in the UK
Once approved you will need to complete the online application form on the Home Office website; the form you need to fill out depends on whether you are switching from a different visa while in the UK or outside.
Once you have submitted your application form, you will need to prove your identity. This can be done in both cases (you will be told which identity method to use when submitting your application):
Have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application center: this is used to obtain a biometric residence permit. There is a small fee of £19.20 to cover the cost of scanning and processing your biometric data. Your biometric residence permit provides proof of residency in the UK.
Using the “UK Immigration: Identity Check” app to scan your ID.
Pay the application fee of £1,021 (if outside the UK) or £1,277 (if in the UK) – these fees are the same for your dependents. If you are from an EU country, your entry fee may be reduced by £55.
Pay the immigration health surcharge for the duration of your visa (currently £624 per person per year).
Requests are usually processed within 3 weeks, however, if this will take longer you will be informed. This may be the case if further evidence is needed or if you are asked to attend an interview.
Innovative Founder Visa Extension
If your Innovator Founder Visa is approved, you will be given up to 3 years of permission to remain in the UK to set up your intended business. At the end of these 3 years, you will be able to request an extension if you intend to stay. Furthermore, there is no limit on extensions.
You will have no problem extending your Founder Innovator visa as long as:
Apply to extend your visa before it expires
You still meet the eligibility requirements you had when you were originally granted an Innovator visa
- Are you still running your own business in the UK or planning to set up a new one
- To submit an Innovator Founder Visa Extension Application, you will need to:
- Fill out the online application form
- Provide proof of identity (as explained above when applying for a new visa)
- Pay the online entry fee of £1,277
- Provide all documents requested by the Ministry of the Interior (a list will be provided to you when submitting your application).
Innovator Founder Visa Extension requests typically take around 8 weeks to process, however, you can continue to run your business while you wait for a decision from the Home Office.
Innovative Founder Visa with Indefinite Residence Permit (ILR)
- One of the main benefits of the Innovator Founder Visa is that it provides a clear route to settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain – ILR) in the UK.
- With ILR you will be able to remain in the UK permanently without being subject to immigration control and after a further year you will be able to apply for British citizenship.
- To obtain ILR with an Innovator Founder Visa, you will need to live and work in the UK for three years and will need to meet the criteria attached to the route. These are based on the success of your innovative business. This helps ensure that candidates are authentic and run their business as described. The important points to keep in mind are the following:
- You must have resided in the UK for 3 years on your Founder Innovator visa – the time spent with any Other types of visas will not count towards ILR
- You must not have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 1 year
- You will need to apply for and obtain a new approval demonstrating that you have now met the requirements to grow your business
- You will need to complete the ‘Life in the UK’ test.
- You can apply for ILR 28 days before you become eligible
- The application fee for ILR as a Founder Innovator visa holder is £2,389 per person applying.
- Decisions are generally made within six months.