Innovator Visa Requirements and the Start-Up Visa

From the end of March 2019, the UK government has introduced the innovator visa for foreign entrepreneurs and officially closed the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category. The innovator visa is designed for experienced entrepreneurs who have £50,000 investment and for less experienced entrepreneurs, the start-up visa route has been created as an alternative (discussed below).

The requirements

Those applying for the innovator visa need to fulfil two sets of criteria, which are at Part W3 and Part W6 of the Immigration Rules.

The general requirements are:

·       Endorsement — by an approved body

·       £50,000 investment

·       Maintenance requirement — £945 in savings for 90 days, dependents £630 each

·       English language ability — test passed at level B2

·       Credibility assessment

·       Must be 18 years or above

·       None of the general grounds for refusal apply

·       Innovator must devote their entire time to the business (unlike start-up visa holders who can work elsewhere)

·       Successful applicants must pay the Immigration Health Surcharge

·       A criminal records certificate is needed for overseas applicants

·       The application costs — entry clearance is £1,021 and extensions £1,277

Switching from start-up visas and certain other work visa categories into the Innovator visa route is permitted. This visa may be curtailed if the endorsement is withdrawn or if the endorser loses its status as an endorsing body. A refusal of the visa can only be challenged by administrative review.

The £50,000 could be from any source, e.g. from the applicant, a third-party individual, the endorsing body, a UK organisation employing 10+ people, or a UK or overseas organisation with fewer than 10 employees plus a legal representative’s and bank letter.

UK start-up visa

From 29 March 2019 onwards, new applicants may apply for a ‘start-up’ visa. By introducing the ‘start-up’ visa, the UK government has replaced the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and intends to encourage the development of entrepreneurship in the UK to promote an improving economy.

Unlike the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, new applicants for the purposes of obtaining the ‘start-up visa’ do not need to show that they have secured funds to invest into their business and can also apply from outside of the UK or switch from Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Tier 2 and Tier 4 (General) (subject to certain restrictions). An interesting point to note that new applicants may also be able to switch from the visitor category if they have been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur.

Under the ‘Start-up- visa route, new applicants need to fulfil two sets of criteria, which are at Part W3 and Part W5 of the Immigration Rules.

Part W3 contains general requirements that also apply to other visas as a whole. A new applicant needs to be over 18 years of age and pass an English language test at the upper intermediate (B2) level.

A new Applicant will also need to meet a maintenance requirement by showing they have held £945 in savings over a 90-day period before they apply. However, they do not need to provide evidence of maintenance funds if the letter from their endorsing body confirms they have been awarded funding of at least £945.

Part W5 contains the requirement that the Applicant must be endorsed by an organisation that will assess the Applicant’s business idea. Much similar to the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Route, the start-up visa will outsource the assessments of business ideas to independent bodies familiar with supporting entrepreneurs. They will scrutinise an idea for its innovation, viability, and scalability. This will be the trickiest part of the application as a number of the organisations are not yet issuing endorsements.

The start-up visa, if granted to an Applicant, will be for a set period of two years, or the remaining balance of two years if the applicant has previously held leave in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or start-up categories. At the end of the two years, the person can switch into the innovator category based on the same business idea, provided they can still obtain an endorsement.

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