The innovator visa -
for experienced
businesspeople

For any non-EU national planning to set up a business in the UK, the thought of gaining immigration clearance can be a daunting prospect.

However, with a minimum of £50,000 in investment funds and a business idea endorsed by an approved body, the UK’s Innovator visa scheme might be their best route of entry.

The Innovator category is for more experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a business in the UK. It therefore differs slightly from the start-up visa but, similarly, requires support by an endorsing body before an application can be considered.

Endorsing bodies

A growing number of organisations have been appointed by the UK Home Office as an Endorsing Bodies for the new Innovator visa route. The list includes a significant number of higher education endorsing bodies as well as organisations with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs. Each organisation sets its own parameters as to which type of entrepreneur and business idea they would consider supporting.

Applicants must obtain an endorsement letter from an approved body to submit with their visa application. It is therefore best to do your research first and choose one that would be suitable for your business idea. The full list can be found here.

Gaining endorsement

Entrepreneurs seeking to apply in the UK for the first time will need to apply under the ‘new business’ criteria. Endorsing bodies must be satisfied that your business idea is:

  • A new idea
    You intend to bring a fresh, new and innovative idea to market which will create a competitive advantage
  • Scalable
    You can exhibit the potential for market growth and job creation
  • Viable
    You can demonstrate the skills and market awareness to achieve your business goals

Unless the endorsing body is willing to inject the minimum amount of funds into the business, applicants must demonstrate they have access to at least £50,000 for investment. Since each body is accountable for those they endorse, they are expected by the Home Office to ensure the applicant is able to meet the requirements of the Innovator scheme.

Obtaining a visa

Once endorsement is gained, the visa application should take approximately three weeks to complete – if applying from overseas. As processing times vary between countries it is best to check the processing times.

If you are successful in acquiring an Innovator visa, you may stay in the UK for an initial three years. If the visa is extended beyond this time,  innovators will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after five years.

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