The Innovator Founder visa, formerly known as the Innovator visa, is designed for those who want to set up and run an innovative business in the UK and work towards their Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) – also known as permanent residence UK.

Requirements for an Innovator Founder Visa

To qualify for an Innovator Founder visa, you must meet specific criteria outlined by the UK Home Office. The eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Endorsement: You must be endorsed by an approved endorsing body in the UK. These endorsing bodies assess the applicant’s business idea, innovation, viability, scalability, and potential for success. Each endorsing body has its own criteria for endorsement.
  • Genuine Innovation: The business idea proposed must be innovative, scalable, and viable. It should demonstrate growth potential and contribute to the UK economy.
  • Investment Funds: You must have access to at least £50,000 in investment funds to establish your business in the UK. These funds can come from various sources, such as personal savings, venture capital firms, angel investors, or crowdfunding.
  • English Language Proficiency: You must meet the English language requirements by proving your proficiency in English at a minimum level of CEFR Level B2 or an equivalent standard.
  • Maintenance Funds: You need to demonstrate that you have enough personal funds to support yourself and any dependents without relying on public funds. The specific amount required depends on individual circumstances.
  • Knowledge of the UK: You must show a good understanding of the UK business environment, including market conditions, competition, and customer demands.

Who is the Innovator Founder visa suitable for?

The Innovator Founder Visa is suitable for individuals with genuine and innovative business ideas and the necessary skills and experience to turn that idea into a successful venture. This visa is ideal for entrepreneurs committed to establishing and growing their business in the UK.

Investment Funds Requirement for an Innovator Founder Visa

As an applicant for the Innovator Founder visa, you must demonstrate access to at least £50,000 in investment funds to support your business. These funds can come from various sources, such as personal savings, venture capital firms, or approved government funding schemes.

Endorsement Criteria for a UK Innovator Founder Visa

To obtain an endorsement for the Innovator Founder Visa, you must meet specific criteria set by the endorsing body. These criteria include:

Innovator Founder visa general requirements

  • Demonstrating a genuine and original business idea
  • Providing evidence of necessary skills, qualifications, and experience to run the business successfully
  • Showing a commitment to spending the majority of your working time in the UK to develop the business
  • Meeting the English language requirement
  • Satisfying the maintenance funds required to support themselves and any dependents

New business endorsement criteria

A new business must fulfill the innovative, viable, and scalable business requirements. It means:

  • You must have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage
  • The business plan must be realistic and achievable based on your available resources
  • You must have, or be actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, and market awareness to run the business successfully
  • There must be evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth in national and international markets

Same business endorsement criteria

If you have already established a business in the UK on a Start-up Visa or a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, you can apply for an endorsement based on your progress and achievements in that business. The criteria for this endorsement are similar to the new business endorsement, with a focus on the achievements and impact on the business since the initial visa, such as:

  • Attending contact point meetings with the Endorsing Body
  • Having a registration with Companies House and being listed as a director or member of the business
  • Being involved in the day-to-day management
  • Proving that the business is active, trading, and sustainable, and you have made significant progress against the business plan

List of Approved Innovator Founder Visa Endorsing Bodies

To obtain an endorsement for the Innovator Founder Visa, you must be endorsed by an approved endorsing body. These have been designated by the UK government to assess and endorse innovative business ideas. The list of approved endorsing bodies is regularly updated and can be found on the official UK government website.

In 2024, the Endorsing Bodies are:

  • Envestors Limited
  • UK Endorsing Services
  • Innovator International
  • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP)

UK Innovator Founder Visa English Language Requirement

You’ll need to prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply unless you did this in a previous successful visa application.

If you are not a national of an English Speaking country, you must prove you can read, write, speak, and understand English to a level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

You can prove your level of English by:

  • Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
  • Having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18
  • Having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English – if you studied abroad, you’ll need to apply for confirmation through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD

Innovator Founder Visa Financial Requirement

The financial requirement is at least £50,000 in investment funds. This capital must come from a legitimate source, such as a venture capital firm, an angel investor, or through the applicant’s own funds. These funds should be readily available for investment in the proposed business venture upon arrival in the UK.

Also, if you are applying for entry clearance or are applying for permission to stay and have been in the UK for less than 12 months at the date of application, you must have funds of at least £1,270.

Applying for an Innovator Founder Visa as Part of a Team

Entrepreneurial ventures often thrive when multiple individuals with complementary skills come together. If you are part of a team looking to apply for the Innovator Founder Visa, each team member must meet the individual eligibility criteria. This includes having access to the minimum investment funds required and demonstrating their commitment to developing and growing an innovative business in the UK. Additionally, each team member should contribute to the overall business plan and possess the necessary skills and expertise to execute the proposed venture successfully.

Switching Into the Innovator Founder Visa Category

For individuals already in the UK under a different visa category, it is possible to switch to the Innovator Founder Visa category. This provides a pathway for those who have already established themselves in the UK and wish to transition to entrepreneurship. However, switching into this visa category requires meeting specific eligibility criteria and demonstrating a viable and innovative business concept that aligns with the objectives of the Innovator Founder Visa.

Innovator Founder Visa Application Fee

How much you pay for an Innovator Founder visa depends on your situation and where you apply from.

If you apply from outside the UK, the fee is £1,036 per person (partner and children, when applicable). If you are applying from the UK to extend or switch your visa, the fee is £1,292 per person. You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.

Innovator Founder Visa Validity Period

The Innovator Founder Visa initially grants a maximum stay of three years in the UK. However, this visa can be extended for an additional three years. After five years in the UK, you will be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), which provides permanent residency in the UK.

Innovator Founder Visa Conditions of Stay

While on the Innovator Founder Visa, you must adhere to specific conditions of stay. This includes actively working on and developing the business venture for which the visa was granted. You must also demonstrate progress and achievements in line with the business plan submitted during the application process. Compliance with these conditions is essential to maintaining visa status and increasing the likelihood of successful visa extensions or ILR applications in the future.

Innovator Founder Visa Contact Point Meetings

As part of the Innovator Founder visa requirements, you are expected to attend contact point meetings. These meetings serve as an opportunity to engage with the endorsing body that supported the visa application. Contact point meetings provide guidance, support, and mentorship to entrepreneurs, helping them navigate the UK business landscape. Regular participation in these meetings demonstrates an ongoing commitment to the development and growth of the business venture.

Indefinite Leave to Remain as an Innovator Founder

After successfully establishing and operating a business in the UK under the Innovator Founder Visa for the required number of years, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residence in the UK or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

ILR provides the opportunity for long-term residency in the UK without any time restrictions. Achieving ILR is a significant milestone for entrepreneurs, as it offers stability and paves the way for citizenship. You can apply for British citizenship 12 months after receiving the ILR.

Why work with Global Citizen Solutions for your Innovator Visa UK application?

If you think the UK Innovator Visa may be the right option for you, or if you’d like to know more about other UK visa options, don’t hesitate to contact us and book a complimentary 30-minute call with one of our experts.

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration consultancy firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens. With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.

  • We have helped hundreds of clients from 35+ countries in all the top Residency by Investment and Citizenship by Investment programs. With an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the area, we provide our clients with solid guidance. We have a team of immigration lawyers and immigration advisers specialized in UK immigration.
  • Our team has never had a case rejected. Our 100 percent approval rate sets us apart from our competitors and provides reassurance that you can expect a successful application.
  • Our transparent pricing covers all the processes from opening your bank account, document certification, and legal due diligence to investment and submission. As there is one fee for the entire process, you can be confident that you will not face any hidden costs later.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server. You can be safe knowing that your personal data is treated with the utmost security.
  • Global Citizen Solutions provides an all-encompassing solution. Our support can continue even after you receive your passport. We offer additional services such as company incorporation, Trusts, and Foundations formation.
  • The BeGlobal Onboarding System® allows you to access the status of your application every step of the way, something that sets us apart from our competitors.

If you want to know more about UK visas and British citizenship, have a look at these articles:

Frequently Asked Questions About the Innovator Founder Visa UK

Who is eligible for an Innovator visa in the UK?

To qualify for the Innovator Founder visa in the UK, you must meet certain criteria: be endorsed by an approved endorsing body, have a genuinely innovative and viable business idea, and have access to a minimum investment fund of £50,000. You must also demonstrate English language proficiency, adequate personal funds for maintenance, and a good understanding of the UK business environment. 

What are the disadvantages of the Innovator visa UK?

The Innovator Founder visa in the UK has a few potential disadvantages. Meeting the strict eligibility requirements, including obtaining an endorsement letter and demonstrating a viable business idea, can be challenging. The minimum investment requirement of £50,000 may pose a financial burden. Visa holders have limited employment flexibility as the focus is on developing the endorsed business. Reliance on the endorsing body’s support and meeting the conditions of stay can be demanding. The initial visa validity period of three years may be relatively short for business establishment. Changing immigration policies add an element of uncertainty. Seeking professional guidance is crucial to navigating these potential drawbacks effectively.

What is the success rate for the Innovator Founder visa UK?

In 2021, 82 percent of Innovator Founder UK visa applications were successful. A total of 322 visas were granted. 

How much is the UK Innovator visa?

The fee to apply for the UK Innovator Founder visa is £1,036 per person (£1,292 if you are applying from within the UK, to extend or switch your visa). On top of that, you must have £50,000 to invest in the business and be able to prove funds of at least £1,270 in your bank account. 

How long can you stay in the UK on an Innovator Visa?

The initial visa is valid for three years that can be renewed for another three. After five years, UK Innovator visa holders can apply for permanent residence in the UK, known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)

What is the English language requirement for the UK Innovator Visa?

Applicants must have knowledge of English of at least a level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale, confirmed by:

  • Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
  • Having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English
  • Having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English

What is the difference between the Start-Up visa and the Innovator visa UK?

The Start-up visa and Innovator visa are two distinct categories for entrepreneurs in the UK. However, note that the Start-Up visa will be closed to new applications from 13 July 2023.

The Start-up Visa is for early-stage entrepreneurs, while the Innovator visa is for experienced business individuals.

The Start-up visa does not require a minimum investment, whereas the Innovator visa necessitates a minimum £50,000 investment. In both cases, you will need an Innovator visa endorsement letter or a Start-up visa endorsement letter.

The initial visa period for the Start-up Visa is two years, while the Innovator Visa grants three years initially. The Start-up Visa does not directly lead to settlement, but the Innovator Visa can potentially pave the way for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British citizenship. A Start-up visa holder may extend their stay in the Innovator visa category and qualify for indefinite leave to remain three years later.

What tier is the Innovator visa UK?

The Innovator Founder visa was introduced as part of the UK’s new Points-Based Immigration System, which came into effect on December 1, 2020. Under the previous immigration system, visas were categorized into different tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, etc.). However, with the introduction of the Points-Based System, the tier system was replaced.

Therefore, the Innovator Visa is not specifically assigned to a tier under the current immigration law. It is a standalone visa category designed for experienced entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas endorsed by approved endorsing bodies in the UK. To find out more, you can contact our immigration consultants at Global Citizen Solutions.