The UK Innovator Founder Visa: A New Opportunity for Entrepreneurs
Are you an entrepreneur with an innovative business idea that you want to launch in the UK? If so, you may be interested in the new Innovator Founder visa, a visa category explicitly designed for foreign founders who want to set up and run a scalable and viable business in the UK.
The Innovator Founder visa replaces the previous Innovator visa, which had a higher investment requirement and more restrictions on secondary employment. The new visa also offers some advantages over the Start-up visa, which will be closed to new applicants from 12 April 2023.
We will explain the UK Innovator Founder visa, the eligibility criteria, how to apply for it, and what benefits it offers entrepreneurs.
What is the Innovator Founder visa?
The Innovator Founder visa is a UK immigration route that allows foreign nationals to set up and run an innovative business in the UK. The business must be different from anything else on the market and have potential for growth.
The visa is valid for three years and can be extended for another three years. There is no limit on the number of times you can extend your visa as long as you meet the requirements. You may also be able to apply for settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain) after three years if your business meets specific criteria.
The Innovator Founder visa was introduced in April 2023 as a replacement for the Innovator visa, which had a higher investment requirement of £50k and more restrictions on secondary employment. The new visa also offers some advantages over the Start-up visa, which will be closed to new applicants from 12 April 2023.
What are the eligibility criteria for the Innovator Founder Visa?
To qualify for the Innovator Founder visa, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be at least 18 years old
- You must have a business idea that is new, innovative, viable, and scalable
- You must have your business idea endorsed by an approved body (also known as an endorsing body), which will assess your business plan and your suitability as a founder.
- You must meet the English language requirement of at least level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in all four components)
- You must have enough personal savings to support yourself while you are in the UK (at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before you apply)
- You must have yet to establish a business in the UK that was not innovative.
- You only need investment funds for your business if your endorsing body requires it. You can also have secondary employment in the UK if it is skilled work and does not interfere with your primary business.
How to apply for the Innovator Founder Visa?
To apply for the UK Innovator Founder visa, you must follow these steps:
- Find an endorsing body suitable for your business sector and contact them to request an endorsement. You must submit your business plan and other supporting documents to them.
- If your endorsement succeeds, you will receive an endorsement letter from the endorsing body, valid for three months.
- Apply online for the Innovator Founder visa within three months of receiving your endorsement letter. You must provide your details, passport information, endorsement letter, proof of English language ability, proof of funds, and biometric information.
- Pay the application fee (£1,021 outside the UK or £1,277 inside the UK) and the immigration health surcharge (£624 per year).
- Wait for a decision on your application, which may take up to eight weeks.
- If your application is approved, you will receive a vignette (sticker) in your passport that will allow you to enter the UK within 30 days. If you are already in the UK, you will receive a biometric residence permit (BRP) confirming your immigration status.
- Once in the UK, you must meet with your endorsing body after 12 and 24 months to show that you are progressing with your business. Your visa may be cut short if the endorsing body withdraws your endorsement.
What are the benefits of the UK Innovator Founder visa?
The UK Innovator Founder visa offers several benefits to entrepreneurs who want to start and grow their businesses in the UK. Some of these benefits are:
Ease of doing business: The UK has one of the highest ease of doing business scores in the world, according to the World Bank. Setting up and running a business in the UK is straightforward and hassle-free. You can benefit from a transparent and efficient legal system, a supportive regulatory environment, a strong infrastructure, and a simple taxation system.
A flourishing economy: The UK has the sixth-largest economy in the world, with a nominal GDP of $2.638 trillion in 2017. Despite Brexit, the UK remains an attractive investment destination for many overseas organizations. It offers access to a large and affluent domestic market and opportunities to leverage the UK’s new position as an independent nation.
The abundance of skilled employees: The UK has a rich and diverse population of over 66 million people, with a massive workforce of over 32 million people. You can find talented and qualified employees for your business in various sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, IT, creative industries, life sciences, and financial services. The UK also has a world-class education system, with some of the world’s top universities and research institutions.
Access to Europe’s financial hub: The UK is home to London, one of the world’s leading financial centers. London offers access to various financial services, such as banking, insurance, asset management, fintech, and capital markets. London also hosts many international organizations, including the Bank of England, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the London Stock Exchange.
Innovation and creativity: The UK is known for its innovation and creativity in various fields, such as technology, science, arts, culture, and entertainment. The UK ranks fourth in the Global Innovation Index 2020, which measures countries’ innovation performance based on various indicators. The UK also has a vibrant start-up ecosystem, with many incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, and funding sources available for entrepreneurs.
These are some main benefits of doing business in the UK with an Innovator Founder visa. Of course, there may also be some challenges, such as adapting to the local culture, complying with the immigration rules, and dealing with the uncertainty of Brexit. However, with careful planning and preparation, you can overcome these challenges and succeed in your entrepreneurial journey.