New Start-up and Innovator Immigration Categories

On 7 March 2019, the Home Office introduced two new immigration categories: the Start-up and Innovator categories, which will be replacing the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) categories.

new immigration categories
New immigration categories

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) applicants can continue applying on the basis of endorsement letters from Higher Education Institutions or the Department for International Trade. These letters will be valid for three months. The institutions will continue issuing them until 5 April 2019. Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) applications can, therefore, continue to be made until 5 July 2019. Extension applications for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants will remain open until 5 April 2023, and settlement applications until 5 April 2025.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) extension applications will remain open for these individuals until 5 July 2025, and settlement applications until 5 July 2027.

The Start-up and Innovator categories are new routes for people seeking to establish a business in the UK. The common feature of two new categories will be the endorsement of applicants by the UK trusted bodies. These will be business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers. The aim of these trusted bodies will be to assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability.


An Overview of the Start-Up Immigration Category

The Start-up category will become an expanded version of Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)category. It is for those who wish to start a new business for the first time in the UK. You will notice that the UKVI removed the requirement for the applicants to be graduates. Also, rather helpfully, they have removed the requirement for the Start-up applicant to have secured any initial funding. It was between £50,000 to £250,000 before. The Tier 1 (Graduate)

the Start-Up Immigration category
The Start-Up Immigration category

Entrepreneurs could remain in the UK for up to 1 year in the previous category. In the Start-up Immigration category, the UKVI has expanded this period to 2 years’ leave. This immigration route does not lead to a settlement. However, the applicants can to switch to the Innovator immigration category.

The level of English language proficiency was increased from B1 to B2. This is to ensure that successful applicants have the good command of English they will need to interact with a variety of business organisations and potential customers.

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) migrants will be able to switch into the new Start-up route. That is if they have not yet had their maximum two grants of leave under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur) route. If their Start-up endorsement is from the same endorsing body as in their previous Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) application, their business ideas will not need to meet the new Start-up criteria in relation to innovation and scalability.


An Overview of the Innovator Immigration Category

The Innovator category is for more experienced businesspeople. The applicants will need to have an endorsement from one or more the UK trusted bodies. Additionally, they will need to invest at least £50,000 in their business.

the Innovator Immigration Category
The Innovator Immigration Category

This amount should come from any legitimate source. Crucially, the UKVI will waive the funding requirement for those switching from the Start-up category. That is if they can prove that they have made significant achievements against their business plans. The category may lead to settlement in the UK.

Those who apply to extend their visa in the Innovator category will need to prove that they have made significant achievements as per their business plans. Their business will need to continue trading. However, if applicants whose original business ideas did not succeed may re-apply. They can do so with a new business idea, for endorsement under the criteria for initial applications.

As in the Start-up immigration category, the applicants will need to prove that their English language skills are at least at level B2.

Applicants will need to stay in contact with their endorsing body with checkpoints after 6, 12 and (for the Innovator category) 24 months. The endorsing bodies must be satisfied that applicants are continuing to work on their business ventures and have either demonstrated reasonable progress with their original ideas or are pursuing new business ideas that are also innovative, viable and scalable.



New Start-up and Innovator Immigration Categories