The Innovator visa

The Innovator UK Immigration Route was born in March 2019. This route is the elder brother of the Start-up visa and the son of Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).

Being part of the family, the Innovator UK Immigration route has a lot of similarities with the now-closed to new applicants Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route. It also has a general resemblance with the Start-up visa. Yet, it is unique and different UK Immigration Route.


It is for Seasoned Entrepreneurs

Unlike the Start-up route, this category is for more experienced business people would like to establish a business in the UK. It is more challenging to get this type of visa. However, with challenges come more rewards. For example, it offers unlimited visa extension possibilities and allows entrepreneurs to settle in the UK only after three years.


The Innovator Visa Requirements

To get this type of visa, you’ll need to get three key elements of the application right:

  1. The Suitability Requirements
  2. The Eligibility Requirements
  3. The Procedure


The Suitability Requirements

Grounds for Refusal

These requirements will vary, depending on where you are applying from. If you are applying from outside the UK, you’ll need to prove that you won’t be caught by general grounds for refusal for entry clearance applications. There are two types: Mandatory and Discretionary. If you click the links, you’ll find further detailed guidance on the Suitability Requirements.

If you are already in the UK, you’ll need to ensure that you do not trigger either mandatory or discretionary grounds for refusal for in-country applications.


If you are already in the UK and are switching to this immigration category, first of all, you need to ensure that you can switch (see the switching rules below).

Secondly, you need to ensure that your entire stay was covered by a valid visa/s. In other words, you did not become an overstayer at any point when you lived in the UK.

If your overstaying period were for less than 14 days, most likely the Home Office would disregard it. Provided you submit documents confirming that you overstayed because of some reasons, which were beyond your control. For example, if you were at the hospital or your Sponsor did not apply on time.



The Eligibility Requirements

The second key element of a successful Innovator visa application is meeting the eligibility requirements.

There are seven of them.

  1. Age

You’ll need to be over the age of 18 at the date of the application

  1. Switching

Switching is a legal term, which defines the process of changing the immigration category. For example, if you arrived in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student and then found a job and changed your visa to Tier 2 (General) – you switched.

If you are already in the UK and would like to remain in the UK as an Innovator, you can only do this, if one of your previous immigration categories was as one of the following: Start-up, Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur),  Tier 2, a visitor (if they have been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur).

  1. Credibility Assessment


Then you’ll need to pass the credibility assessment. The mainly involves proving three factors:

  • you genuinely intend to undertake and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity which you stated you would when applying.
  • You’ll only work in your business and will not be employed anywhere else.
  • You have the money, and you intend to spend them on the business.

When assessing your credibility, the Home Office will have a look at the document you’ve submitted with the application. They’ll also consider your previous educational, work and immigration history. And finally, they’ll take into consideration any declarations made by other government departments (e.g. DWP, police, Higher Educational institutions, etc.).


  1.  The English Language Requirement

There are four ways of meeting this requirement. The easiest way is when you are from the majority English speaking country.

Also, if you have a UK Bachelor Degree or above.

If you are already in the UK and your previous visa was in one of the following categories:  Start-up, Innovator, Tier 1 (General), Tier 1 (Post-Study Work), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Tier 2 (Minister of Religion), Tier 4 (General), if granted after 21 April 2011 and you submit it with Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies.

If you cannot meet this requirement in any of the above ways, you’ll need to pass the B1 test.


  1. Maintenance funds

You’ll need to have had at least £945 in our bank account:

  1. held in a personal bank or building society account
  2. if in foreign currency, will be converted through oanda.com
  3. not from the financial institution listed in Appendix P
  4. your funds cannot be in cash, shares, bonds, credit cards, overdraft facilities or pension funds.
  5. not obtained when illegally in the UK
  6. held in the account for a consecutive 90 days, ending no earlier than 31 days before the date of application.


  1. Endorsement

There are three rules which you need to understand here. The rules about Endorsing/endorsement:

  1. Organisations;
  2. Letters;
  3. Criteria;


Endorsing Organisations

Endorsing organisations have responsibilities, which are very similar to the responsibilities of Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5 sponsors. The Home Office decided which organisation can carry the endorsee flag. If they feel that the organisation has enough experience of working with experienced entrepreneurs, they’ll put them on a special Endorsing list.

You need to ensure that you submit your endorsement application to the organisation, which is on this list. If you would like to check which organisations have the privilege of being called the Endorsing body, you can CHECK HERE: UKVisaSuccess.com/innovator


Endorsement Letters

Endorsement letters, strictly speaking, this is not your responsibility. It is the responsibility of the endorsing body to ensure that the letter is in the form, which the Home Office will accept. However, if the letter is not in an acceptable format, it is your visa application, which will be refused. I, therefore, suggest that you check the rules.

Your endorsement letter will need to have the following information and be in the following form:

  • the name of the endorsing body
  • reference number
  • issued no earlier than three months before the date of application
  • with name, dob, nationality and passport No
  • not previously established any business in the UK unless last grant was as Start-up, Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or Tier 4 (General on the doctorate extension scheme)
  • a short description of a business venture and the main products or services
  • confirmation that it meets the endorsement criteria
  • the name and contact details who will verify the contents of the letter


Endorsement Criteria

There are three:


Innovation (plan): you need to have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

Viability (skills): you need to submit a business plan, which is realistic and achievable based on your available resources. Here, you also need to prove that you either already have or are actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run the business successfully.

Scalability (new jobs): you proved to the Home Office that you have through this through, and as a result of the execution of your plan, you’ll create new jobs and will grow into national markets.

Also, you need to bear in mind, that since you can only work in your business, you’ll need to prove to the Home Office that you will be able to cover your and your dependant’s costs of living.  Can there be other members in the team? Absolutely. However, you’ll need to be one of the key members. If others are applying, they’ll need to have their own investment funds.

  1. Investment Funds

Investment funds rules differ, depending on the nature of your business. If your endorsement application is for the new business, then you’ll need to show that you either have £50,000 available to invest or you already invested the amount into your new business.


The Procedure

The last step to a successful innovator visa application is to ensure that you follow the correct procedure.

The correct procedure consists of five steps:

  1. You completed the correct online form
  2. You paid the fee;
  3. With your application, you submitted your passport and supporting documents
  4. You paid your immigration health surcharge
  5. You submitted your biometrics.


Your Grant

If you followed the above guidelines and submitted strong documents to confirm that you meet the requirement, the Home Office will grant your application for three years.

After three years, if you still meet the requirements, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.




The UKVI will attach certain conditions to your stay in the UK as an Innovator:

(a) no employment as a doctor or dentist in training

(b) no employment as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach)

(c) no employment other than working for the business(es) you established.

To clarify, working for such business(es) does not include any work pursuant to a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express or implied and whether oral or written, with another business. It means successful applicants cannot effectively fill a position or hire their labour to another business, even if the work is undertaken through contracting with your own business or through a recruitment or employment agency.

(d) no recourse to public funds

(e) registration with the police, if this is required by Part 10 of the Immigration Rules

(f) with some minor exceptions, you can study


The Innovator visa