Apply for an Innovator Founder Visa

Explore the Innovator and Founder Visa options for immigration to the UK. QC Immigration provides comprehensive guidance and support for entrepreneurs and innovators looking to establish or expand their businesses in the United Kingdom.

What is the Innovator Founder Visa?

If you’re an overseas entrepreneur with an innovative, viable and scalable business idea, this could be a good visa option to migrate to the UK. It’s available for new out-of-country entrepreneurs and existing in-country entrepreneurs looking to establish a business in the UK, based on an idea which you have generated or contributed to significantly. 

Once granted, the Innovator Founder Visa allows you to stay in the United Kingdom for 3 years, at which point it may be extended for an additional three years or you may be able to apply for the UK’s Indefinite Leave to Remain visa. 

Replacing the Start Up Visa and Innovator Visa 

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas in the UK have had a revamp as the Innovator Visa several years ago. Now, the Innovator Founder visa effectively replaces both the Innovator Visa and Start Up Visa. It’s available for new and existing entrepreneurs and comes with a host of benefits above its predecessors, such as:

  • You no longer need an upfront investment of £50,000 to be eligible 
  • There are now only two “check-in” requirements with an endorsing body (at 12 and 24 months) to validate your business plan 
  • You can work an additional job in the UK if you’re qualified to work above Level 3 in the UK’s Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) 
  • It can grant you quicker UK Settlement options 

The details on this page are for new applicants. If you applied for the Innovator or Start-Up visas prior to April 13, 2023 and are here because you have specific legal questions about your existing application or business, please reach out directly and we can assist you. 

Our lawyers at QC Immigration have extensive experience in successfully submitting Innovator Founder Visa applications and will be able to guide and support you in collecting and submitting all your documents for a strong and viable case. Check out the details below to see if you meet the requirements.

What are the basic requirements for the Innovator Founder Visa?

To be eligible for the Innovator Founder Visa in the UK, you will need to meet all of the following requirements for eligibility:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Demonstrate your can read, write, and speak English 
  • Prove you have adequate funds to support yourself in the UK
  • Provide a valid plan for your innovative business in the UK
  • Have endorsement from an authorised organisation   
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What are the important details to know about Innovator Founder Visa eligibility?

The following is an in-depth breakdown of the basic requirements mentioned above. For guided support and direct assistance with visa application, please reach out to our team for a consultation. 

English Language Proficiency  

Applicants for the Innovator Founder Visa need to prove a minimum B2 level of English proficiency according to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) languages scale. There are three avenues by which you can demonstrate this.

  1. You are native English speaker from one of the following countries or territories: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the USA.
  1. Your academic background was in English.

If you obtained one of the following qualifications  in the UK that began before you were 18, this will count towards eligibility -  GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English. 

Or, if you obtained an academic degree (bachelors or higher) from an accredited school that was taught in English, this degree will also qualify. If it was obtained outside the UK you will have to officially validate this through Ecctis.

  1. You have passed the Secure English Language Test (SELT) at a minimum B2 Level from an approved provider.

Funds to Support Yourself

You will need to show that you have a minimum of £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days leading up to the submission of your Innovator Founder Visa application. 

Innovative Business Proposal 

Whether you have an existing business you want to open in the UK or you are choosing the UK to launch your business, you will need to provide a valid plan and have it endorsed by an authorised organisation (more about this in the next section). Your plan needs to demonstrate that your business is innovative, viable, and scalable. Here’s a breakdown of what this means:

Innovation: Your business plan must demonstrate that your products or services will meet a new or existing market need, or will provide a competitive advantage to your customers.  

Viability: The plan should demonstrate a convincing probability of achieving business success. This entails showcasing your experience, market knowledge, business acumen, and expertise necessary to turn your venture into a healthy enterprise. To maintain the visa, you will need to meet with your endorsing body after the first and second year to prove you are making progress with the business plan. Failure to do so may result in loss of endorsement or visa renewal rejection.

Scalability: This visa is open for individuals and businesses that add value to the UK market, be that through economic growth, job creation, or expansion in national and international markets. It’s therefore essential that the business plan demonstrates how and where it has the potential to grow. Your business plan should also show that you have the necessary funds to start and expand the company.

Business Endorsement from an Approved Endorsing Body 

Previous entrepreneurial visas in the UK had a much longer list of approved organisations to seek endorsement. These “legacy endorsing bodies” may continue to endorse applicants that began their Innovator or Start-up visa application before April 13, 2023.

For any new Innovator Founder Business visa applicant applying after this date, there are only four official and approved endorsing bodies: 

In preparation for endorsement of your business plan, you can read the guidance for Scale-up and Innovator Founder visa endorsing bodies. However, to summarise and brief what they will be looking for, here’s a quick checklist:

Questions around INNOVATION:

  • Is your business or business idea original and innovative?
  • What is your Unique Selling Point (USP), or how are you different from other innovative competitors?
  • Does your business meet a need currently present and unmet or expected in the UK?

Questions around VIABILITY: 

  • Is your plan reasonably achievable given your demonstrated skills and credentials?
  • Do you have the resources or reasonable access to the resources needed to start/run your business?
  • Is there a credible demand for the products or services you will be selling?
  • Do you have access to the financials needed to develop and sustain your business or plan?

Questions around SCALABILITY:

  • Is the business plan sustainable in the long run?
  • Is the market ready for your product or service?
  • Can your business grow in the United Kingdom?

Endorsement Letter for the Innovator Founder Visa 

Once your application is approved or denied by an endorsing body, you will receive an endorsement letter. The endorsing body will provide a copy of the endorsement letter through an online portal and inform UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) of their endorsement decision. This streamlined process enables UKVI to efficiently verify the legitimacy of each applicant.

In the case you are approved, the endorsement letter will also contain a secure endorsement reference number unique to you (or each individual applicant). This reference number remains valid for a period of 3 months from the date of issue. You must use this reference number on your visa application.

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What’s the Application Process for the Innovator Founder Visa?

  1. Business Plan

Put your Business Plan together.

  1. Official Endorsement 

Get your business plan endorsed by an approved endorsement organisations.

  1. Online Application Submission

The Home Office website has a portal to submit your application online. The specific form you need to fill out depends on whether you are switching from a different visa while in the UK or applying from outside the country.

  1. Identity Verification 

After submitting your application, you will be required to verify your identity. This is outlined in the online application process, but we will brief your options here:  

1. Get a biometric residence permit. This requires getting your fingerprints and photo taken at a visa application facility. 

2.Use the "UK Immigration: ID Check" app to scan your identity document. 

  1. Payment of Fees: 

Application Fees: For applicants outside the UK, the fee is £1,036. For those within it’s £1,292. These fees are also applicable to each dependent applying on the visa with you. 

Immigration Healthcare Surcharge: This annual fee is £624 per person per year and must be paid in advance for each year the visa is valid. 

  1. Processing and Timeline:

 Application processing time is typically 3 weeks if you are outside the UK, or 8 weeks from within the UK. In cases where additional evidence is required or an interview is requested, the processing timeline will be extended. 

Please note that this information is subject to change, and it is advisable to seek the most up-to-date guidance from QC Immigration or the official sources provided by the UK government.

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