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The Innovator visa: FAQ

28 March 2019 James Ritchie Business Immigration

What is it?

Another new visa route presented in the immigration white paper of December 2018, set to go live this Friday. The Innovator visa was initially proposed in the white paper as a route:

For experienced business people who want to set up a business in the UK that is innovative, scalable and viable.

The latest Statement of Changes introduced the new Appendix W: Immigration Rules for Workers. At Part W1, the Innovator category is detailed as a category:

for more experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. With some exceptions, applicants will have funding to invest in their business. This category may lead to settlement in the UK.”

It is clear that, with the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) being withdrawn, the Innovator category will be its replacement. The demonstrable difference between the two visas is that the new category requires that an applicant’s business must now meet the standard of ‘innovative’.

Am I eligible?

Subject to satisfying the general requirements found in Part W3, an applicant must:

  • Have been endorsed in this category by an approved body;
  • either under the “new business” criteria if making an initial application, abiding by the requirements in the table below; or
  • under “same business” criteria if pursuing an extension with a view to continuing with the same business venture; and
  • Provide a letter of endorsement from an approved body, following the specific requirements found in Part W6.1.





The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

The applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.



Applicants must have £50,000 available to invest in the business, unless the funds have already been invested in their business. Under the soon-to-be-replaced Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category, the applicant was required to have £200,000.

Applicants may also apply to extend their visa with a “new business” endorsement, should they wish to pursue a different business venture from that which their previous grant was based on.

I am already in the Entrepreneur category, can I switch?

It is possible, subject to eligibility, to switch into the Innovator category from the following visa categories:

  • Start-up;
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur);
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur);
  • Tier 2; and
  • A visitor undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur, as set out in Appendix V.

How long can I stay?

The Innovator category has an initial length of leave of three years, which can be extended for a further three years. There is currently no maximum time limit a person can remain in this visa category.

Settlement is possible under the Innovator category after three years. The applicant must demonstrate that their business is successful by satisfying two of the following criteria:

1. At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan assessed in the applicant’s previous endorsement.
2. The number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services.
3. The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK.
4. The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts.
5. The business is generating a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
6. The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers.
7. The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses).

When can I apply?

The Statement of Changes points towards 30 March 2019, with final provisions taking effect from 1 August 2019. The Home Office have confirmed to a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association that the start date for both the Start-up and Innovator categories is in fact 29 March.

In our last update of 19 March, it was highlighted that the sole endorsing body confirmed to be accepting endorsement applications will not be doing so until September 2019. Presently, this is still the case, and it will not be possible to apply until endorsing bodies are fully functional. Unfortunately, there has been no indication from the Home Office on when this might be.

Further questions?

If you fit the above criteria and would like more information tailored to your situation, we offer consultations and a full application service to provide advice and assistance on the best course of action to take to secure your place in the UK, contact us for expert advice from our immigration solicitors.


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