On 13 April 2023, the Home Office launched the Innovator Founder visa route. This visa route is designed for entrepreneurs who intend to establish a business in the UK and replaces the Innovator visa and Start-Up visa routes. The main difference between the Innovator Founder and Innovator routes is that the new route will not require individuals to demonstrate they have access to funds of at least £50,000 to invest in the business, albeit the applicants will still be required to show they have sufficient funds to operate the proposed business.
The process for applying for the Innovator Founder visa is split into two stages: First, the applicant must apply for endorsement by one of three Home Office endorsing bodies. The endorsing body will assess whether the business plan meets the requirement of the visa and whether the applicant has the requisite business credentials. Once endorsed, the applicant can submit a visa application to the Home Office.
Legacy Endorsing Bodies
The endorsing bodies that were responsible previously for assessing applications for the Innovator and Start-Up visa routes will now be known as ‘legacy endorsing bodies’ and will be able to continue to support individuals currently holding visas and/or endorsements under these categories, until after the applicants are issued indefinite leave to remain. Individuals who are issued endorsements before 13 April 2023 will be able to continue to use these endorsements in their visa applications.
The Application Process for the Innovator Founder Visa
Applicants to the Innovator Founder route must be awarded a total of 70 points for meeting certain criteria: business, knowledge of English, and financial requirement.
Of the 70 points, 50 will be awarded for the business plan, whether this is for a new business or the applicant is continuing in the same business.
New Business Criteria
Applicants will be awarded 30 points for their business plan if they can demonstrate the following:
- They have a business plan, where they have generated or at least made a significant contribution to the ideas contained within that plan;
- They will have a day-to-day role in carrying out the business plan;
- Confirm that they will have at least two contact point meetings with their endorsing body at regular intervals during their grant of leave (where a contact point meeting is essentially a checkpoint assessment between the applicant and endorsing body to assess progress against the applicant’s business plan); and
- Be either the sole founder or an instrumental founding team member.
Applicants will be awarded 20 points for having an innovative, viable and scalable business plan if they can demonstrate the following:
- They have an original and genuine business plan that demonstrates how the business will meet market needs and/or create a competitive advantage;
- The plan is realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources;
- The applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skill, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business; and
- Evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
Whilst the applicants will not be required to show a minimum amount of funds they have access to, the business plan must still demonstrate that they do have sufficient funds to realise the plan, regardless of the level of funds this may be.
The endorsing body supporting the application must state in the endorsement letter that they are satisfied the requirements have been met and provide a short description of how the applicant has done so.
Same Business Criteria
To be awarded points under these criteria, the applicant must demonstrate the following:
- The business was previously assessed by an endorsing body;
- The business is active and trading, and is showing achievement against the goals set out in the initial business plan; and
- The applicant has an active day-to-day role in the management and development of the business.
Applicants applying for permission to remain in the UK under the Innovator Founder route must hold valid permission under one of the relevant routes, such as Innovator, Innovator Founder, Start-Up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur).
English Language Requirement
Applicants to the Innovator Founder route will be required to demonstrate English Language ability of at least Level B2, under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, unless an exemption applies. Nationals of a majority English-speaking country will be exempt from this requirement.
Applicants who were previously issued at least a degree-level certificate for a course taught in English will be able to rely on their certificates as evidence of their ability. Alternatively, applicants can undertake a test with a Home Office-approved test provider; applicants will be tested on their reading, writing, speaking and listening abilities.
Applicants who have been living in the UK for at least 12 months at the time of their application will be exempt from the financial requirement. Those who do not meet these criteria or apply from outside the UK will be required to demonstrate they have sufficient funds to support themselves and any dependant family members.
The relevant levels for Innovator Founder applicants are currently:
- £1,270 for the main applicant
- £285 for a dependant partner
- £315 for a first child
- £200 for each subsequent child
The funds must have been held in the applicant’s account for at least 28 days preceding the date of the application.
Those granted the Innovator Founder visa will be able to remain in the UK for three years.
Innovator Founder visa holders will be able to secure secondary employment in the UK, provided the employment is for a role that requires skills of at least RQF Level 3 / A Levels. Undertaking a course of study is also permitted for individuals holding this visa.
After three years of continuous residence, Innovator Founder visa holders can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain provided they meet the eligibility criteria.
Partner and Children of Innovator Founder Visa Holder
The partner and children of an Innovator Founder visa holder will be able to apply for visas as their dependents. The partner and children will be required to demonstrate their relationship with the visa holder through birth and marriage certificates, or any other additional information that may be required.
Ordinarily, the children must be under the age of 18; however applications from older children may be eligible if the applicant’s reliance on their parents can be demonstrated. Applications from children older than 16 years of age must also be accompanied by evidence of the child’s reliance on their parents.