Innovator Founder Visa Application Process
The Innovator and Start-Up visa routes are undergoing significant changes aimed at simplifying the visa application process for entrepreneurs looking to establish businesses in the United Kingdom. Effective from 13 April 2023, these two existing routes will be combined into a single Innovator Founder visa route.
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The Start-Up and Innovator routes were designed for entrepreneurs who plan to set up new businesses in the UK. To be eligible, applicants must show that they have an ‘innovative, viable, and scalable’ business idea which has received the endorsement of a UK endorsing body approved by the UK Home Office. Despite being acknowledged as key factors in the limited adoption of these categories, these requirements will remain unchanged under the new Innovator Founder route.
Furthermore, the expectation that applicants will actively participate in the daily management and development of their business will continue under the updated category.
The Innovator Founder route introduces new requirements, including:
- Removal of the £50,000 minimum funds requirement: This change means the Start-Up route, which did not impose a funds requirement, has become obsolete and will close on 13 April 2023. However, endorsements issued before this time will still be considered valid.
- Permission for secondary employment: Innovator Founder visa holders can now pursue secondary employment alongside running their own business.
- Changes to endorsing body letter content: There have been updates regarding the “mandatory content” for endorsing body, with a new requirement to confirm there are no issues regarding the legitimacy of the applicant’s funds.
- Obligatory contact point meetings: Under the revised Innovator Founder route, it is now mandatory for visa holders to participate in at least two meetings with their endorsing body during each granted period of permission.
To be eligible for the Innovator Founder Visa, applicants must demonstrate their English language proficiency. This can be achieved by passing an approved English language test at level B2 or higher, or by providing evidence of a degree-level qualification taught in English from an approved institution.
After residing in the UK for a certain period on an Innovator Founder Visa, applicants may become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and, eventually, British citizenship. To qualify for ILR, applicants must meet specific requirements such as job creation, business growth, and investment.
Considering the complexity and strict requirements of the Innovator Founder Visa application process, it is recommended that applicants consult with an experienced immigration lawyer or advisor. They can offer guidance on preparing a robust application, addressing potential challenges, and ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations.
The Innovator Founder Visa program not only offers international entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to establish their businesses in the UK, but it also accommodates their family members. Under this visa route, visa holders can bring their dependents, including their spouse or partner and any children under the age of 18, to the UK with them.
Dependents of the Innovator Founder Visa holders will need to apply for their respective visas, which are typically granted for the same duration as the primary applicant’s visa. In addition to the primary applicant’s eligibility, dependents must meet specific requirements, such as proving their relationship to the visa holder and demonstrating they have sufficient funds to support themselves without recourse to public funds.
Spouses or partners of Innovator Founder Visa holders are allowed to work or study in the UK without restrictions, offering them the flexibility to contribute to the family’s income or pursue their career aspirations. Likewise, dependent children can attend local schools or childcare facilities, ensuring that they have access to quality education while residing in the UK.
Over time, as the Innovator Founder Visa holder becomes eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or British citizenship, their dependents may also become eligible for ILR or citizenship, provided they meet the relevant requirements. This can lead to more permanent settlement for the entire family in the UK, allowing them to build a life together while contributing to the country’s innovation ecosystem.
In conclusion, the Innovator Founder Visa program offers an unparalleled opportunity for global entrepreneurs and business founders to kick-start their ventures in the United Kingdom. This visa category seeks to attract innovative talent to the UK, fostering a vibrant and dynamic entrepreneurial environment that contributes to the nation’s economic growth and global competitiveness.
To optimise their chances of success in securing an Innovator Founder Visa, applicants must have a comprehensive understanding of the eligibility criteria, requirements, and best practices involved in the application process. By diligently addressing each aspect of the application, entrepreneurs can demonstrate their commitment to creating a valuable and sustainable business in the UK.
Moreover, by tapping into the UK’s well-established innovation ecosystem, which includes access to world-class research institutions, a skilled workforce, and robust financial support, Innovator Founder Visa holders can benefit from the resources and networks needed to develop and scale their ventures.
In addition to the tangible benefits for entrepreneurs, the Innovator Founder Visa program also serves to strengthen the UK’s position as a hub for innovation and enterprise. By attracting and retaining top entrepreneurial talent from around the world, the UK can continue to build on its reputation as a leading destination for ambitious individuals looking to create groundbreaking businesses and drive technological advancements.
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Dr Bernard Andonian – the Co-Founder of Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, is an experienced Immigration Solicitor, former Judge, and recipient of a PhD in Law from the University of West London. He has over four decades of experience practising UK Immigration, Human Rights and Civil Litigation Law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.