New UK Innovator Visa Overview & Eligibility

UK Innovator Visa Overview and Eligibility

The UK Innovator Visa is a UK visa category usually for experienced business people to set up an innovative business.  The investment requirement is £50,000 and you need to be endorsed by an endorsing body. There is an endorsement requirement which means that this visa may be difficult to qualify for at the moment.

The UK Innovator Visa replaces the Entrepreneur Visa which has now been discontinued by the Home Office

You’re eligible for this visa if:

•             You are not a national of the European Economic Area EEA and Switzerland.

•             You want to set up or run a business in the UK*. To set up or run a business in Britain your business or business idea must be endorsed by an approved body.

*If you want to set up a business in the UK, you must have access to £50,000 (this has been reduced from the £200,000 previously needed under the UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa) in investment funds. If you already have a business established in Britain and you have been endorsed for an existing UK visa, no minimum investment funds are required.

The UK Innovator Visa replaces the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa category, which closed on 29 March, 2019.

UK immigration rules published on 7 March, 2019 describe the Innovator Visa as:

“A route for more experienced businesspeople looking 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.”


The Home Office says that the new Innovator Visa ‘can’ lead to settlement in the UK (Indefinite leave). However there are tough requirements to meet before this becomes an option. The visa is initially granted for three years. In theory the applicant can apply for settlement after the three years have elapsed but in order to qualify they must again meet the initial ‘scalability’ requirements plus at least two of the following:

a. evidence of the structured planning coming to fruition; and/or

b. evidence that customer base growth has at least doubled in the previous three years and must be higher than comparable UK businesses in the same market; and/or

c. the business has engaged in significant research & development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK and/or

d. the business has generated a minimum £1m gross revenue in it’s previous financial year of accounts; and/or

e. the business has generated a minimum £500,000 gross revenue in it’s previous financial year accounts of which £100,000 comes from exports overseas; and/or

f. the business has created at least 10 full time jobs for resident workers

Innovator Visa Requirements

UK immigration rules specify the following requirements to be eligible for the Innovator Visa:

•             Innovation – Proof of a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

•             Viability – Applicants must be able to demonstrate the necessary skills, knowledge and experience, plus market awareness, to run a business competently.

•             Scalability – Evidence of structured planning and the potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

•             English language – Applicants must prove their English language to level B2 or above

•             Credibility Assessment – The Home Office will carry out additional credibility checks on each applicant and it is not clear yet what they will take into consideration. However negative immigration history and tax debts are likely to influence decisions.

•             Minimum Investment – the applicant must have a minimum £50,000 investment in the business

For more information about the requirements you need to meet to apply for an Innovator Visa, contact us

Your stay in the UK

You can stay for three years if you enter the UK on an Innovator Visa or if you switch to the visa from another valid UK visa.

You can apply to extend your visa for another three years when it is due to expire. There is no limit on the number of times you can extend.

After five years, you could be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (UK settlement).

Applying for an Innovator Visa UK

You can only apply for the Innovator Visa, online. In addition, you will need to have your fingerprints and a photograph taken at a UK visa application centre in the country from which you are applying. You must do this to get a biometric residence permit, which is needed as part of your Innovator Visa UK application.

If you think you can qualify for this new immigration category, call us to speak with one of our immigration solicitors, we can help. It can take a minimum of three weeks to receive a decision on your visa application.

At the time of publishing this post the fee for applying for the new UK Innovator visa is £1,021 for the applicant and each dependant if applying from outside the UK or £1,277 for the applicant and each dependant if applying to switch from inside the UK. There are slightly reduced fees for nationals of Macedonia and Turkey. You will also have to pay for the Healthcare Surcharge which is an additional fee. These visa fees change frequently, usually every April and October.

To support your application, you must provide a business plan and supporting documents for endorsement. With our expertise in obtaining business and investment visas for the UK we can help you in writing a business plan. In addition a business sponsor from one of the following approved bodies will need to endorse your business plan and Innovator Visa application:

The Bakery

Seed Camp

Invest Northern Ireland

• Zinc

Deep Science Ventures



Bethnal Green Ventures


Capital Enterprise


• Tech X

Seed Haus

Med City

• Scottish Edge

Royal Society Edinburgh

• Tech Nation

• NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator      

Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator

• Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator

Set Squared Bristol

Set Squared Exeter

Set Squared Southampton

Set Squared Surrey

There is also a new visa route for Sole Representatives of Overseas Companies – see our separate post for details