Innovator Visa UK

Possible Innovator Visa UK Updates

By Amer Zaman

on May 18, 2022

Read Time: 10 Minutes

Potential Changes Looming for The UK Innovator Visa – What’s Planned?

With the conclusion of the Brexit transition period at the end of December 2020, the UK finally completed its process of departing from the European Union (EU). In accordance with the seismic change that Brexit represents, the Government has been looking to make changes to the immigration system, representing the biggest shakeup in this regard for more than a decade.

The Home Office therefore took steps to change and end some visas and routes to enter the UK. In April 2019, the Home Office replaced the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa with the new UK Innovator visa.

However, the Innovator visa could also be changing soon, which may have implications for would-be applicants. Here are the looming changes of which those considering an application for this visa should be aware.

An introduction to the UK Innovator visa

With the post-Brexit immigration landscape in mind, in 2019, the UK Government wished to optimise its available visa routes to encourage the establishment of innovative companies in the UK. This led it to make a change to the Entrepreneur visa, creating a new Tier 1 Innovator visa.  

One of the biggest changes is that this new visa now falls under the points-based system, so applicants must achieve a certain level of points to be considered for granting the application.

The Innovator document published on 22nd November 2021 states that: “All applicants must meet the points requirement (70 points required). Applicants can score points under either the requirements for new businesses or the same business. Applicants can only score points under either the new business or same business requirements, they cannot combine points from both. All applicants must also score points for English language and finances”.

There are a number of requirements that must be met before the application can be granted, which will be covered in more detail further down this article.

What is the situation for EU and EEA nationals?

Once the Brexit process concluded, people from countries in Europe were no longer able to enter the UK without a visa if they wished to set up a new business. However, for those that started living in the UK by 31st December 2020, there is a way that they can stay without the need for a visa.

Citizens of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, who began to live in the UK by 31st December 2020, may be entitled to apply to the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme.

Although for most people, the deadline to apply for the scheme was 30th June 2021, there are still a few exceptions that can be used if a person meets the criteria.

  • The applicant is joining a family member in the UK who was living in the UK by 31st December 2020.
  • The applicant has reasonable grounds for not having applied before the cut-off date. Examples of such grounds could include illness or being a victim of domestic violence.

As a side note, Irish citizens do not need to apply for a UK visa or to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to enter, live and work in the UK.

What does the applicant need to do to obtain an Innovator visa?

If entrepreneurs wish to enter the UK and apply for the Innovator visa in order to start a business in the UK, they will be expected to meet certain requirements. These are designed to show the Home Office that applicants are committed to starting their own business, and have the financial backing to support themselves throughout the course of the visa.

The requirements include:

  • The applicant must be at least 18 years old
  • The applicant must have £50,000 in investment funds
  • The applicant must have had a minimum of £1,270 in their bank account for 28 consecutive days before they apply
  • The applicant must have a business idea that meets the requirements (mentioned in more detail below) and has been endorsed by an approved body
  • The applicant must meet the financial requirements
  • The applicant must be able to meet the English language requirement

As well as these requirements, the business that the applicant is setting up, must exhibit the following qualities.

  • Innovation

The business plan that is submitted must show that the idea is original and would have a unique benefit to the market and meet needs that are evident in the market.

  • Viability

The applicant must show that they have the relevant knowledge and skills to run a business of this type. This could take the form of qualifications or other documents showing the skills needed.

  • Scalability

It is important that the applicant shows a plan for the growth and development of the business and how they plan to create jobs now and in the future.

If all of the above requirements are met, then the applicant needs to apply for an Endorsement from an approved Endorsing Body.

It is the role of the Endorsing Body to assess the business that is being submitted and see if it matches the criteria. If it does, then the Endorsing Body will issue the applicant with an endorsement letter.

This Endorsing Body will need regular contact from the applicant after the Endorsement is granted, to show the business’s progress and that it is still active and trading.

An Endorsement cannot be accepted by the Home Office for the Innovator visa application if:

  • The visa application is made more than three months after the Endorsement was issued
  • It has been withdrawn by the Endorsing Body
  • The Endorsing Body has lost its status as an Endorsing Body at the date of the decision

Validity requirements

To be eligible for entry clearance under the Innovator visa route, the applicant needs to satisfy the following criteria:

  • Ensuring that any fees and Health charge is paid
  • Providing the required biometrics for the Home Office to check
  • Providing a passport or travel document that establishes their identity
  • Providing a letter from an Endorsing Body dated no more than three months before the date of the visa application
  • Being over 18 on the date of application

For those people that are already in the UK when they apply, then they are applying for permission to stay. To do this, they must not have been granted permission as:

  • A visitor
  • A short-term student
  • A parent of a child student
  • A seasonal worker
  • A domestic worker in a private household

It is also important that the applicant has not been granted permission outside of the Immigration Rules, and is not being refused leave to enter or on immigration bail.

The points-based system

Another requirement for the successful granting of the Innovator visa is reaching the expected number of points – under the requirement “the applicant must be awarded 70 points from the table below; of which 50 must either be under the new business criteria or under the same business criteria, but not both”.

The points relate to the conditions of the visa being met as those mentioned above.

  • 10 points for having a new business plan
  • 20 points if the business plan and the venture relate to an innovative and viable business idea that can be scaled up to meet demand
  • 20 points if there are £50,000 in funds available or have been invested
  • 10 points if the applicant’s previous permission in the UK was on the Innovator, Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) routes. They also must be pursuing a business that has been assessed by the Home Office-approved Endorsing Body
  • 20 points if the business is still active and trading and is sustainable. It must also have achieved significant achievement against the business plan
  • 20 points if the applicant is active in the day-to-day management and development of the business
  • 10 points for the mandatory English language requirement, which has to be at Level B2
  • 10 points for the mandatory financial requirement

The last two relating to the English language and finances need to be met or the application will be refused.

What changes have been made to the Innovator visa?

Since the Innovator visa was introduced, there have been changes made to some of the eligibility criteria.

  • Before the change to the Immigration Rules, having an endorsement letter from one of the Endorsing Bodies was considered enough evidence to proceed to the next stage of the application process. However, from 4th of June 2020, this changed to allow Home Office caseworkers to ask questions of the Endorsing Body. This is so that they can raise any concerns they may have regarding the business or on the subject of whether the Endorsement has been created correctly.

This also means that the Home Office caseworker can refuse the visa application if they are not satisfied the Endorsing Body’s criteria has been met.

  • Prior to the rule changes, Higher Education Institutions were only able to qualify as Endorsing Bodies for the Start-up visa. However, these institutions can now apply for approval as Endorsing Bodies for the Innovator visa as well.
  • There has been a change to the wording for the ‘Viability’ criteria for the business. It now states that the applicant’s business plan must be realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources.
  • Applicants can now change the venture of their business, as long as the Endorsing Body is satisfied that the new venture meets all of the eligibility requirements. This means applicants won’t need to apply for a new visa if they want to change venture.
  • Changes to the Immigration Rules now state that applicants must be ‘founders of their business’ and must have generated the idea for the business plan or made significant contributions to it. They must also be responsible for executing the business plan.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Budget on 27th October 2021 outlined new changes to the Innovator visa requirements. Previously, there was a requirement for the applicant to have access to £50,000 in investment funds. However, under the new changes, applicants will no longer need to have at least £50,000 to apply for the Innovator visa. The Endorsing Body will not have to be satisfied that the money that is available will be sufficient to grow the business.

The Innovator visa period and conditions of grant

If the applicant is successful in their application on the Innovator visa route, then they will be subject to a certain period of time that the visa is granted, along with conditions while the visa is active.

  • The applicant must have no access to public funds during the length of the visa
  • They are not allowed to work for any other business except the one they have established as part of the Innovator visa process. This includes any contracted work to another company, even if this is part of the applicant’s own business.
  • They are permitted to study subject to the ATAS conditions in the Appendix ATAS.

Extending an Innovator visa

When the expiry date of the Innovator visa approaches, there is an option to extend the visa if the following requirements are met.

  • The eligibility criteria that applied to the initial application of the Innovator visa is still required for any extension
  • The business that was the focus of the initial visa is still running, or the applicant wishes to start a new one
  • An application for an extension should be made before the expiry of the old visa
  • If a new business is being set up, then the financial requirement is needed. Applicants that are not setting up a new business or that have previously changed in agreement with the Endorsing Body don’t need to meet the financial requirement

The extension of an Innovator visa can take up to eight weeks, so it is important that the application is made well within the time of expiry of the old visa.

Although the process seems long and complicated, there are ways that you can get the help and assistance you need to make a successful application.

If you are unsure how to proceed with an application, or you need the latest information and tailored advice, please feel free to contact us. We can help you with guidance on your own circumstances and needs as a business or individual. Simply call Cranbrook Legal today, on 0208 215 0053.

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