Can I Apply for an Innovator Visa from Inside or Outside the UK?
For most prospective migrants, the rules regarding UK visa applications can appear complex and confusing. It is for this reason that the Home Office in 2020 confirmed that it was in the process of “reviewing, simplifying and consolidating the [immigration] Rules”. As a result, there is now greater consistency and clarity regarding such matters as whether it is possible to switch visas ‘in-country'. One question we are often asked is whether it is possible to apply for a specific inside or outside the UK. Often the process, forms, and timescales can vary depending on where an application is made from, further adding to the confusion experienced by entrepreneurs, investors, business people, and skilled workers wishing to come to the UK. In this article, we will take a look at the UK Innovator visa, whether this can be applied for inside or outside of the UK, and the process for making an application.
What Is The UK Innovator Visa?
The UK government is extremely keen to encourage the establishment of highly innovative businesses and start-ups. The Innovator visa enables overseas entrepreneurs to come to the UK to do precisely this. As the Home Office guidance states, the Innovator visa is for individuals who “want to set up and run an innovative business in the UK - it must be something that’s different from anything else on the market”. The visa allows holders to remain for up to three years, at which point they can apply for a further three-year extension. One of the most attractive features of the Innovator visa is that after three years, they may be able to acquire permanent settlement in the UK; this is shorter than the normal five years required for indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
In order to make a successful application for an Innovator visa, applicants need to have their business idea and plan endorsed by an endorsing body in the UK. The endorsing body will take a close look at your plans, and based on their expert knowledge of your sector and business market, they will assess whether it is genuinely innovative and is likely to be viable. As such, they must be satisfied that your business idea has a real potential for growth in the UK.
Can I Apply From Inside Or Outside The UK?
Applicants for an Innovator can apply from within the UK or outside, depending on their circumstances. This means that if they are already in the UK on another visa type, they can make an application without needing to leave the country, but only if they do not have one of the following types of immigration status currently:
- a visit visa
- a short-term student visa
- a Parent of a Child Student visa
- a seasonal worker visa
- a domestic worker in a private household visa
- immigration bail
- permission to stay outside the immigration rules, e.g. compassionate grounds
What Are The Eligibility Criteria For An Innovator Visa?
To make a successful Innovator visa application, you will need to prove to the Home Office that you:
- Are over 18 years old
- Meet the English language proficiency requirement (i.e. that you can read, write, speak and understand English to a level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale, you have a degree which was taught in English, or you are from an exempt country).
- Have enough money to support yourself in the UK (you will only need to show you have £1,270 in your bank account 28 days before applying to satisfy this requirement)
- You have a minimum of £50,000 to invest into your new innovative venture in the UK – it is possible to form an investment team with another Innovator visa applicant, but you cannot use the same funds (e.g. if there are two investors, you will need a combined investment fund of £100,000).
Crucially, you will need to secure an endorsement from a Home Office approved endorsing body – you will need to provide a copy of your letter of endorsement with your application.
How Can I Apply For An Innovator Visa?
To apply for an Innovator visa, regardless of your location, you must first ensure you meet the eligibility criteria and then secure endorsement for your business plans. Once you are ready, you will need to complete the online application form on the Home Office website; the form you need to complete depends on whether you are in the UK or outside.
Once your application form has been submitted, you will need to prove your identity. This can be done by either:
- having your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre - this is to get a biometric residence permit
- using the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document - you’ll also create or sign in to your UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account
You will be advised which identity method to use when you apply.
As part of the application process online, you will need to pay the application fee of £1,021 (if outside the UK) or £1,277 (if inside the UK) – these fees are the same for your dependant family members. If you are from an EU country, your application fee may be reduced by £55. You will also need to pay for the immigration healthcare surcharge for the duration of your visa (this is currently £624 per person per year). In addition, there is a small fee of £19.20 to cover the costs of having your biometric information scanned and processed (this is required for your biometric residence permit, which provides proof of residency in the UK).
If you have a strong, unique business idea that is viable and likely to be sustainable, in addition to the required investment funds, your application should have a strong chance of being approved. As immigration Solicitors based in London, we regularly assist with Innovator visa applications, enabling applicants to focus on preparing their business plans and making contacts in the UK in readiness to establish their new enterprise.