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How the Innovator Visa Differs from the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa

March 2019 has brought with it some significant changes to business immigration in the UK. One of the biggest news items has been the introduction of two new visas for entrepreneurs who are looking to move to the UK in order to start a business. The Start-up Visa and the Innovator Visa have been introduced to replace the outgoing Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa.

These two visas are aimed at slightly different types of entrepreneur and are an attempt by the British government to ensure that the most talented make the UK their destination of choice in the coming years. In this article, we are going to look at the difference between the new Innovator Visa and the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa that it replaces.

How Does the Innovator Visa Differ from the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa?

There are two main differences between the outgoing Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and the Innovator Visa that has replaced it. The first of these is the amount of money required in order to fund your business. With the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, entrepreneurs required 200,000 worth of investable seed finding capital in order to be able to start their business. The new Innovator Visa that has replaced it requires just 50,000 worth of seed funding in order to get the business started. This reduction opens the doors to fantastic entrepreneurs who may not have been able to lay their hands on the significant sums that were required previously.

The second big change with the Innovator Visa is the introduction of an endorsement model. This endorsement model ensures that businesses are assessed by accredited organisations that are fit to judge the business idea. This is a huge change from the previous Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa which relied on Home Office staff to assess the quality and viability of a business idea. Many experts in the industry have been pushing for this change for a long time, and it is a move positive that it has been introduced.

What is the Eligibility Criteria for the New Innovator Visa?

The eligibility criteria for the new Innovator Visa is as follows:

  • English language requirement - equivalent to CEFR Level B2 (you may need to pass a test), or having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree, master's degree or PhD. There is an exception to those from majority English speaking countries
  • 50,000 investable seed funds - these can come from any legitimate source
  • Endorsement from an accredited institution - such as higher education institutions and business groups
  • Funds to support your stay in the UK - you will need to have at least 945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before your application

As long as you can meet this eligibility criteria, you'll be able to make an application to the Home Office to be considered for a visa. If approved, you will be given up to 3 years leave to remain in the UK in order to start your intended business. At the end of this 3 year period, you will be able to apply for an extension (which comes with its own set of criteria) which will take you past the 5 years you require in order to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). This means that the new Innovator Visa is an excellent option for those looking to move to the UK in order to start a business, and also offers excellent options for those looking to remain in the UK for the long term.

Why Does My Business Need to be Endorsed?

The introduction of the endorsement criteria into the Innovator Visa has been a long time coming. For a long period, it was down to the Home Office to decide whether a business was viable. This was far from an ideal situation; Home Office staff are experts in immigration matters, but not business ones. The issue of assessment has needed clarifying for many years, and the introduction of an endorsement scheme has helped to go a long way to cure a long subsisting problem.

For the right type of business, endorsement will be a relatively straightforward process. You need to apply to an accredited institution, such as a higher education institution (get in touch for a list of accredited organisations), who will consider your application and provide endorsement where appropriate. This is an ideal situation, as many of these accredited organisations are uniquely qualified to assess the quality and viability of a business idea. Once your business idea has been endorsed, you will then be able to make your Innovator Visa application to the Home Office.

I Can't Meet the Funding Criteria for the Innovator Visa - What Are My Options?

If you can't meet the funding criteria for the Innovator Visa then do not panic. The British government has created the Start-up Visa that will give entrepreneurs who do not have start-up finance the possibility of getting a business idea off the ground. They will still need to follow the eligibility criteria as laid out for the Innovator Visa (as laid out above), but will not need to have the seed funding available that the Innovator Visa requires. There is, of course, a downside: the visa only gives 2 years leave to remain in the UK. At the end of the initial two-year period, if your business has successfully met certain goals, you will be able to apply to upgrade to the Innovator Visa in order to get your 5 years in the UK and apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

The Start-up Visa is principally aimed at younger entrepreneurs who may not have the funding or business experience to be eligible for the Innovator Visa, but do have an amazing idea that is likely to be successful. Their business idea will still need to be assessed by an accredited organization; once they have received their endorsement, they will then be able to make their application.

Where Can I Get More Help with the New Innovator Visa?

Our expert team of immigration solicitors can help you start your business in the UK. We can help give you the right advice in order to make a successful application, as well as the tools that you need in order to carry out your move successfully. To get started, give us a call and our team will be happy to get you moving forward.

If you need help with the new Innovator Visa, or indeed any other UK business visa, then don't hesitate to get in touch

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"Andy Tieu is absolutely amazing, as a lawyer myself I can categorically say tha...

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"I found Joe very helpful and tremendous patience which is a must in this profes...

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Cheyam Shaked

"Anna Foley was the lawyer helping my partner obtain an EEA EFM visa. She was ou...

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Isaac .T

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