SOC Codes Explained:Key difference between the Start-up visa and the Innovator Visa

SOC Codes Explained:Key difference between the Start-up visa and the Innovator Visa

In March 2019, the United Kingdom replaced the previous Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas with the 'Start-Up' and 'Innovator' process. Although a number of changes were introduced with the new visa process, the two key introductions were the 'Innovative' requirement as well as the requirement to be endorsed by an approved organisation as listed by the Home Office. These organisations are referred to as 'Endorsing bodies'.

The proposed business must be new and therefore can no longer be an existing and actively trading company.

Key differences

The general principle is that an Applicant applying for an Innovator visa will be an established business person with a history of managing a business or businesses. A Start-Up Applicant will not be expected to have such experience.

A further difference is that a successful Applicant under the Start-Up visa will be given a visa for up to 2 years at which point they will be expected to switch to the Innovator visa if they wish to remain in the United Kingdom to manage their business. A successful Applicant under the Innovator process, will be given a visa for 3 years, at which point they can apply for the right to stay in the United Kingdom permanently (also known as 'Indefinite Leave to Remain').

The final key difference is the requirement to have 'Access to Funds'. Only an Applicant applying for the Innovator visa will need to show they have access to funds which are disposable in the United Kingdom of at least £50,000.


The Endorsing bodies are ultimately responsible for assessing the strength of an Applicant's business proposal.

As explained in the introduction, the process introduced amongst other criteria, an Innovative requirement. The term is currently defined as-

The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

The Endorsing organisation must also assess-

Credibility - does the Applicant have (or in the process of having) the key skills required to manage the proposed business; and

Scalability - what plans does the Applicant have to scale up the proposed business to meet national or international market needs.

The Home Office will normally not review the endorsement unless there are exceptional reasons to do so.

Endorsing bodies

At the present time, the Home Office have approved the following companies to act as an Endorsing body-

  • The Bakery
  • Seed Camp
  • Invest Northern Ireland
  • Zinc
  • Deep Science Ventures
  • Wayra
  • Ignite
  • Bethnal Green Ventures
  • Codebase
  • Capital Enterprise
  • Cylon
  • Tech X
  • Seed Haus'
  • Med City
  • Scottish Edge
  • Royal Society Edinburgh
  • Tech Nation, which is already an endorsing body for Exceptional Talent applications, has announced it will be endorsing applicants in the Innovator and Start-up categories from September 2019.
  • 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

Access to Funds (innovator only)

An Applicant will need to show that have access to at least £50,000. This can be evidence in one of three ways-

  1. Through personal funds;
  2. Through a company; or
  3. Through a Third Party individual.

Applicants seeking to rely on personal funds must have held such funds for at least 90 days.


An Applicant will need to show (separate to the £50,000 if applicable) Maintenance funds of £945 and £630 per dependant (if any are applying). Again, these funds must have been held for 90 days. However, the Maintenance funds can only be evidenced through the Applicant's bank account or that of their Partner.

English Language

The Applicant must meet the B2 English Language test from an approved English Language provider (as set out at Appendix O of the Immigration Rules) unless the following applies-

  1. They are a national of a majority English speaking country;
  2. They hold a Degree or higher (or the equivalent) as issued in the United Kingdom, a majority English speaking country or as deemed by UK NARIC; or
  3. In specific instances, the Applicant has been issued with a visa in the past in which they have already passed this English Language requirement.

How we can help

If you are considering making an application under the Innovator visa or start up visa route or maybe you just have a general question, feel free to contact us on 02037442797 or send us an email on

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