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Who Is Eligible For An Innovator Visa?

Britain prizes innovation and entrepreneurship - the reasoning for this is simple: they bring in investment and taxable income. In recent years (and likely with Brexit and its after-effects in mind), the UK has decided to make significant changes to its business visas. One of the biggest changes was the replacement of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa with the new Innovator Visa.

In this article, we are going to look at the new visa in detail to see if it is the right option for you to use in order to either come to the UK or to switch to from your current visa.

Eligibility Criteria For The Innovator Visa

The new Innovator Visa is, in itself, innovative; previously your business idea was assessed by a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) officer to assess not only whether the application was genuine, but also if the business idea was solid - this was far from ideal. The new visa ensures that your business idea is credible by adding the requirement for endorsement from an appropriate body. This endorsement is required before you can even apply and ensures that only businesses that are likely to be successful are allowed to progress onto the next phase - the application.

As well as the aforementioned endorsement, you will also need to meet the following eligibility criteria if you want to successfully apply for an Innovator Visa:

  • Meet the English language requirement as laid out by the Home Office
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be able to prove that you have enough personal savings to support your stay in the UK
  • £50,000 seed funding

As long as you can meet the eligibility criteria and have received your endorsement, you will be able to make an online application for the new Innovator Visa. Once you have made your application, you will then need to visit a visa application centre to give your biometric information (fingerprints and photograph) to get a biometric residence permit (your proof of eligibility to be in the UK).

What About Those Who Are Already On A Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa?

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa directly preceded the Innovator Visa and is gradually being phased out. If you are currently in the UK on the visa, you will have a grace period in order to extend your current visa (anyone currently on the visa will be able to extend). Alternatively, you can opt to switch to the new visa or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (if you have been in the UK for 5 years). While new applications are not being accepted for Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas, those currently on the route are essentially unaffected.

The vast majority of Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa holders will likely opt to remain on their current path - there is little in the way of benefit to them in switching. New applicants will need to use the Innovator Visa as the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa is no longer an option for new applicants.

Suitable Types Of Business For The Innovator Visa

In order to apply for an Innovator Visa, you will need to gain an endorsement from one of 24 authorised bodies. These bodies have been tasked with sifting through business ideas in order to ensure that only the businesses that are likely to do well make it to the application stage. As well as credibility, these institutions have been asked to prioritise certain factors in order to ensure that business that are started in the UK are not only credible but also original.

The endorsement bodies will be tasked with finding original business ideas - for a long time it was possible to start a business in the UK with a business type that was already prevalent (restaurants and shops etc.), the new visa will ensure that innovation is at the heart of the endorsement process. This change will ensure that only the most innovative, credible and scalable businesses are admitted to the UK. This change will help to ensure that the UK benefits from a diverse mix of innovative businesses being started in the country.

What If I Can Not Raise The Investment Funds Required For An Innovator Visa?

If you cannot reach the £50,000 seed funding requirement, do not quit!

As well as the Innovator Visa, the Home Office also introduced an alternative visa, the Start-Up Visa, for those who were either new to the business world, or those who did not have access to the seed funds required in order to get their business off of the ground. The visa is very much aimed at the younger entrepreneur and is a way to give them access to the UK in order to get their business idea off of the ground. The intention is that these businesses will either get off of the ground quickly or will be assisted by investors.

The Start-Up Visa is very much offered as a precursor for an Innovator Visa. You will be given 2 years in the UK in order to get your business off the ground. If you are successful, you will have the option to upgrade to an Innovator Visa. The visa is a great way for younger entrepreneurs to cut their teeth, and gain access to one of the world's most active markets (for investment and sales) so that they can get the best start for their business idea.

Where Can I Get More Help With The Innovator Visa?

Our UK immigration solicitors team are experts in helping those looking to come to the UK to start a business and can help you to make a successful move to the UK. So for advice, help or guidance with an immigration query, get in touch today and our team will be happy to lend a helping hand.

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