Innovator Visa replaces Tier 1 (Entrepreneur): a 5-point guide

Are you considering starting a business or bringing a business idea to the UK?  The old Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa scheme has been replaced with the new Innovator Visa scheme.

This article will show you a way to do this is through the Government’s Innovator Visa Scheme. It will give you 5 crucial points that you will need to know about the scheme in order to apply. Starting from the very beginning. 

What is the Innovator Visa Scheme:

The Innovator Visa Scheme is designed to facilitate experienced businesspersons looking to set up businesses in the UK. It wants to attract brilliant entrepreneurs and companies with bold and innovative ideas to the country. 

The Innovator Visa Scheme allows you to:

  • Set up one or several businesses in the UK.
  • Work as self employed for your company or be employed as a director.
  • You can travel from the UK and return. 
  • After 3 years you can apply for permanent residency.

The visa will last for 3 years and when it is coming to an end you can reapply. 

There is no limit to the amount of times you can extend your Innovator Visa. It must be noted however that a visa can be cut short if the applicant’s Endorsing Body ends their endorsement.

With the Innovator Visa the applicant can bring their partner and any child under the age of 18 with them to the UK. They will need to complete a separate application form but will be linked to your visa by your application number which they will put on their form.

Who qualifies:

You must have a unique business or idea that you want to bring to the UK. You will have to assess the market and determine whether your proposed business already exists.

As the visa’s name explicitly states, the businesses that will be accepted have to be innovative and new. New meaning the business can not already be trading in the UK.

To qualify you will need to show that the company is viable. You will need to demonstrate that your business/idea has a strong potential for company growth

The ability to read, write and speak English is essential in order to be accepted for this visa and you will have to be able to prove this. 

Financial requirements: 

The visa requires you to be at least 18 years old and have financial stability both personally and in your business. 

If you are a new business, you must have at least £50,000 in investment funds to be considered for the visa. Once more, this will have to be proved in both quantity and where you got the funding from. 

You do not, however, need investment funds if your company has already been established and has been endorsed on a previous visa (i.e you’re reapplying). Also, if you’ve agreed with your Endorsing Body to change your business, you will not need to prove the investment funds. 

You can share an Innovator Visa application with another business person but you would both need to have the £50,000 investment fund. Therefore meaning £100,000 overall between the two of you.

You will be asked to prove that you have enough personal savings to support yourself while you live in the UK. Before applying for the visa or applying to extend the visa you will have to prove that you have at least £1270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days.

You will not be able to use money from your investment fund in order to support yourself personally.  

How to apply:

You have to apply for the Innovator Visa online. If you’re applying for this visa outside of the UK (i.e this is a first time application not an extension of your current visa) then your family will have to apply separately. 

You will need to prove your identity through: 

  • Getting a biomorphic residency permit which entails getting your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre. 
  • The ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app which can scan through your appropriate documents depending on what country you are from. 

What documents you will need:

  • A valid passport or some other document that can prove your nationality and identity.
  • A bank statement that proves the aforementioned minimum of £1270 in your bank account for the last 28 days.
  • Proof that you have met the English language requirement. 
  • If you’re starting a new business, you will need evidence of your investment fund.
  • Tuberculosis test results if your country requires you to take the test. 

All these documents must be translated into English by a certified translator. 

If you need an appointment, your documents and passport may be kept by the visa application centre while your application is ongoing. 

You can extend your current Innovator Visa if you are still running a business in the UK or want to set up a new one. 

As you need to organise all the correct required documents, you should work into your timeframe how long it will take to retrieve these. This will be different lengths of time based on the individual. 

After you have completed your application and submitted all the required documents, you should hear back about your visa results within:

  • 3 weeks if you live outside the UK. 
  • 8 weeks if you live in the UK.

How much will it cost:

If you are applying for the Innovator visa from outside the UK it will cost £1021 for yourself and then an extra £1021 for each family member added to the application. 

If you are applying from inside the UK (for a Visa extension or switch) then it will cost £1277 for yourself and again an extra £1277 for each family member you add to the application. 

To summarise:

The UK Government is looking to bring to the country the best and most innovative business minds. The Innovator Visa will allow this to happen. There is more information on the GOV website and once your application has been successful you will have a full list of what you can and can’t do with the Innovator Visa.

Caveat: These details were correct at the time of publication and see the GOV website for the current situation.

Written by: John Courtney

John is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK. He has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. John founded and ran six of his own businesses including a Management Consultancy for 10 years, a Corporate Finance offering for 10 years and a mid-sized Digital Agency for another 10 years.