Tier 1 Investor Visa Route Closes: How the Innovator Visa Could be the Right Alternative Route For You

In February 2022, the Home Office announced that the Tier 1 Investor Visa route would be closed to new applications with immediate effect. The closure didn’t follow the normal procedures, so no direct replacement currently exists to take its place.

However, this doesn’t mean there’s no options available for you if you’re willing to take a more hands on approach to running an innovative business

With the Innovator Visa, you could stay in the UK at a fraction of the cost of the closed route. Looking to create a more direct value, the Innovator Visa is for business leaders with a new company that enhances the local market and creates jobs.

This article details the closure of the Investor Visa and explains an alternative route of the Innovator Visa.

Note that we also offer the UK Self Sponsorship Programme (Skilled Worker Visa) for Entrepreneurs

What was the Investor Visa?

Seen by many as a ‘golden visa,’ the Investor Visa route was for individuals outside of the EEU with a high net-worth. It allowed an opportunity for permanent residency by investing a minimum value of £2million into the UK’s economy over 5 years.

Depending on how much you invested, an applicant could apply for indefinite leave to remain after either 5, 3 or even 2 years if you invested over £10million.

Why was it closed?

In a recent statement from the Home Office, it was revealed that the decision had been made to close this visa route without notice. Concerns were identified in the existing system that were felt to be of too great a risk to continue offering.

The Government believed there was a risk of triggering a “closing down sale” effect if the normal 21 days notice was given, especially in those that the closure is aimed to protect against.

In her statement on the closure, the Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I have zero tolerance for abuse of our immigration system.” It was the opinion of the review that the Investor Visa did not do enough to prevent fraud or exploitation, while bringing little of the intended value to the UK.

In response to these worries, the Innovator Visa introduced a more thorough process to ensure that you and the UK have a far stronger relationship than you would have got.

Lacking sufficient checks throughout the application process, the investor route may have allowed money to be laundered into the UK and was unable to sufficiently distinguish between investment in a valid registered business and in exploitative schemes. 

As well as being open to risk, it was found that there was little value being provided by many who held the visa and more would be needed to ensure the purpose of this route was being met. A more active and engaged dynamic would be required of anyone who they would want to accept.

The decision to close the Investor Visa was driven by a desire to protect the taxpayer from “corrupt elites” while a reformed system is implemented for those who hold the values the country is looking for in its investors. 

What does this mean?

The closure of this visa route is for new applications. Any application not submitted before 16:00 on the 17th will not be accepted. If you applied before this deadline or already live in the UK under an Investor Visa, these changes won’t affect you, and you will proceed under the rules as they stood on the 16th.

At the time of this announcement, there’s no one-to-one replacement for the Investor Visa and there’s no plan to implement one.

In the Statement of Changes’ Explanatory Memorandum, it was announced that changes would be made to the Innovator route and investment provisions will become a facet of this visa, stating: “this will make more targeted provision for investment-related migration, offering a route for entry and stay for overseas nationals with a track record of investment activity overseas and credible plans to engage in such activity.”

The expected timeline for these changes sees the new arrangements introduced in Autumn of 2022.

What alternatives are there?

It’s likely that any changes made to allow for investment will still follow the stricter standards currently required. Although this may not apply to all prospective applicants of the Investor Visa, you may find that this route fits you much better than waiting.

The Innovator Visa is a 3 year visa to live in the UK targeted at entrepreneurs and their families, with the option to apply for extension or permanent residency at the end. It aims to bring innovative business to the UK and create actual value through new jobs for locals.

Applicants with a new business can use this route to establish and grow their company.

Requiring secured funding of £50,000 per applying company leader, you and any other founders can apply for the visa for much less than the £2million you would’ve needed, especially considering that an investment of £5million would have been required to match the 3 year opportunity. 

Endorsing bodies are used to provide the protection that the Investor Visa lacked. Successful UK businesses, licensed by the Home Office, these companies check applicant business to see if they meet all of the requirements to be a valuable addition to the UK. You will need to find your own Endorsing Body before applying online.

The right choice of endorsing body won’t just mean a greater chance of a successful application, but could provide support for your business throughout the whole visa period. You will see your endorser often, with regular reviews being a condition of holding the Visa, but some will go above and beyond this minimum to help your business thrive.

Boardroom Advisors’ Part-time Executive Directors are available to provide the support your business needs to hit the ground running. As well as helping develop your business’s strategy, they bring your Board of Directors expert guidance based on a wealth of experience scaling up successful businesses.

Wherever the gaps in your Board’s expertise may be, Boardroom Advisors can help you find a flexible Advisor that suits your workload and budget.

If you think moving to an Innovator Visa could be right for you, read our approach to endorsement for the Innovator Visa Programme and apply today.

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 seven 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.