The Home Office has now published the policy guidance relating to the new Innovator visa scheme.
The new Innovator category was created to replace the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) scheme and became effective on 29 March 2019. The Innovator category was established for experienced businesspeople seeking to launch a business in the UK. Applicants are required to evidence an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an ‘endorsing body’. If you are planning the next “Deliveroo”, this could be a visa route for you.
To qualify as an Innovator, applicants are required to obtain endorsement from an approved endorsing body. These include business organisations and higher education institutions. Endorsement is based on the principle that endorsing bodies are best placed to assess and identify innovative business ideas and talent.
The current list of approved endorsing bodies for the Innovator scheme can be found via: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/endorsing-bodies-innovator. Whilst there is no cap on the number of Innovators endorsing bodies can support, each body is allocated just 25 endorsements initially.
Innovators must demonstrate that their proposal meets the innovation, viability and scalability requirements, as specified below:
The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
The applicant has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
Innovators must provide evidence of at least £50,000 available for investment in the UK. These funds may already have been invested in the business (within the last 12 months), or may be provided by the Endorsing Body, or may be provided by the applicant, a third party or an established business, either in the UK or overseas.
The Home Office will assess whether an applicant genuinely intends to undertake the proposed business activity in the UK, that they do not intend to undertake any work other than within the confines of their business interests and finally, that the investment funds are genuinely available and the applicant intends to invest them in the manner described in their application.
Innovators must provide evidence of their English language skills, either by providing evidence of a qualification equivalent to a UK degree, taught in English, or that they are a national of an English-speaking country, or by passing an approved English language test to Level B2 in all four areas (Speaking, Listening, Reading & Writing).
Unless the endorsing body has certified the maintenance requirement, Innovators are required to evidence personal cash savings of £945 per family member, held in place for at least three months prior to submission of the initial application.
Innovators are expected to centre their business activities in the UK. As such, Innovators planning to apply for settlement should not spend more than 180 whole days outside of the UK in any 12-month period.
Innovators are initially granted leave for three years. Provided they continue to be endorsed by an approved endorsing body, there is no limit on the number of extensions they may obtain.
Innovators can apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) on completion of just three years in the UK, provided all requirements have been met.
In addition to meeting the Knowledge of Language and Life and residence requirements, Innovators should meet at least two of the following requirements:
- at least £50,000 has been invested and actively spent, furthering the business plan assessed in the previous application;
- the number of business customers has doubled and is currently higher than the mean number of customers in comparable businesses in the UK;
- the business has engaged in significant research and development and has applied for intellectual property rights in the UK;
- at least £1 million annual gross revenue has been achieved in the last full year of business;
- at least £500,000 annual gross revenue was generated in the last full year, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas;
- the business has created the equivalent of 10 full-time jobs for resident workers;
- the business has created the equivalent of 5 full-time jobs for resident workers with an average salary of £25,000p.a.
Key to the success of any application is securing endorsement from an approved endorsing body. The Nathanson Partnership can help identify which endorsing body Innovators should apply to for their endorsement and support applicants throughout the process.