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The Innovator Founder visa


The Innovator Founder visa replaced the Innovator visa on 13 April 2023. The Start-Up visa route closed on the same date.

£50K minimum investment funds are not required under the new Innovator Founder route as they were under the old route. 

An Innovator Founder visa application based on a new business must be supported by a business plan for an innovative, viable and scalable venture. Innovative means that it meets new or existing market needs or creates a competitive advantage. Viable means realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s resources, and that the applicant has the skills, knowledge experience and market awareness for success. Scalable means structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets. 

The applicant must generate the business plan themselves or make a significant contribution to the ideas in the business plan. They must be the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team. 

The applicant must have a day-to-day role in implementing the business plan, a requirement that disappointed those who are awaiting an alternative to the Investor visa route which closed in February 2022.

The ‘same business’ criteria, for an Innovator Founder application based on a business that has been endorsed in relation to a previous application are as follows:  

  • Previous immigration permission as an Innovator Founder, Start-up, or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur);
  • The business is active, trading, sustainable and demonstrates significant achievements in line with the business plan. This includes a requirement to register the business with Companies House and for the applicant to be listed as a director or member; and
  • The applicant is active in the day-to-day management and development of the business.
  • ‘Same business’ applicants must also demonstrate that they attended Contact point meetings with their Endorsing body at regular intervals, for assessment of their progress against their business plan.

All Innovator Founder applicants, whether applying on the basis of a new or same business, must fulfil English language and financial requirements.

In addition to assessing applicants’ fulfilment of the above criteria, Endorsing Bodies will review the sources of funds and modes of transfer of funds and consider whether the endorsed business may be the beneficiary of illicit or unexplained wealth.

Permission will be granted for a maximum of 3 years. 

A welcome change is that Innovator Founders can engage in medium or high-skilled employment outside the running of their business. The previous version of this visa type did not allow for work outside the visa holder’s own business.

Innovator Founders may be eligible to apply for settlement after 3 years’ residence in the UK. An endorsement letter is required to support the settlement application and must include all of the following information:

  1. confirmation that the applicant has shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement; 
  2. confirmation that the applicant’s business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business;
  3. confirmation the business is active and trading;
  4. confirmation that the business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses; 
  5. confirmation the applicant has demonstrated an active key role in the day-today management and development of the business; and
  6. confirmation the applicant’s business venture has met at least two of the following requirements:
  • at least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business; 
  • the number of the business’s customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services; 
  • the business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK; 
  • the business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1million in the last full year covered by its accounts; 
  • the business is generating a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas;  
  • the business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for settled workers; or
  • the business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for settled workers, each of which has a mean salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any allowances).

Innovator Founders may bring their family members with them to the UK.

Publication Date: 26/05/2023


Author avatar
Samar Shams
Managing Partner @ Changes Immigration
+44 (0) 7591 385033