UK Start-Up and Innovator Visa (New Visa Route for People in Tech)

startup and innovator visa guidance
startup and innovator visa

I was reading a news-letter from Tech Nation that they normally send to their Alumnus and I saw something interesting. I saw that the UK has now created two new Visa routes for technology entrepreneurs.

The Startup and Innovator visas have some similarities to the Exceptional Talent Visa in the sense that in order to get the visa, you need to be endorsed by designated body first before applying for your visa. Just like the Exceptional Talent visa, these designated bodies are assigned by the UK government to assess applicant’s applications and then provide the Home Office with a Yes or No reply stating if they endorse the applicant or not.

Even though the Start-up and Innovator visas have are somewhat similar to the exceptional talent visa, there are some notable differences. I will touch on them as we go in this post.

So, the Start-up and Innovator visa categories are for non-European nationals wishing to set up a business in the UK. To qualify for a visa in either category, applicants must first obtain an endorsement from an approved endorsing body. These include leading business organisations and higher education institutions in the UK.

Eligibility for the Start-up / Innovation Visa.

Before you apply, you need to have your business or business idea assessed by an approved body. They will provide you with an endorsement letter if your business is viable, scalable and innovative.

You must also:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • meet the English language requirement
  • be able to prove that you have enough personal savings to support yourself while you’re in the UK (You need to have had at least £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply)

Who can be endorsed under the UK Start-up and Innovator Visa?

The Start-up and Innovator categories are for people setting up a new business in the UK which is innovative, viable and scalable, with the ultimate aim that the business has the potential to become fully integrated and a contributing part of the UK economy.

Applicants can be:

  • Working on their own as a sole founder, or working together as part of an entrepreneurial team
  • Presenting anew business idea –the business may or may not already exist, but should not yet have fully started trading
  • Presenting an idea in any sector –there are no restrictions (for example, relating to property development, as under the previous Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category), providing you are satisfied the idea is sufficiently innovative, viable and scalable
  • Developing other businesses as well as their main idea

The categories are not designed for people who are:

  • Establishing a business which is not innovative, viable and scalable
  • Joining an already trading business –the Tier 2 skilled work route may be more appropriate•Seeking to invest in an already trading business –the Tier 1 (Investor) category may be more appropriate

Start-up Visa Guidance.

The Start-up category is for early-stage, but high potential entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK for the first time. They may have already begun setting up their business, but it should not yet have commenced trading. The only exceptions to this are if the applicant has already been granted leave under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, or under the Tier 4 doctorate extension scheme.

Applicants do not need any funds to invest in their business at this stage.

It offers a one-off, 2-year visa, during which applicants will spend the majority of their time developing their businesses but can also take on other work outside of their businesses, to support themselves. Successful applicants can bring their family members (spouses/partners and children under 18) to the UK. At the end of 2 years, they cannot extend their visa and will need to either switch into the Innovator category to extend their stay and develop their businesses in the UK or any other visa route.

Endorsement criteria: Start-up Visa.

So, each designated body that will endorse applicants will need to show that the applicant’s startup fulfills three(3) things: Innovation, Viability and Scalability which are explained below:

  • Innovation: applicant have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage
  • Viability: applicants have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run the business successfully?
  • Scalability: evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets

The table below shows the questions that they have to answer on each application before they can then offer endorsement and advise to the Home office.

Fees for the Startup Visa.

How much you pay for a Start-up visa depends on your situation and where you apply from. (As of July 2019, below is the fees. Be sure to check UK Gov Start-up visa official page to see the update fee list.

Who you’re applying for Apply (outside the UK) Switch (in the UK)
Yourself £363 £493
If you’re a citizen of Turkey or Macedonia £308 £438
All dependants £363 each person £493 each person

How long you can stay?

You can stay in the UK for 2 years on a Start-up visa. You cannot apply to extend this visa.

What you can and cannot do

You can:

  • bring family members with you
  • switch to this visa from some other visa categories
  • work in another job, as well as working for your business

You cannot:

  • get public funds
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • work as a professional sportsperson, for example a sports coach
  • settle in the UK on this visa

Innovator Visa Guidance.

The Innovator category is for more experienced business people seeking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants will usually need a minimum £50,000 funding available to invest in their business (This does not have to come from their endorsing body, although some endorsing bodies may choose to offer this funding). Innovators must work entirely on developing their business ventures and may not take on other employment outside their business. This includes anything which effectively amounts to employment, such as using their own business to hire out their labour to another employer.

Successful Innovators are granted leave for 3 years at a time and can bring their family members to the UK. After 3years, Innovators can apply to extend their stay for a further 3 years or to settle permanently in the UK. Each of these 3 stages (initial application, extension and settlement) requires endorsement from an endorsing body.

Endorsement criteria: Innovator.

You must be able to show that your business idea is:

  • a new idea – you cannot join or invest in a business that is already trading
  • viable, with potential for growth

The below table gives more explanation to the questions that the endorsing bodies need to ask themselves whilst reviewing each application.

Fees for the Innovator Visa.

How much you pay for an Innovator visa depends on your situation and where you apply from.

Who you’re applying for Apply (outside the UK) Extend or switch (in the UK)
You £1,021 £1,277
You (if you’re from Turkey or Macedonia) £966 £1,222
All dependants £1,021 each person £1,277 each person

How long you can stay

You can stay for 3 years if you:

  • come to the UK on an Innovator visa
  • switch to this visa from another visa

You can apply to extend for another 3 years when your visa is due to expire. There’s no limit on the number of times you can extend. You may be able to apply for settlement (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) once you’ve been in the UK for 5 years.

What you can and cannot do

You can:

  • bring family members with you
  • switch to this visa from some other visa categories
  • work in another job, as well as working for your business

You cannot:

  • get public funds
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • work as a professional sportsperson, for example a sports coach
  • settle in the UK on this visa

In Conclusion.

These new visa additions are a good addition to the UK visa scheme as they will be able to allow people who cannot necessarily show that they are “exceptional talent” but can show that they can start a business that is Innovative, Viable and Scalable an opportunity to get a visa to the UK to start.

To get the updated list of authorized endorsing bodies for the Start-up and Innovator Visa, visit UK Gov Start-up visa official page

If you are interested in the Exceptional Talent Visa, you should check my blog category that covers everything you need to know. If you need any advice, be sure to send me a message using the contact form.

All the best.

Startup and Innovator pages:

Tags : innovator visa endorsementinnovator visa requirementsstartup visa endorsementstartup visa requirements
Daniel Damilola Nejo

The author Daniel Damilola Nejo

Daniel Damilola Nejo is a Nigerian born, London based Creative Designer and Content Creator with love for the hustle and community. He has a Masters in Business Information Systems Management and is Endorsed by the UK Government as a “World Leading Exceptional Talent in Digital Technology” . He is a true hustler and a forward thinking individual who uses his knowledge and skill to add value to lives around the world. He works with startups, businesses and individuals around the world as a digital designer and brand developer. Founder of some Digital startups and brands.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
Donec quis pulvinar Aliquam dapibus leo neque. ut lectus ut