UK Innovator Visa 2019 & 2020 Guidance

This article on UK innovator visas in 2019 and 2020 is split into four parts:

  • UK innovator visa frequently asked questions (FAQs);
  • The UK innovator visa requirements in 2019;
  • The documents required for a UK innovator visa; and
  • Obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) under the UK innovator visa route.

part 1

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the UK innovator visa and who is it for?

This visa category is for business people who wish to start up an innovative, viable and scalable business idea in the UK.

It is designed for experienced business people, who are not nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

In order to qualify for this visa, you must meet these conditions:

  • Your business idea has to obtain an endorsement by an approved endorsement body.   More information on approved endorsement bodies can be found here.
  • You must evidence a minimum of £50,000 funding available to invest in your business
  • You must not undertake any other form of employment other than your business venture

Who is an UK innovator visa not for?

It is not designed for individuals whose business idea is not innovative, viable and scalable.

It is also not designed for those applying to join an already existing business as an employee or seeking to invest in a trading business.

If you wish to apply as a skilled worker or as an investor, please refer to the Points Based System guidance.


Is there a maximum time that you can stay in the innovator visa category?

No. There is no time limit for innovator visa applicants.

You can therefore stay in this category for as long as you like, although you will probably want to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) just before the expiration of your first innovator visa.


Do innovator visa applicants have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)?

Yes.

Innovator visa applicants will have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).

Since the Immigration Health Surcharge costs £400 per year, the total IHS cost that you will have to pay when you submit the application is £1,200.


What is the UK innovator visa processing time in 2019?

The innovator visa processing time in 2019 is 8 weeks (if you are applying from outside the UK) or 3 weeks (if you are applying from inside the UK).

The above figures are rough estimations provided by the Home Office and can vary considerably.

For instance, if your application is considered complex, it is likely that the processing time will take longer.

The following are typical examples of when the innovator visa processing time will likely take longer:

  • If your supporting documents need to be verified;
  • If you need to attend an interview; and
  • If you have personal circumstances that complicate the visa application (such as a criminal conviction).

If you are submitting the application from outside the UK, you can check this link to check the figures for the particular country that you are applying from.


What are the innovator visa application forms?

The innovator visa application form depends on a few factors, such as your current immigration status and whether you are applying from inside or from outside the UK.

If you are making the application from outside the UK, the relevant link can be found here.

If you are applying to switch to an innovator visa from another visa inside the UK – click the link on this page.

If you are applying to extend your innovator visa , click the link on this page.

If you are applying for Indefinite Leave to remain as an innovator, the online application form can be found on this page.

Note: If you are applying from North Korea, you cannot apply online. Instead, download the application form and guidance here. Instructions regarding where you take your completed form can be found here.


What are the innovator visa conditions?

If your application is successful, the visa will be subject to all of the conditions below.

Employment conditions:

  • No employment as a doctor or dentist in training
  • No employment as a professional sports person
  • No employment other than working exclusively for the business you have set up – this includes carrying out a contract of service or apprenticeship with another business, whether directly or implied

Other conditions:

  • No recourse to public funds
  • Registration with the Police if you are a national of the countries listed in Part 10 of the Immigration Rules
  • Study is permitted but you must obtain an ATAS certificate, subject to the conditions set out in Part 15 of the Immigration Rules

What are the UK Innovator visa fees and costs in 2019?

The fees differ depending if you are applying from outside the UK or inside the UK.

The table below sets out the current application fees:

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

In addition to the relevant application fees, you are required to pay the Immigration Healthcare surcharge as part of your application.  You can check how much you are required to pay here.

If you are applying to extend or switch your visa in the UK, you will also be required to pay £19.20 for your Biometric enrolment  – that is to have your fingerprints and your photograph taken.


How long is an innovator usually granted for (innovator visa duration)?

Your visa is valid for 3 years if:

  • You enter the UK on an Innovator visa
  • You switch from another visa category to the Innovator visa category whilst in the UK – note that you can only switch from certain visa categories to the Innovator visa category
  • You extend your existing Innovator visa for another 3 years – note that there is no limit on the number of times you can extend your Innovator visa

What can I do on an innovator visa?

You can:

  • Set up a business or several businesses
  • Work for your own business – for example as a director or self employed person
  • Bring your dependent family members with you

What can I NOT do on an innovator visa?

You cannot:

  • Carry out any work outside of your own business – this includes contracting your services to another business or filling an employment position in another business
  • Work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • Work as a professional sports person
  • Receive public funds

Can an Innovator visa lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain(ILR)/Permanent Residency?

Yes. After 3 years continuous residency in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for settlement (known also as indefinite leave to remain – (ILR) or permanent residency)


Can I extend my Innovator visa?

Yes. It is possible to apply to extend your Innovator visa before it expires.

To meet the qualifying criteria, you must:

  • Meet the eligibility requirements
  • Demonstrate you are still running an innovative business in the UK, or wish to set up a new business.  When you apply to extend your visa, your business or business idea will be assessed by an approved endorsement body.

If you wish to set up a new business, you must evidence that you have £50,000 to invest.

If your business is already established, you do not need to have these funds.

If you apply to extend your visa in the UK, you must:

  • Apply online
  • Make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKCAS) service centre to enrol your Biometrics
  • Submit your supporting documents either by uploading them online or have them scanned during your UKCAS appointment
  • Include any dependents on your current visa even if they have turned 18 years old

A decision can take up to 8 weeks and you are permitted to stay in the UK until a decision is made on your application, as long as you applied for an extension before the expiry date of your visa.

However, you cannot travel outside of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Ireland until you receive a decision.  If you do, your application will be withdrawn.

If your application is deemed complex, it may take longer to process.  This could be because the supporting documents require additional verification, or your personal circumstances have changed. You may also be requested to submit additional supporting documentation or attend an interview.

If you apply to extend your visa outside of the UK, you are required to apply for a new Innovator visa online.


Can I switch into an innovator visa?

It is possible to switch to an Innovator visa before the current visa (that is not a UK innovator visa) expires.

You are eligible to switch if you entered the UK on one of the visa categories listed below:

  • Start up visa
  • Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) visa
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa
  • Tier 2 visa
  • Standard UK Visitor visa: as long as your visa was granted on the basis of undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur, as outlined in Appendix V.

If you hold any other type of visa category, you must leave the UK and apply under the Innovator visa category.


What about my family members? Can they be dependants on this visa?

Yes. If your dependent family members are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, they are required to have a visa to come with you or to join you in the UK.

A ‘dependent family member’ is your:

  • Spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, same-sex partner
  • Child under 18 years of age

Adult dependent family members must provide a criminal record certificate for countries they have lived in for 12 months or more, over the last 10 years.

You must demonstrate that you can financially support your dependent family members in the UK.  You must have £630 for each dependent in addition to £945 to support yourself.  You will be required to provide supporting evidence to show that this money is available to you and that the money has been held in your account, or in your dependent’s account,  for at least 90 consecutive days before the date of application.

If your child is over 18 years of age, they may still be eligible to apply as a dependent family member under this category if they are already living in the UK as your dependent.

For full guidance on dependent family applications, please refer here.

If your dependents are applying outside of the UK, they must:

  • Submit an online application form (except dependents applying from North Korea).  A separate application form must be submitted for each dependent
  • Make an appointment at a visa application centre and enrol their Biometrics

Please refer to guidance and instructions on how to complete and submit the visa application forms.

Depending on what country your dependents are applying from, they may also be able to apply for priority service at the visa application centre.

Once your dependents arrive in the UK, they will have to collect their biometric residence permit within 10 days of their stated arrival date.

If your dependents are already in the UK, they can apply to extend or switch their visas to stay with you.  However, those on standard visitor visas are not eligible to apply.

Your dependents will have to:

  • Apply online as a dependent partner or a dependent child
  • Make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKCAS)  service centre to enrol their Biometrics
  • Submit supporting documents either by uploading them online or have them scanned during their UKCAS appointment

A decision can take up to 8 weeks using the standard service. If they pay an extra £800 to use the super priority service, a decision will be made:

  • By the end of the next working day after their UKVCAS appointment if their appointment is on a weekday
  • 2 working days after their UKVCAS appointment if their appointment is at the weekend

Working days are Monday to Friday, not including bank holidays.

If the application is deemed complex, it may take longer to process.  This could be because the supporting documents require additional verification, or due to a change in their personal circumstances. Your dependents may be requested to attend an interview.

Your dependents are permitted to stay in the UK until a decision is made, as long as the application was made before the expiry date on their current visa. They cannot travel outside of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man or Ireland until they receive a decision.  If they do, their application will be withdrawn.


When can my innovator visa be curtailed?

The Home Office reserves the right to curtail an Innovator visa in the following circumstances:

  • Under any of the reasons set out in the General Grounds for Refusal, paragraph 323 in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules
  • if an endorsing body withdraws its endorsement of a migrant or loses its status as an endorsing body for the relevant category.

The Home Office has the power to request that you provide additional information or attend an interview.  Failure to do so within specified timeframes and instructions, may result in the curtailment of your visa.


What if I have a change of circumstances whilst on the innovator visa?

You must complete the appropriate form to advise of any of the following changes in your personal circumstances:

  • Contact details
  • Details of criminal convictions
  • Representative’s details
  • Dependent’s details

You must complete an NLT form or TOC form if you need to make any of the following changes to your residence card:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Gender
  • Appearance

Are successful innovator visa applicants issued Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs)?

If an application under the Innovator visa category is successful, you will be issued with a 30 day visa vignette in your passport.

You must arrive in the UK during this 30 day period and collect your biometric residence permit within 10 days of your stated arrival date in the UK.


Can I appeal if my out-of-country innovator visa was refused?

If an application under the Innovative visa category is not successful, you will be given a Notice of Refusal.

You have no right of appeal against this decision.


Can I appeal if my in-country innovator visa application was refused?

You have the Right to an Administrative Review if you consider than an error has been made in the consideration of your visa application by the decision maker.

Information on how to apply for an Administrative Review will be included along with the Notice of Refusal.


Can other directors from my company also apply for endorsement?

Multiple Innovator applicants can apply to be co-directors of the same company.

But, each applicant must receive their individual endorsement letter from an approved endorsement body and be approved in their own right.

Each applicant must also independently evidence that they personally have £50,000 available to invest in the business venture.


Can I share investment funds with other directors from my company who also want to apply for endorsement?

You cannot share the same investment funds.

Each applicant must have £50,000 to invest even if you are applying as a team of multiple Innovators in the same company.

part 2

Innovator visa requirements in 2019

What are the Innovator visa requirements?

In order for you to be granted an innovator visa, you will have to meet the general requirements in Appendix W, part W3 and the specific innovator requirements in Appendix W, part W6.

We discuss this in more detail in our UK innovator visa requirements for 2019 and 2020 article.

We will now discuss these in the below sub-headings.


Innovator Visa Requirement 1

Endorsement

The endorsement requirement will vary depending on whether you are:

(i) Applying for an innovator visa as a new business; or

(ii) Applying for an innovator visa based on a same business endorsement application.

Regarding (ii), it should be noted that this can only be done if your last grant of leave was in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Start-up or innovator category AND you are pursuing the same business venture that was assessed in the endorsement which led to your last visa.


Endorsement for new businesses under the Innovator route

Before you apply, you must be able to show that your business or business idea is innovative and has potential for growth.

This will be assessed by a Home Office approved endorsement body who will issue you with an endorsement letter if they consider that your business idea is viable.

You will need to submit the endorsement letter as part of your visa application.

How can you find potentially willing endorsing bodies?

You can find an endorsing bodies list on the Start-up and Innovator sections of the gov.uk website.  These lists are published and updated regularly.

The Home Office offers general guidance but will not provide advice on how to choose a particular endorsing body.


What is the role of the endorsing body?

The endorsing body has responsibility to:

  • Issue endorsements in the form of an endorsement letter based on set assessment criteria
  • Stay in contact with endorsed business founders, monitor and communicate their progress
  • Inform of any suspicions of breach of visa conditions
  • Issue further endorsement in applications for the extension of Innovator visas and in applications for settlement

What happens if the endorsement is withdrawn?

Your visa may be curtailed if your endorsement is withdrawn.

If you wish to stay longer in the UK, you must re-apply with a new endorsement letter prior to the expiry date of your current visa.


Where can I find a list of endorsing bodies for the innovator visa route?

A list of endorsing bodies can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/endorsing-bodies-innovator

Only organisations on this list may issue endorsements.  If you are offered an endorsement by an organisation that is not on this list, you can report it here


How do I get endorsed?

Using a business plan, you will need to persuade an endorsing body that you meet the endorsement criteria for new businesses under the Innovator visa route.

The business plan should show that your business venture is:

1) Innovative

You must have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

2) Viable

You must have the necessary knowledge, skills, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

3) Scalable

You must provide evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

Although the assessment criteria for endorsement under the Innovator visa category is similar to the  assessment criteria under the prospective entrepreneur category, successful applicants in the former category will be more experienced, skilled business people and will be assessed to a higher standard.

The endorsement letter will also outline that you intend to spend your entire working time in the UK developing the endorsed business venture.

If you satisfactorily demonstrate that you have available funds of £50,000 to invest in the business, be it from personal funds, funding from third sources such as the endorsement body, or funds already invested in the business, this information may be included in the endorsement letter.  This means that you may need to submit less supporting evidence with your visa application.

An endorsement body will take previous failed applications into account when assessing the suitability of your business idea.


Endorsement for new businesses under the Innovator route

What are the endorsement criteria for same businesses under the Innovator visa route?

For the endorsement criteria to be met, you must demonstrate significant progress in successfully developing your business since the original endorsement was granted.

The endorsement letter will outline that the business is registered with Companies House and that you are listed as a director or a member of that business.  It will confirm that your business is trading and active and that it shall continue to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months.  It will highlight that you exclusively dedicate your working time in the UK for your business venture and play a key role in the day to day management of the business.

There is no limit to the number of times you can be endorsed for this type of application, however, you must show continuous business development and achievements and not just that you have created a business.

Evidence of funding is not required at this stage.


Innovator Visa Requirement 2

Innovator visa English language requirement in 2019

The innovator visa English language requirement in 2019 will generally require you to meet the B2 standard of the Council of Europe’s common European framework for language and learning in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

This is the same whether you are applying inside or from outside the UK.

You can prove your knowledge of English in one of two ways:

  • Passing an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening.  The test must have been taken by a provider listed in Appendix O at a Secure English Language Test centre.
  • Having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD

You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you fall under one of these exceptions:

  • If you have a previous successful application under the categories of Start Up visa, Innovator visa or Tier 1 General, Tier 1 Post Study work, Tier 1 Entrepreneur, Tier 2 Minister of Religion, Tier 4 General where you already proved your knowledge of English to be level B2 or above
  • You are a national of a majority English speaking country, listed below:
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Australia
    • The Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Canada
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Guyana
    • Jamaica
    • New Zealand
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • USA

Further information about the English language requirement is outlined here.


Innovator Visa Requirement 3

You must be at least 18 years old

Nothing to elaborate on here!


Innovator Visa Requirement 4

Maintenance – You must be able to prove that you have enough personal savings to support yourself (& any family members) while you’re in the UK

#1 You need to have had at least £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply.

Note that money from your investment funds or money earned whilst working in the UK illegally cannot be used to support yourself.


#2 Your bank account must be a personal bank or building society account.


#3 Any funds that are not in pounds sterling (£) must be converted

Where the funds are in one or more foreign currencies, the funds must be converted to pounds sterling (£) as per the exchange rate on the day the funds were available.  The preferred exchange rate website used by the Home Office is www.oanda.com


#4 Your funds must not be held in a financial institution that is listed in Appendix P of the Immigration Rules

Appendix P of the Immigration Rules can be found here.


#5 Your funds must be in cash

The decision maker will not accept evidence of shares, bonds, credit cards, overdraft facilities or pension funds.


#6 The funds that you use to meet the maintenance requirement cannot be income that was obtained in a period where the applicant was in the UK illegally or in breach of their visa conditions


#7 You must evidence these funds in one of the following forms:

  • Personal bank or building society statements
  • A building society pass book
  • A letter from their bank or building society
  • A letter from another financial institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) for the purpose of personal savings accounts
  • A letter from an overseas financial institution regulated by the official regulatory body for the country in which the institution operates and the funds are located

Whatever form of the above evidence that you submit in order to show that you meet the maintenance requirement, it must show all of the following:

  • The name of the account holder
  • The account number
  • The financial institution’s name and logo
  • That the funds in the account have been at the required level throughout the 90-day period
  • The date of each document
  • In the case of personal bank or building society statements, any transactions during the 90-day period

Bank or building society statements must not be mini-statements from automatic teller machines (ATMs) and must be one of the following:

  • Statements printed on the bank or building society’s letterhead
  • Electronic statements, accompanied by a supporting letter from the bank or building society, on company headed paper, confirming the statements are authentic
  • Electronic statements, bearing the official stamp of the bank or building society on every page

The end date of the 90-day period will be taken as the date of the closing balance on the most recent document provided. Where documents from two or more accounts are submitted, this will be the end date of the account with the highest closing balance.


Innovator Visa Requirement 5

If you want to set up a new business, you must be able to evidence investment funds

If you want to set up a new business, you must evidence minimum investment funds of at least £50,000.  Your funding can come from any legal source.

You do not need to evidence investment funds if your business is already established and has been endorsed in an earlier application.

Rules regarding funds

#1 Funds cannot be held in a financial institution that is prohibited by the Immigration Rules

Any financial institutions listed in Appendix will be disregarded.

This is because these financial institutions do not conduct verifications on the funds they hold.


#2 If funds are not in pounds sterling (£), they must be converted

Where the funds are in one or more foreign currencies, the funds must be converted to pounds sterling (£) as per the exchange rate on the day the funds were available.

The preferred exchange rate website used by the Home Office is www.oanda.com


#3 The money available for investment must be disposable in the UK

If the funds needed for investment are held overseas, then they must satisfy one of the criteria below:

  • Funds are freely transferable to the UK and converted into pounds sterling
  • Funds are held in a financial institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
  • Funds are subject to any applicable financial sanctions regime, but you can provide confirmation from HM Treasury that the funds are transferable and disposable in the UK.

For overseas companies not registered with the FCA, you can check for information on:

  • Companies House list of overseas regulatory institutions under Worldwide registries
  • The International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) general membership lists

We discuss the documents you can include regarding this requirement in Part 3 of this article, ‘Documents required for an innovator visa’.


Innovator Visa Requirement 6

Additional requirements for same business endorsements

There are two additional requirements that you must meet for same business endorsements:

#1 You must have last been granted one of the following:

  • A Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa
  • A prospective entrepreneur visa
  • An Innovator visa

#2 You are pursuing the same business venture that was assessed in the endorsement which led to you being granted your last visa

The same business requirement is always determined on the basis of the business being endorsed rather than the body making the endorsement.

An application for same business endorsements can be made from overseas as long as you have previously been granted a visa under the Innovator or Start Up category.


Innovator Visa Requirement 7

You must not fail any reasonably required credibility assessments

You will not normally need a credibility assessment as part of your Innovator visa application because an endorsing body has already assessed your business plan, therefore a decision maker does not need to assess your business idea again.

But, if the decision maker has reason to doubt your credibility, a credibility assessment will be conducted.  This may take the form of an assessment of your previous work, educational or immigration history in the UK, any declarations made by you to any UK government department, any previous visa endorsements you have received, further verifications on any supporting evidence submitted or any other relevant information.

Credibility checks may also request you or your endorsing body to provide additional information and/or evidence.  Equally, you may be invited to attend an interview.

Any request for additional information must be given as per the instructions set out by the decision maker within the specified timeframe.

Failure to do so may result in the refusal of your application because your application will be decided on the strength of evidence available at the time of assessment.

If your application falls for refusal under other grounds, the decision maker reserves the right not to carry out the credibility assessment or any reconsideration of the decision.

Where a credibility assessment is conducted, the decision maker will take into account any endorsements that you have received and may also take into account the following factors:

  • Your previous work, educational and immigration history
  • Any declarations that have been made to other government departments regarding your previous employment and other activities in the UK
  • The evidence that you have submitted and its credibility
  • Any other relevant information.

Innovator Visa Requirement 8

Immigration status requirement for in-country applications

If you apply for leave to remain, you must satisfy one of the following conditions:

(a) your last visa was in the same category as you are applying in.
(b) your last visa was in an eligible switching category as shown in the table below:

Category the applicant is applying in                    Eligible switching categories
Innovator
  • Start up
    • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
    • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
    • Tier 2
  • A visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur, as set out in Appendix V
If you are considering applying for an innovator visa from inside the UK as a Tier 4(General) student, there are further restrictions that you should know of, which is discussed below.

(a) you must have been sponsored as a Tier 4 (General) Student by one of the following:

  • A UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a higher education provider from:
    • The Office for Students
    • The Scottish Funding Council
    • The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
    • The Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
    • Any other provider registered with the Office for Students
  • An overseas higher education institution to undertake a short-term study abroad programme in the United Kingdom
  • An Embedded College offering Pathway Courses
  • An independent school

(b) If you were sponsored for your studies in the UK by a government or international scholarship agency, and the sponsorship is ongoing or ended less than 12 months before the date of application, you must:

  • Have been granted unconditional written consent to make the application by their sponsoring government or agency
  • Provide a letter from each sponsoring organisation confirming this

Note that the letter must be issued by an authorised official of that organisation and contain contact details which will allow it to be verified.


Innovator Visa Requirement 9

Valid application requirement

For applications made from inside the UK

Paragraph 34 of the Immigration Rules sets out what constitutes a valid visa application.

It is very important to consult and understand this guidance prior to submitting your application because if the requirements of paragraph 34 are not fully met, it renders your whole application invalid.

In summary:

  • Applications must be made on the specified application form or using a specified online method and all the mandatory sections of the form must be completed
  • Any application fees and Immigration Health Surcharge must be paid
  • Specified proof of identity must be provided –  usually a valid passport (unless the Home Office already has it)
  • The application must be made as specified in the Rules (see more below on methods of applications)
  • All applicants except for European Economic Area nationals must enrol their Biometrics

For applications made from outside the UK

Paragraph 34 of the Immigration Rules on making a valid visa application does not apply to applications for Entry Clearance.


Innovator Visa Requirement 10

Applicant’s passport or travel document must be genuine

Nothing really to elaborate on here.


Innovator Visa Requirement 11

General grounds for refusal do not apply

You must not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal set out in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules.

part 3

Documents required for an Innovator visa (Document Checklist 2019)

General rules regarding innovator visa documents

The decision maker will only consider documents received by the Home Office before the date the application is assessed.

If specified evidence is missing, a document is in the wrong format – for example, if a letter is not on letterhead paper  or a document does not contain all of the specified information – the decision maker may contact the applicant or his representative in writing to request the correct documents. The requested documents must be received at the specified address within 10 working days of the date of the request.

Documents will not be requested where the decision maker is satisfied the application falls for refusal under other reasons.

If missing information is verifiable from other supporting documents or sources, the decision maker may grant the application despite the error or omission, if they are satisfied that the applicant meets all the other requirements.


Innovator visa required documents

#1 Current passport or other valid travel identification

You need a blank page in your passport for your visa.


#2 Proof that you meet the English language requirement

i) If you are relying on being a national of a majority English speaking country…

You must provide your current valid passport or travel document to show you are a national of one of a majority English speaking country, listed below:

    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Australia
    • The Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Canada
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Guyana
    • Jamaica
    • New Zealand
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • USA

If you cannot provide either your current valid original passport or travel document, you must provide all of the following:

    1. Full reasons why you cannot provide the documents (acceptable reasons are because the documents are lost, stolen, held elsewhere in the Home Office, or have expired and have been returned to the relevant authorities)
    2. A current national identity document
    3. An original letter from your home government or embassy, which confirms your full name, date of birth and nationality

ii)  If you are relying on having an academic degree, Master’s or PhD from a UK university

You must provide the certificate of the award, unless either of the following applies:

    1. You are awaiting graduation, having successfully completed the qualification.
    2. You no longer have the certificate and the awarding institution is unable to provide a replacement.

If you cannot provide the certificate of the award, you must provide an academic transcript (or letter in the case of a PhD qualification) from the awarding institution.

iii) If you are relying on having an academic degree that was taught in English from a university outside the UK

You must provide the certificate of the award, unless either of the following applies:

    1. You are awaiting graduation, having successfully completed the qualification.
    2. You no longer have the certificate and the awarding institution is unable to provide a replacement.
    3. If you cannot provide the certificate of the award, you must provide an academic transcript (or letter in the case of a PhD qualification) from the awarding institution.

In addition to this, you will also need to submit evidence from UK NARIC that confirms:

    1. That the qualification meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s degree in the UK; AND
    2. That the qualification was taught or researched in English to be the required level.
    3. here will not be required if the qualification was awarded in one of the following countries:
      • Antigua and Barbuda
      • Australia
      • The Bahamas
      • Barbados
      • Belize
      • Canada
      • Dominica
      • Grenada
      • Guyana
      • Jamaica
      • New Zealand
      • St Kitts and Nevis
      • St Lucia
      • St Vincent and the Grenadines
      • Trinidad and Tobago
      • USA

iv) If you are relying on passing a Secure English Language Test 

You will need to provide your unique reference number for the Home Office approved English language test.

This will allow your test to be verified by the Home Office via the test provider’s online verification system.

Again, I’d like to stress that the English language test must be from a provider listed in Appendix O of the Immigration Rules. The test must also be taken at a Secure English Language Test centre approved by the Home Office.

It’s also important to note that the test must examine all four components (being reading, writing, speaking and listening), unless you are deemed exempt from sitting a component on the basis of a disability.

v) If you are relying on meeting the requirement in a previous or successful application

You must have had a previous grant of entry clearance or leave to remain in one of the following visa categories:

    • Start-up visa
    • Innovator visa
    • Tier 1 (General)
    • Tier 1 (Post-Study Work)
    • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) under the rules in place before 13 December 2012
    • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
    • Tier 4 (General), supported by a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) assigned on or after 21 April 2011

You will not meet the requirement if false information or documents, whether or not to your knowledge, were included in a successful application in relation to the English language requirement.

If you are relying on meeting the requirement in a previous or successful application, it would be recommended to point this out in your supporting letter, as well as including a copy of the previously used evidence.


#3 An endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body

For new businesses

You must provide an endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body which includes all of the following information:

  • The name of endorsing body
  • The endorsement reference number
  • The date of issue (which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application)
  • Your name, date of birth, nationality and passport number
  • A short description of your business venture and the products or services it provides (or will provide) to its customers
  • The name and contact details of an individual at the endorsing body who can verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office
  • Confirmation that your business venture is innovative, viable and scalable in accordance with the rules set out in part W6 of Appendix W
  • That the endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures

For same businesses

You must provide an endorsement letter for a same business application, which must confirm:

  • The name of endorsing body
  • The endorsement reference number
  • The date of issue (which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application)
  • Your name, date of birth, nationality and passport number
  • A short description of your business venture and the products or services it provides (or will provide) to its customers
  • The name and contact details of an individual at the endorsing body who can verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office
  • That you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement
  • That your business is registered with Companies House and you are listed as a director or member of that business
  • The business is active and trading
  • The business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months based on its assets and expected income, weighted against its current and planned expenses
  • You have an active key role in the day to day management and development of the business
  • The endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that you will continue to spend your entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures

#4 Maintenance documents

This section explains what evidence is required to support an initial or extension application under the Innovator visa category.

You must provide supporting evidence of savings, covering a period of 90 consecutive days.  This evidence must be dated no more than 28 days before the date the visa application is submitted.

The documents must:

  • Be on the organisation’s official letter-headed paper or stationery
  • Have the organisation’s official stamp
  • Have been issued by an authorised official of that organisation

Evidence must be in the form of cash funds. You must not:

  • Include any overdraft facilities
  • Include other accounts or financial instruments – such as shares, bonds and pension funds

You must provide one of the following:

  • Personal bank or building society statements covering 90 consecutive days – the most recent statement must be dated no earlier than one calendar month before the date of the application
  • Building society pass book covering the previous 90 day period
  • A letter from the bank confirming your closing balance and that your funds have been in the bank for at least 90 consecutive days
  • A letter from a financial institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or, in the case of overseas account, the home regulator (official regulatory body for the country in which the institution operates and the funds are located), confirming funds

The information must clearly show:

  • Your name
  • The account number
  • The date of the statement
  • The financial institution’s name and logo
  • Transactions covering a consecutive 90 day period
  • Sufficient funds present in the account (the balance must always be at least £3,310 or £945, as appropriate)

Other acceptable financial documents:

  • Other bank statements printed on the bank’s letterhead
  • Electronic bank statements from an account, if they contain all of the details listed above and a supporting letter from the bank, on company headed paper, confirming the statements provided are authentic.  Note that the electronic bank statements must have the official bank stamp on every page.

Mini bank statements from automatic teller machines or statements which simply show the closing balance in the account will not be accepted.  This is because these documents do not demonstrate that sufficient funds have been consecutively held for the required period of 90 days.

Additionally, any money earned in breach of UK immigration laws will not be taken into consideration.


#5 If you are setting up a new business, evidence of your investment funds

If you apply for an Innovator visa with a new business endorsement, you will need to demonstrate that you have either invested or have at least £50,000 to invest in your new business.

The table below sets out ways to show you meet the funding requirements:

Source of funds Evidence required
Endorsing body or other source where the endorsing body has verified the funds are available Endorsement letter confirms available or prior investment of £50,000
A UK organisation employing at least 10 people All of the following:

A letter which contains a signed declaration confirming:

  • How they know you
  • The amount of funding they are making available in pounds sterling (£)
  • Confirmation that this funding has not been promised to any other person or business for another purpose

Name and contact details of an individual at the organisation who can verify the contents of the letter on request to the Home Office

An overseas organisation, a UK organisation which employs less than 10 people or an individual third party All of the following:

(1) A signed declaration which contains:

  • How they know you
  • The amount of funding they are making available in pounds sterling (£)
  • Confirmation that this funding has not been promised to any other person or business for another purpose

(2) A letter from a legal representative (who is registered to practice legally in the country where the third party or the money is), confirming that the declaration and signature in the signed declaration is genuine.

Where a letter from a legal representative is supplied, which confirms the validity of signatures on each third-party declaration. This must confirm the letter or letters of permission from the third party or parties containing the signatures of the people stated. This can be a single letter, which covers all third party permissions, or several letters from several legal representatives.

The confirmation must come from a legal representative capable of providing the information. This means it must be from a legal representative who is allowed to practise in the country where the third parties or money is. The letter should clearly show the:

  • Name of the legal representative
  • Registration or authority of the legal representative to practise legally in the country in which the permission or permissions, was, or were, given
  • Date of the confirmation letter
  • Your name and name of third party (and the team member’s name if they have formed an entrepreneurial team)
  • Letter from the third party is signed and valid
  • Number of the third party’s identity document, such as a passport or national identity card, and the place of issue of the identity document, and dates of issue and expiry (this is not needed from a venture capital firm, seed funding competition or UK government department or devolved government department in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)

As there is no central list showing the registration or authority of legal representatives around the world, you will need to search the internet to confirm if the registration or authority is appropriate.

(3) A bank letter, confirming that the funds are held in a regulated financial institution(s). The letter must be dated no earlier than 1 month before the date of application. If the institution is outside the UK, the letter must also confirm that the funds are transferable to the UK.

Funds held by you EITHER

Bank statements, showing the funds are held in the UK in an institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The statements must cover a consecutive 90 day period, ending no earlier than 28 days before the date the application is submitted.

OR

A bank letter, confirming that the funds are held in a regulated financial institution(s). The letter must be dated no earlier than 28 days before the date the application is submitted. If the institution is outside the UK, the letter must also confirm that the funds are transferable to the UK.

If these documents do not show that you have held the funds for at least 90 consecutive days, you must also provide all the evidence from the source of the funds as set out for an overseas organisation or a UK organisation which employs less than 10 people.

Funds already invested in business EITHER of the following documents which must show the amount that has been invested:

Business accounts, showing the name of the accountant and the date they were produced.

OR

Business bank statements

If the funds are available to your business rather than to you, or if the funds have already been invested in the business, then your endorsement letter must confirm your connection to the business.

If it does not, then you must provide a document from Companies House clearly establishing your connection to the business.


#6 If you are applying from outside the UK in a country where you are required to take the test, you will need to submit a tuberculosis certificate

If you are coming to the UK for more than 6 months and are resident in any of these listed countries, it is mandatory that you undergo a tuberculosis (TB) test.

However, if you fall in any of the categories below, you do not need to be tested:

  • You are a diplomat accredited to the UK
  • You are a returning UK resident and have not been away for more than 2 years
  • You lived for at least 6 months in a country where TB screening is not required by the UK, and you have been away from that country for no more than 6 months

The TB test takes the form of a chest X ray.  If the result of the X ray is not clear, then you may also be asked to give a sputum sample (phlegm coughed up from your lungs).  If you do not have TB, you will be given a TB certificate which is valid for 6 months.  You must submit this certificate with your visa application.

You must take your child to an approved clinic and complete a health questionnaire. Clinicians will decide if children need a chest X ray. If the clinician decides your child does not have TB, they will issue a TB certificate which is valid for 6 months.  You must submit this certificate with your dependent’s visa application.

Pregnant women can decide between an X ray with an extra shield, a sputum test or to wait until after delivery.  If you do not want to be tested, you can use an X ray taken within the last 3 months at a UK-approved screening clinic and reviewed by a clinician at an approved clinic.  If it is accepted, the clinician will give you a certificate which you can submit with your visa application.


#7 Certified translations of any documents that are not in English or Welsh

All supporting documents provided with an application must be in English or Welsh.

If they are not, you must provide the original document accompanied by a full translation which has been independently verified.

The translation must:

  • Confirm that it is an accurate translation of the original document
  • Be dated
  • Include the full name and signature of the translator or an authorised official of the translation company
  • Include the translator or translation company’s contact details
  • Be fully certified and include details of the translator or translation company’s credentials, if applying in the UK

#8 Cover/supporting letter

Writing a supporting where you provide an overview of the application and how you meet the requirements is something that we would recommend including.

By doing so, this will provide you with the means to discuss things where it is not possible or convenient to do so on the online application form.


#9 If you are switching into the Innovator visa category, evidence of your last grant of leave

Remember, switching is open to applicants who have, or were last granted, leave as a:

  • Start-up migrant
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) migrant
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant
  • Tier 2 migrant
  • Visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur

#10 Additional documents depending on your circumstances

part 4

Obtaining Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as an Innovator

What are the requirements to obtain ILR from the Innovator visa?

You must meet all of the requirements all of appendix W4 and appendix W6.7 of the Immigration Rules.

In order for you to apply for settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the innovator category, you must meet the requirements found in Appendix W4 and Appendix W6.7 of the Immigration Rules Appendix W: Immigration Rules for Workers.

Let’s discuss the requirements in turn.

#1 You must be at least 18 years old on the date of decision


#2 Your last grant of leave must have been in the Innovator category


#3 You must not fail under the general grounds for refusal and must not be an illegal entrant

Your application must not fall for refusal under any of the General Grounds for Refusal set out in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules.


#4 You must show that you meet KoLL – English language ability and Life in the UK

If you are aged between 18 – 65, you must show sufficient knowledge of the English language and sufficient knowledge about life in the UK (KoLL)

To satisfy the English language requirement, you must either:

  • Hold a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
  • Have a degree that was taught or researched in English
  • Be a national of a majority English-speaking country

It will be likely that this requirement will not require much effort on your behalf as you will normally be able to rely on the same evidence that you used in order to meet the English language requirement for the Innovator visa.

For completeness, however, we will discuss the requirements below.

i) Meeting the requirement via a speaking and listening qualification

You meet this requirement by having a speaking and listening qualification in English at B1 level or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Please be advised that for naturalisation applications made on or after 12 November 2015 and settlement applications made on or after 19 November 2015, the only tests that are acceptable are qualifications covering speaking and listening at B1 or above from the Secure English Language Test (SELT) list in the Immigration Rules, Appendix O and the test must be taken at an approved test centre.

The English language test must have been taken no more than 2 years before the date of application. However, tests that have been taken more than 2 years ago and have since expired, can still be accepted where the qualification:

    • Is from one of the providers on the current SELT list
    • Has previously been accepted by the Home Office as part of another immigration application, such as for entry clearance. A qualification that is not from one of the providers on the current SELT list, is not acceptable even if previously accepted by the Home Office as part of another application

ii) Meeting the requirement via degree qualification that was taught in English

If you have a degree that was taught (or researched) in English, you may meet the KoLL requirement if your qualification falls under these categories:

The qualification is:

    • Academic (not vocational or professional)
    • Deemed by UK National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) to meet the recognised standard of a bachelor’s or master’s degree or PhD in the UK
    • Taught in English or have been delivered in a majority English language speaking country (excluding Canada)

If your degree that was taught or researched in a majority English speaking country (excluding Canada) you must provide:

    • Your degree certificate
    • An Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS) from UK NARIC confirming the qualification is equivalent to a UK qualification

If your degree was taught or researched in a non-majority English-speaking country you must provide:

    • Your degree certificate
    • An Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUAL) from UK NARIC confirming the qualification is equivalent to a UK qualification
    • An English language Proficiency Statement (ELP)

For qualifications awarded by a non UK University, you must provide an AQUALS or a statement of comparability from UK NARIC confirming the qualification is equivalent to a UK qualification. Where the qualification was obtained in a non-majority English-speaking country, an ELPS or an English language assessment (ELA) is also required.

However, you do not need to provide additional confirmation from NARIC if the Home Office have previously accepted your degree qualification in an earlier successful application.

If the qualification has not previously been submitted in an immigration application, or if the previous application was refused, you must obtain confirmation from NARIC that it meets the relevant criteria.

iii) Meeting the requirement via age

If you are under 18 years of age, or over 65 years of age, you are exempt from both parts of the KoLL test altogether.  You must, however, include evidence of your age, in the form of your passport or birth certificate.

iv) Meeting the requirement as a majority English-speaking national

If you are a national of one of the countries listed below, you are automatically exempt from the English language part of the KoLL test.

    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Australia
    • The Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Canada
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Guyana
    • Jamaica
    • New Zealand
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • USA

Please note that you will still have to pass the Knowledge of Life in the UK part of the KoLL test.


#5 You must pass the Life in the UK Test

The Life in the UK test must be booked through GOV.UK.

You can take the test in Welsh if you go to a test centre in Wales, or Scottish Gaelic if you take the test in Scotland.

The test questions are based on the ‘Life in the United Kingdom: A Guide for New Residents’ handbook. You must study the handbook to prepare for the test. You may take the test as many times as is necessary to pass.

The test lasts 45 minutes and is computer based. There are 24 multiple choice questions. You are notified of the result at the end of the test.

If you pass the Life in the UK test, you will receive a pass notification letter.

You must submit this letter with your application.


#6 You must not be in breach of any immigration laws

You must not be in the UK in breach of immigration laws.  Any current period of overstaying will be disregarded where any of the exceptions set out in paragraph 39E in Part 1 of the Immigration Rules apply.


#7 You must meet the continuous residence requirement

In order to qualify for settlement as an Innovator migrant, you must have entered the UK on an Innovator visa and resided lawfully in the UK for a continuous period of 3 years, with absences from the UK of no more than 180 days in any 12 calendar months during that period.  Time spent in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in an equivalent visa category will also count towards the continuous 3 year residency period.

In the case of absences of longer duration in any 12 calendar months, only absences of a compelling or compassionate nature, such as a death in the family or illness, will be taken into consideration.  You will need to provide supporting evidence in order to justify any exceptional grounds.

If, at any point during the continuous 3 year period, you did not have a valid visa – for example you submitted an application for an extension of your Innovator visa before its expiry date and did not receive your decision until after your visa had expired – then the continuous period will be paused and start again from the date of the new visa.  Time spent in the UK before and after the pause will count towards the period of continuous leave.  Time spent during the pause will not count towards the period of continuous leave.

For further guidance on calculating the continuous period see: Indefinite leave to remain: calculating continuous period in UK.


#8 You must meet the settlement success criteria as it applies to your application

The settlement success criteria for non-innovator teams

To meet this requirement, the endorsement letter must confirm that you have made significant progress in developing your business and met at least 2 of the quantifiable achievements listed below. Note that the progress achievements are the same as for endorsements under “same business” criteria.

  • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement
  • 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 revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts

You can qualify cannot qualify under a combination of two of the above criteria even if they are similar, for example you will have met two criteria if your business has an annual revenue of £1 million, with at least £100 000 from exporting overseas.  But, you cannot rely on the same criterion twice. For example, if you have invested £100,000 (2 x £50,000) in your business venture, you will be considered to have met 1 criterion, not 2 criteria.  If the business has multiple team members applying for or been granted this type of endorsement, they cannot share the same means of meeting these criteria. For instance, if 2 applicants are relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, then 20 jobs must have been created.

If you are relying on the criteria for creating jobs, the table below shows how you can successfully meet the assessment criteria:

Progress Achievements
All of the following:

  • You have shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement.
  • Your business is registered with Companies House and you are listed as a director or member of that business.
  • The business is active and trading.
  • 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.
  • You have demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business
At least 2 of the following:

  • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement.
  • 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 £1 million 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 resident workers.
  • The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses).

Jobs refer to posts filled, rather than employees. If a single job has been filled over 12 months by different employees at different times, this counts as the job having existed for at least 12 months.

Each of the jobs must have existed for at least 12 months and comply with all relevant UK legislation, including (but not limited to) the National Minimum Wage Regulations in effect at the time and the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Each of the jobs must involve an average of at least 30 hours of paid work per week. 2 or more-part time jobs that add up to 30 hours per week may be combined to represent the equivalent of a single full-time job, as long as each of the jobs has existed for at least 12 months. However, a single full-time job of more than 30 hours of work per week does not count as more than 1 fulltime job.

The settlement success criteria for innovator teams

If multiple Innovator migrants are endorsed via the same company, the criteria for settlement must be multiplied by the number of Innovators linked to the business.  This can be met by either:

  • Each applicant using a different success criteria
  • Each applicant doubling the minimum requirement to achieve 2 individual success criteria
  • Meeting 3 success criteria and doubling one success criteria

In the case of multiple applicants in the same business, you should check with the endorsing body if enough success criteria have been met.


#9 You must provide all of the relevant documentation

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