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Innovator Visa

The Innovator visa category is for businesspeople seeking to establish a new business in the UK.

The proposed business must be:

  • new
  • innovative 
  • viable - potential to grow
  • scalable - demonstrate the business can create jobs domestically and overseas.

Applicants no longer require a minimum of £50,000 funding, since 13 April 2023.

Innovators must work have day to day management and on developing their business ventures but are now allowed to work so long as the job requires an RFQ level 3 equivalent qualification.

Prospective innovator visa applicants must be endorsed by an approved body, known as an endorsing body. The endorsing body will assess whether the business idea is innovative, ie. different to anything else on the market, whether the plan is viable and with potential for growth.

The innovator visa replaced the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, effectively outsourcing the primary consideration of the business plan efficacy and the applicant’s entrepreneurial business skills to the endorsing bodies.

It is not possible to join an existing business under this route.

Innovator visas are valid for 3 years and can lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the end of this period. Otherwise, an extension for a further 3 years permission can be sought provided that the business is still appropriately endorsed.

Innovator visa holders can be accompanied to the UK by their partner and their children under the age of 18.

RLegal will guide you through the complex evidential requirements and assist you from start to finish with your endorsement and visa applications. We have over 20 years experience of lodging successful applications in this and its predecessor categories. We will take the worry out of the process and give you peace of mind.

For more information, please contact us on +44 (0) 20 7038 3980 where you can talk to one of our team, email us at or complete our online form.

Alternatively click on the links below for frequently asked questions.


The requirement to have at least £50,000 in investment funds to apply for an Innovator visa has been removed as at 13 April 2023.

The information below is for legacy purposes only.

Applicants must prove where they got their funding from.

There are limited circumstances in which an applicant need not evidence investment funds such as:

  1. the business is already established and has been endorsed as part of an earlier innovator visa; or
  2. the innovator has changed their business and already agreed it with their endorsing body.

Applicants can form a team with other Innovator visa applicants, but they cannot share the same investment funds, each team member must have £50,000 available for investment, e.g. a team of 2 Innovator applicants must show £100,000 in funds available to invest.

Approved endorsing bodies will assess the innovator visa applicant’s business plan against the following criteria:

  1. Innovation. Does the applicant have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage?
  2. Viability. Is the applicant’s business plan realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources? Does the applicant have, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business?
  3. Scalability. Is there evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets?

To qualify for an innovator visa applicants must prove they can read, write, speak and understand English to level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. You can satisfy this requirement in a number of ways:

  1. passing an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) in all 4 disciplines; or
  2. having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18; or
  3. holding a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English (if the degree was obtained outside the UK, applicants must also produce confirmation from Ecctis (previously known as UK NARIC) that the qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor or master’s degree or a PhD.

 Applicants from some countries are exempt from the requirement to prove competence in the English language. These countries are considered to be majority English language speaking countries:

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

There is a basic maintenance requirement that each applicant must satisfy. Applicants must have held at least £1,270 in their bank account for 28 consecutive days before they apply for either:

  • an Innovator visa; or
  • to extend an Innovator visa or switch to an Innovator visa if they have been in the UK for less than a year.

Money from the investment funds cannot be used towards this requirement. It goes without saying that unlawfully acquired funds cannot be used for this purpose.

Applications are submitted via the Home Office’s online application portal. Once submitted, applicants are given access to a second service where they can upload scans of their evidence. Whilst the Home Office retains the right to request sight of the original documents, with the exception of the applicant’s passport, it is rare for the Home Office to call for submission of original documentation.  

Applications outside the UK typically take at least 3-12 weeks.

Applications can be made by individuals holding lawful permission in the UK unless the applicant holds one of the following:

  • a visit visa
  • a short-term student visa
  • a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • a seasonal worker visa
  • a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • immigration bail
  • permission to stay outside the immigration rules, for example on compassionate grounds

Applications within the UK typically take 48 hours and 8 weeks.

Home Office fees per applicant:

  • Inside the UK: £1,486
  • Outside the UK: £1,191

Immigration Health Surcharge           £624 per annum, per applicant

Innovators can be accompanied to the UK by their partner and dependant children

Dependants are defined as:

  • husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner if you have lived together for 2 years
  • children under 18, including if they were born in the UK during your stay
  • children over 18 if they are currently in the UK with a visa as your dependant

Evidence of your relationship must be provided to support any dependants’ applications.

Innovators can qualify for indefinite leave to remain after 3 years if they have passed the Life in the UK Test and:

  • the applicant’s business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business
  • the business is active and trading
  • the business has shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in the previous endorsement;
  • the business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months;
  • the applicant has demonstrated an active key role in the day to day management and development of the business; and
  • the applicant’s business venture meets at least two of the settlement success criteria set out below.

Settlement success criteria

Endorsing bodies must confirm that an applicant has achieved at least 2 of the following:

  • at least £50,000 has been invested into the business and spent in furtherance of the business plan; or
  • 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; or
  • the business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK; or
  • the business has generated a minimum annual revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts; or
  • the business is generating a minimum annual revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas; or
  • 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 job must have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses).

If after 3 years residence in the innovator visa category, the innovator does not qualify for settlement (indefinite leave to remain), they can apply for an extension of 3 years provided that they remain endorsed by their endorsing body.

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