If you are looking to set up and work for your own business in the UK, the Innovator Founder visa may be for you. A visa enabling you to rely on your own business acumen to stay and work in the UK, without having to rely on a sponsor. A golden visa ticket to self-sponsorship and entrepreneurial success!
What’s in the Box: The Perks of an Innovator Founder Visa:
- Create, set up and work for your business (or businesses).
- Venture into work outside your business (provided it is “skilled work” i.e. a job deemed to be suitable for sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route).
- Bring your partner and children with you as dependants.
- It is a route to settlement (or Indefinite Leave to Remain) -at the end of that 3-year visa period, you may be able to either extend your Innovator Founder visa or apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, assuming you meet the relevant criteria.
Despite the many benefits, it is not seen a lot of uptake – due in part to the very subjective eligibility criteria. You need to prove your business idea is not just innovative, viable, and scalable, but that you’re the creative genius or a significant contributor behind it. The magic lies in a detailed business plan, which will be scrutinized by an approved endorsing body who must support your application for it to succeed.
There are now only three main endorsing bodies able to consider applications. A fourth does exist but not everyone can be endorsed by them. The full list of endorsing bodies can be found here.
Navigating the Maze: The Innovator Founder Application Process
- Obtain an endorsement letter.
- Meet the English language requirement – prove that you can read, write, speak, and understand English to the required level.
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Demonstrate that you have had at least £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before you apply (more if you are brining dependants).
Cracking the Code: Tips for Endorsement
Choose Your Endorsing Body Wisely: Different endorsing bodies have different preferences. They provide specific guidance as to how they would like the information presented to them and provide insight on the way they will assess your application. Tailor your approach accordingly.
Craft Your Business Plan with Flair: Be creative and clear about what your idea is and why you think it will work.
Be new and Innovative: Your idea must be original – a trailblazer, setting trends, not following them. It must create a competitive edge or meet a new market need.
Show that it is Viable and Scalable: Paint a clear picture of growth, explaining the supporting figures and providing detailed evidence of structured plans for job creation and growth. It must be realistic and achievable, and you will need to prove that you have enough funding and the source of those funds.
Prove Your Worth: Show that you are an active participant in the business. Demonstrate that you have made a significant contribution to the business plan and that you will have a day-to-day role in its execution. Your fingerprints need to be all over it.
Pitch your idea: Once your documents are on point, approach the endorsing body for assessment. If they are satisfied, they will issue an endorsement letter providing a confirmation and a brief explanation as to how you have satisfied them.
Once you meet the visa eligibility requirements and have the support of the endorsing body submit your Innovator Founder Visa Application – which can be done either from outside the UK or from inside if you are already in the UK with eligible permission. There is an online application form to be completed with personal details, details of travel etc and a prompt for you to upload your supporting documents and enrol your biometrics.
Decisions are usually made within 3 to 8 weeks depending on where you are applying from. There may also be priority services available which will shorten the wait.
Ongoing obligations: Check-ins and Withdrawal Risk
A requirement of the visa is that you have at least 2 progress check-in meetings with the endorsing body at regular intervals within the visa’s 3-year period (usually at 12 months and 24 months). Consider them your mentor and ensure you keep them on side. If the endorsing body senses a breach of the visa’s conditions they can withdraw their support – with an inevitable adverse impact on your visa.
Innovator Founder Visa: An entrepreneurial rollercoaster?
Being an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster and the innovator founder visa is not for the faint-hearted. But for trailblazers able to meet the requirements the Innovator Founder visa might just be the way to go.