The new Innovator Visa & Start-up Visa routes are officially open

Author: Hamza Malik

The government announced the closure of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) routes on 7 March 2019. In their statement of changes to the Immigration Rules, these routes are to be replaced by the Innovator Visa and the Start-Up Visa. The applications for both routes are now open.

Whilst the Start-up Visa route shares significant similarities with its predecessor, Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, it is primarily the Innovator Visa which involves a significant change by requiring an endorsement from approved endorsing bodies. The official list of endorsing bodies has now been published.

This new category demonstrates the issues faced by the government in respect of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa which faced numerous last-minute changes to prevent abuse. The government did not like the way this route functioned and considering the success of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, which also requires endorsement, the government has moved towards a similar regime for the Innovator Visa.

Who is the Innovator Visa for?

The Innovator visa is for those who want to set up or run a business in the UK. However, the applicant would need to have their business or business idea endorsed by an approved body.

Business plan

Therefore, the starting point of this route is to work on a successful business plan which satisfies three key elements of this route:

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

Investment funds

Once you have a business plan which meets the above-criteria, you must also have sufficient investment funds for your business plan. The minimum level of investment is £50,000.00 and there is no option to share these funds within a team application.

These funds can be the applicant’s own which they have invested in an existing business or intend to do so in the future. Alternatively, the funds can be provided by the endorsing body.

Application for Endorsement

The next step involves obtaining an endorsement letter from an approved body. In order for the endorsing body to provide their endorsement (which will be in the form of a letter), they will consider the three key elements above, and that the applicant will spend their entire working life in the UK on developing business.

The endorsement letter will also confirm whether the funds are available to the applicant.

Immigration Application

The applicant will then, armed with their endorsement letter, apply to the Home Office for this application. The application can be made from inside the UK (provided that they are able to switch from the current visa category) of from outside the UK.

In addition to the endorsement letter, the applicant will still have to prove:

  • That there are no general grounds of refusal for the application
  • That the applicant’s application is genuine and credible
  • That they satisfy the English language requirement of CEFR B2 level or above
  • That they can maintain themselves by demonstrating additional funds of £945 for 90 consecutive days (for the main applicant), unless their maintenance is certified by the endorsing body.

Decision

If the application is granted, the applicant will be granted 3 years of initial leave and will be able to apply for extension for a further 2 years. Following the completion of their 5 years the applicant will be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, provided they meet the eligibility requirements.

The applicant’s time in the UK will also be subject to periodic checks by the endorsing body, and if their endorsement is withdrawn, their visa application is likely to be curtailed.

How can Clarkslegal LLP help?

The Start-up and Innovator visa categories are non-Points Based System applications. However, they require specific evidential requirements to be met in addition to added scrutiny from the Home Office and the Endorsing bodies.

At Clarkslegal LLP, we have extensive experience in helping individuals and businesses in respect of Immigration applications. We offer a full service to our clients which can assist applicants in making a successful application and supporting them throughout this process.