UK innovator visa for entrepreneurs open for applications

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Sanwar Ali comment:

The UK Innovator visa scheme is very new.   So there are a number of uncertainties about what will happen in practice.  How difficult will it be to obtain an endorsement from an endorsing body?   How long will it take to obtain an Innovator visa?  We understand that currently only some of the endorsing bodies are ready to accept applications for endorsement from new applicants.

If this visa scheme is so difficult to obtain will it actually help bring in that many of the type of entrepreneurs that the Government says they are looking for.  In one respect it may be easier.   You only need to invest £50,000.  In most cases under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa scheme you need to have invested £200,000.

Following the closure of the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa on 29 March, 2019 the UK innovator visa is now officially open for applications, the Home Office has confirmed. The new, innovator visa for the UK was announced as part of a Home Office announcement on 7 March 2019, outlining several changes to UK immigration rules.

The UK innovator visa replaces the entrepreneur visa and has been described as: “A route for more experienced businesspeople looking to establish a business in the UK. Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. With some exceptions, applicants will have funding to invest in their business. This category may lead to settlement in the UK.”

The UK government believes the new innovator visa will spark economic growth, particularly in the UK’s tech sector. According to a report published by Cambridge Network, ‘it’s expected that the majority of applications will relate to tech business ventures - a welcome development in sustaining the growth in UK tech.’

UK Innovator Guidance only for Endorsing Bodies

We do not know if guidance notes for potential applicants will ever be made available. available. However, guidance notes are available for Endorsing Bodies.  Further details of the innovator visa will be made available in Appendix W of the government’s UK immigration rules.

As part of the requirements for the UK innovator visa, applicants will need to have their business idea assessed by an approved endorsing body.  Will endorsing bodies charge a high fee for this?  There also no rule that prevents an endorsing body from withdrawing its endorsement, leaving some people unable to gain indefinite leave to remain status in the UK.

Limited number of UK Innovator Endorsement places

A closer inspection of the guidance notes for endorsing bodies indicates that 25 places will be allocated to each endorsing body. However, they have the option to reduce the number of allocations.

Based on the allocation of 25 places, only 600 innovator visas can be granted per year because there are currently 24 endorsing bodies, each with an allocation of 25 endorsement letters.

However, approximately 1,000 visas were granted each year under the Tier 1 entrepreneur scheme, not including dependants. There’s also a stipulation in the guidance notes for endorsing bodies, suggesting that the innovator visa route is only available in small numbers.

An excerpt from the guidance notes, reads: “You may decide whether to accept open applications or to only issue endorsements to business founders you are already working with through your existing activities. If you choose to accept open applications, we recommend that you set out clearly any parameters you wish to apply on the types of business you will endorse, so that you do not receive unsuitable applications.”

While the innovator visa is open to applications in theory, it’s unclear whether endorsing bodies are actually prepared or understand what the innovator visa is.

Endorsing body, Tech Nation, stated that it will not be endorsing anybody until at least September 2019. Meanwhile, several other endorsing bodies are happy to endorse as of now, others said they may be ready in a month or that they are still considering the idea, while some were unfamiliar with the concept of an innovator visa.

Further information, help, and advice on the UK innovator visa’s team of specialists have over 30 years of experience in visa services, helping thousands of people to study and work in the UK and other countries. We work with clients under Section 84 of the 1999 Immigration Act and can submit your UK visa application to the Home Office to be dealt with on the same day.

For more information and advice on UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or email us at