Vanguard Solicitors

Our experienced UK immigration and work visa solicitors can help you with your UK Innovator visa application if you want to set up or run a business in the UK. You can now apply with a minimum investment of £50k (reduced from £200k). A new route is being introduced to replace an existing route of Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category. This category is aimed at more experienced business people seeking to establish a business in the UK.

The UK Innovator Visa is a UK visa category usually for experienced businesspeople to set up an innovative business.  The investment requirement is £50,000 and you need to be endorsed by an endorsing body. Applicants are required to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body.

Innovators must work entirely on developing their business ventures and may not take on other employment outside their business. This includes anything which effectively amounts to employment, such as using their own business to hire out their labour to another employer.

Successful Innovators are granted leave for 3 years at a time and can bring their family members to the UK. After 3 years, Innovators can apply to extend their stay for a further 3 years or to settle permanently in the UK. Each of these 3 stages (initial application, extension, settlement) requires endorsement from an endorsing body.

Requirements for entry clearance and leave to remain

The applicant must be at least 18 years old.

Credibility assessment

The decision maker must be satisfied that all of the following requirements are met:

  1. The applicant genuinely intends to undertake, and is capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in their application.
  2. The applicant does not intend to work in the UK in breach of their conditions.
  3. Any money which the applicant claims to be available is genuinely available as described, and the applicant intends to use it for the purposes described in the application.

The decision maker will take into account any endorsement of the applicant required under these Worker rules, and may also take into account any or all of the following factors:

  1. the evidence the applicant has submitted and its credibility
  2. the applicant’s previous educational, work and immigration history
  3. declarations made to other government departments regarding the applicant’s previous employment and other activity in the UK
  4. any other relevant information

The decision maker may ask the applicant to attend an interview or to provide additional information. The requested documents must be received at the specified address within 20 working days of the date of the request.


  1. All applicants for entry clearance, leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain must have been endorsed in this category by an endorsing bodylisted on the website.
  2. The applicant must provide an endorsement letter, issued by the endorsing body, which includes all of the following information:
    1. the name of the endorsing body
    2. the endorsement reference number
    3. the date of issue, which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application
    4. the applicant’s name, date of birth, nationality and passport number
    5. a short description of the applicant’s business venture and the main products or services it provides (or will provide) to its customers
    6. confirmation that the applicant’s business venture meets the endorsement criteria in paragraph W6.3, W6.6 or W6.7 below (as appropriate)
    7. the name and contact details (telephone number, email and workplace address) of an individual at the endorsing body who will verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office if requested
  3. if the endorsement is under the new business criteria, the applicant will not need to provide the evidence in paragraph W6.5 below for any investment funds where the endorsement letter confirms:
    1. the endorsing body is providing the funds
    2. the endorsing body has verified the funds are available from other sources (including the applicant themselves)
    3. the endorsing body has verified that the funds have already been invested in the applicant’s business
  4. The applicant does not need to be the sole founder of the business and may be a member of an entrepreneurial team.
  5. If the applicant’s last grant of leave was in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Start-up or Innovator category, the endorsement does notneed to be from the same endorsing body as the endorsement which led to that grant of leave.
  6. The endorsing body must not have withdrawn the endorsement by the time the application is considered by the decision maker.

Endorsement criteria – new business

If the applicant is relying on endorsement under the new business criteria, the endorsement letter must confirm both of the following:

(a) The applicant’s business venture meets all of the requirements in the table below:





The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

The applicant has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

(b) The endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

Maintenance funds

For entry clearance, an applicant must show they have at least £945 of available funds, plus £630 funds for each dependant.

The applicant does not need to provide evidence of maintenance funds if the letter from their endorsing body confirms that they have been awarded at least £945 (this must be in addition to the £50,000 investment funds).

English language

The applicant must have good command of English to be able to communicate with variety of business organisations and potential customers. This can be demonstrated by one of the following:

  • being a national of a majority English speaking country;
  • passing an English language test proving a knowledge of English equivalent to level B2 of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework (please refer to the Approved English Tests Providers List);
  • holding a degree taught in English and equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or above.

Alternatively, the applicant can meet the English language requirement by demonstrating that they met the requirement in a previous successful application and they must have had a previous grant of entry clearance or leave to remain in any of the following categories:

  • Start-up;
  • Innovator;
  • 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.

Periods and conditions of grant

Leave to enter or remain will be granted for up to 3 years initially and can be extended for up to 3 years. There is no maximum time limit in this category and the route can lead to settlement (subject to other requirements).

If the applicant is granted leave in the Innovator category, no employment other than working for the business the applicant established is allowed.

Endorsement criteria – settlement

If the applicant is making a settlement application, the endorsement lettermust confirm both of the following:

  1. The applicant meets all of the same business endorsement criteria set out in paragraph W6.6(a)-(e).
  2. The applicant’s business venture meets at least two of the following requirements:
    1. At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan assessed in the applicant’s previous endorsement.
    2. 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.
    3. The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK.
    4. The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts.
    5. 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.
    6. The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers.
    7. 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).
  3. If the applicant is relying on the criteria for creating jobs:
    1. 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.
    2. Each of the jobs must involve an average of at least 30 hours of paid work per week. Two or more-part time jobs that add up to 30 hours per week may be combined to represent the equivalent of a single fulltime 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 one full-time job.
  4. An applicant may qualify under any combination of two of the above criteria, even if they are similar. For example, an applicant will have met two criteria if their business has an annual revenue of £1 million, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
  5. An applicant cannot qualify by relying on the same criterion twice. For example, an applicant who has invested £100,000 (2 x £50,000) in their business venture will be considered to have met one criterion, not two.
  6. If the business venture has one or more other team members who are applying for, or have been granted, settlement in the Innovator category, they cannot share the same means of meeting these criteria. For example, if two applicants are both relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, 20 jobs must have been created in total.


An applicant may also be able to switch to this category if they already hold leave to remain in the UK in one of the following categories:

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


Any dependants must also provide evidence that they have access to sufficient funds, even if they are joining the applicant at a later date.

Administrative Review

If the entry clearance application is refused by the ECO in the British Diplomatic post, the applicant will be given a right of Administrative Review of the decision that must be exercised within 28 days of the date of service of decision. The applicant will only be able to rely on the information and documents already submitted with the application and will not be allowed to submit any fresh documentary evidence with the Review request. It is therefore strongly advised to seek professional help when making a Review request.

If an application for further leave to remain in the UK is refused by the Home Office, the applicant will be given a right of Administrative Review of the decision that must be exercised within 14 days of the date of service of decision. The applicant will only be able to rely on the information and documents already submitted with the application and will not be allowed to submit any fresh documentary evidence with the Review request. It is therefore strongly advised to seek professional help when making a Review request.

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