How to switch from the ‘old’ Innovator visa into the Innovator Founder visa

The answer depends on: 

  • whether you are applying to continue the same business as the one for which you were endorsed, or applying to start a different business than that; and
  • whether you are with a ‘legacy’ endorsing body, or with one of the new endorsing bodies.
How to switch from the ‘old’ Innovator visa into the Innovator Founder visa

Let us start with whether you are going to continue the same business or apply to start a new one. The key point is, if you want to start a new business (and you have already been endorsed under the ‘old’ Innovator visa), then you do not need to make a fresh immigration application. When you are next going to be endorsed, the endorsement letter contains a section that looks like this for the ‘legacy’ endorsing bodies: 

For the ‘new’ endorsing bodies the same element of the form appears:

Note that in both cases (whether it is a ‘legacy’ or ‘new’ endorsing body), when you switch businesses, you still need to apply under the ‘same’ business route. The ‘legacy’ endorsing bodies cannot endorse you under the ‘new’ business category anyway. The ‘new’ endorsing bodies can endorse you for a ‘new’ business, but there would be no point in doing so, given that you can switch businesses under the ‘same’ business route, using this procedure.

The important point, though, is that if you do switch businesses, then you will need an extension before applying for ILR. I would recommend that you submit the fresh business plan with your extension application. You will need to show significant achievements under the second business, rather than the first, in order to get ILR.

If you are on the ‘old’ Innovator visa category, and you extend, then you necessary are extending under the Innovator Founder visa. So you will in all cases become an Innovator Founder. This true whether you are in a ‘new’ endorsing body or in a ‘legacy’ endorsing body. 

The ‘legacy’ endorsing body guidance says that extending (old) Innovator leave “will become Innovator Founder leave”: 

The ‘new’ endorsing body guidance says that those who apply for “further Innovator leave”, “will be considered under the Innovator Founder rules”.

There are ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ to this situation. The ‘pro’ is that you can get a job in a qualifying skilled role once you extend. The ‘con’ is that if you choose to extend rather than apply for ILR straight away, then the guidance for the ‘new’ endorsing bodies is harsher on you for the ILR endorsement than the guidance for the ‘legacy’ endorsing bodies. It is easier to get ILR under the old rules than the new rules. That is not because the rules are materially different (they are not). It is because the guidance for each category of endorsing bodies differs in its interpretation of the rules.