Innovator visa: how to get endorsed in 5 steps (in 2020)

 

1. Innovator visas: what are the requirements you have to meet for all applications? ✅

Mandatory Evidence

This section provides details on all the mandatory evidence required for all Innovator visa applications.

Approved endorsers

  • The Bakery
  • Seed Camp
  • Invest Northern Ireland
  • Zinc
  • Deep Science Ventures
  • Wayra
  • Ignite
  • Bethnal Green Ventures
  • Codebase
  • Capital Enterprise
  • Cylon
  • TechX
  • Seed Haus’
  • Med City
  • Scottish Edge
  • Royal Society Edinburgh
  • Tech Nation
  • NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Set Squared Bristol
  • Set Squared Exeter
  • Set Squared Southampton
  • Set Squared Surrey

Switching into the Innovator route is allowed for applicants who have, or were last granted, leave as a:

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

Documents not in English

All documents you provide with an application must be in English or Welsh. If they are not, you must provide a copy of the original and a full translation which has been independently verified.

The translation must:

  • confirm that it is an accurate translation of the original document
  • be dated
  • include the full name and signature of the translator or an authorised official of
  • the translation company
  • include the translator or translation company’s contact details
  • be fully certified and include details of the translator or translation company’s credentials, if the applicant is applying in the UK

English language requirement 

You must have at least a B2 level of English language ability, as defined in the Council of Europe’s common European framework for language and learning.

You should satisfy the English language requirement by:

  • being a national of a majority English speaking country
  • passing an English language test
  • holding a degree which is: 
  • 1) a UK Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or PhD
  • 2) awarded by an establishment outside of the UK and is deemed by UK NARIC to meet the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree or a PhD
  • 3) deemed by UK NARIC to meet or exceed the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree or a PhD in the UK, and is from an educational establishment in one of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America

You can also meet the English language requirement, without the need to provide evidence, if they have ever been given permission to stay in the UK in one 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 assigned on or after 21 April 2011

Maintenance funds:

Level of funding

  • For entry clearance, you must show that you have at least £945 of available funds,
  • plus £630 funds for each dependant.
  • If you cannot, the application will be refused, even if you have met all the other requirements.

Verifying funding

  • To verify your funding, you must ensure:
  • you have personal savings (in line with the appropriate levels of funding required) held for a consecutive 90 day period (finishing on the date of the closing balance on the statement), ending no more than 31 days before the date of your application
  • the endorsing body confirms in the endorsement letter that it has awarded the appropriate amount of maintenance funding to the applicant
  • When the funds are in a currency other than pounds sterling, you must use the:
  • rates published on the OANDA website to convert the amount
  • exchange rate on the date of the application

Acceptable funds

  • Evidence must be in the form of cash funds held in an account (this includes savings accounts and current accounts, even when notice must be given).

Unacceptable funds

  • Other accounts or financial instruments such as shares, bonds, overdrafts, credit cards, pension funds, are not acceptable, regardless of notice period.
  • You must not consider any money earned during a time you were in breach of the UK immigration laws as evidence of maintenance funds. For example, you can only consider earnings made in the UK if the you had leave to enter or remain in the UK at the time they were earned, and in a category which permitted them to take that employment.

Multiple or joint accounts

  • If the money is in a joint account, your name must be on the account along with one or more other named individual.
  • If you supply evidence of multiple accounts (on which you are named), you can take the closing balance of the account that most favours you – as long as it ends no earlier than 31 days before the date of application – and use any other monies from any other accounts to make up the funds required.

Dependants

  • Any dependants must also provide evidence that they have access to sufficient funds, even if they are joining the applicant at a later date.
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2. What if you are starting a new business in the UK? ✅

Requirements

Innovator entry clearance or leave to remain requirements:

This page tells you what requirements you must meet in order to be granted entry clearance or leave to remain as an Innovator who has been endorsed for a new business.

An applicant is considered to be endorsed for a new business when either:

  • You are making an initial application for the Innovator route and you have not been previously endorsed in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or Startup visa routes for the same business
  • You are making an extension application where the business now being pursued is different from the one which you were endorsed for in your last grant of leave

An applicant endorsed for a new business may apply for entry clearance or leave to remain. It is possible to make an extension application from overseas if the applicant has previously held leave as an Innovator.

Before you apply, you must check that:

  • your application is valid
  • your passport or travel document is genuine
  • the general grounds for refusal do not apply

To be granted leave as an Innovator, a you must:

  • meet the general requirements in Appendix W, part W3
  • meet the specific Innovator requirements in Appendix W, part W6

Requirements of part W3: To be granted entry clearance or leave to remain as an Innovator, you must:

  • be at least 18 years old on the date of decision
  • not fail under the general grounds for refusal
  • meet the requirements for English language
  • meet the requirements for maintenance
  • not fail any reasonably required credibility assessment

Requirements of part W6 for new business endorsements: To be granted leave as an Innovator, you must also provide an endorsement letter and if applicable demonstrate that you have either invested or have available to invest £50,000 in your business.

Endorsement letter: The endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body must provide all of the following information:

  • the name of endorsing body
  • the endorsement reference number
  • the date of issue (which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application)
  • your name, date of birth, nationality and passport number
  • a short description of your business venture and the products or services it provides (or will provide) to its customers
  • the name and contact details of an individual at the endorsing body who can verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office
  • your business venture is innovative, viable and scalable in accordance with the rules set out in part W6 of Appendix W
  • the endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures

Investment funds: If you are applying for an Innovator visa with a new business endorsement, you will need to demonstrate that you have either invested or have available at least £50,000 to invest in your new business.

The table below sets out how an applicant can demonstrate that you meet the funding requirements:

Requirements
Where the evidence shows that funds are available to your business rather than to you or that funds have already been invested in the business you must provide a company’s house document showing your connection to the business. This document is not needed if the endorsement letter confirms the applicant’s connection to the business.

When considering funds, you must:

  • not accept any funds held in a financial institution that is listed in Appendix P
  • for any evidence of funds not shown in pounds sterling (£) convert it using the spot exchange rate that appeared on the OANDA website on the date of application

Letter from a legal representative

Where a letter from a legal representative is supplied, which confirms the validity of signatures on each third-party declaration. This must confirm the letter or letters of permission from the third party or parties containing the signatures of the people stated. This can be a single letter, which covers all third party permissions, or several letters from several legal representatives.

The confirmation must come from a legal representative capable of providing the information. This means it must be from a legal representative who is allowed to practise in the country where the third parties or money is.

The letter should clearly show the:

  • name of the legal representative
  • registration or authority of the legal representative to practise legally in the country in which the permission or permissions, was, or were, given
  • date of the confirmation letter
  • names of the applicant and third party (and the team member’s name if you have formed an entrepreneurial team)
  • letter from the third party is signed and valid
  • number of the third party’s identity document, such as a passport or national identity card, and the place of issue of the identity document, and dates of issue and expiry (this is not needed from a venture capital firm, seed funding competition or UK government department or devolved government department in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)

Financial institutions: A financial institution acts as an agent to provide financial services for its clients. Common types of financial institutions include:

  • banks
  • building societies
  • credit unions
  • stock brokerages
  • asset management firms
  • They are responsible for transferring funds from investors to companies in need of those funds. Financial institutions fall under financial regulation from a government authority.

Financial regulation: Financial regulations are a form of control or supervision, subjecting financial institutions to:

  • local requirements
  • restrictions and guidelines
  • maintaining the integrity of the financial system
  • This is handled by either a government or non-government organisation. Under UK law, most financial service firms who want to do business in the UK must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and/or the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

The home regulator

The home regulator is an official financial regulatory body, appropriate for the type of financial transaction required, in the country of operation where the transaction is made.

Money available for investment must be disposable in the UK

  • If the money is not held in the UK, all of the funds needed for the investment must be freely transferable to the UK and able to be converted to pounds sterling.
  • Money held in an overseas account but in a financial institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will satisfy this requirement.
  • Money held overseas in an institution not regulated by the FCA must be transferrable to the UK. You must provide evidence to confirm this, such as a document from the financial institution. Banks are not, however, required to guarantee that this money will be transferred.
  • For overseas companies not registered with the FCA, you can check for information on:
  • Companies House list of overseas regulatory institutions under Worldwide registries
  • the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) general membership lists

If the funds are overseas and subject to any applicable financial sanctions regime, you must provide confirmation from HM Treasury that the funds are transferable and disposable in the UK.

Innovator teams

You do not need to be the sole founders of their businesses. Whilst multiple Innovators in the same company can receive endorsements each applicant must have been endorsed in their own right. For new business applications, each innovator applicant must also be able to demonstrate that they have their own unique £50,000 available to invest in the company.

For example, if two team members are being endorsed for the same business, there must be £100,000 funds, not £50,000.

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3. Innovator visas: what if you are relying on an existing business? ✅

Requirements

Entry clearance or leave to remain requirements:

This section tells you what requirements you must meet in order to be granted entry clearance or leave to remain as an Innovator who has been endorsed for a business that is the same as a business relied upon in a prior application.

A business should be considered under the same business endorsement application if both of the following apply:

  • your last grant of leave was in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), Start-up or Innovator categories
  • you are pursuing the same business venture that was assessed in the endorsement which led to that grant of leave

The same business requirement is always determined on the basis of the business being endorsed rather than the body making the endorsement.

An applicant endorsed for the same business may apply for entry clearance or leave to remain. It is possible to make the same business application from overseas if you have previously held leave as an Innovator or as a Start-up migrant.

Before you consider an application, you must check that:

  • the application is valid
  • your passport or travel document is genuine
  • general grounds for refusal do not apply

To be granted leave as an Innovator, you must:

  • meet the general requirements in Appendix W, part W3
  • meet the specific Innovator requirements in Appendix W, part W6

Requirements of part W3: 

To be granted entry clearance or leave to remain as an Innovator, you must:

  • be at least 18 years old on the date of decision
  • not fail under the general grounds for refusal
  • meet the requirements for English language
  • meet the requirements for maintenance
  • not fail any reasonably required credibility assessment

Same business endorsement requirements of Part W6:

You must provide an Endorsement letter for the same business application which must confirm:

  • the name of endorsing body
  • the endorsement reference number
  • the date of issue (which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application)
  • your name, date of birth, nationality and passport number
  • a short description of your business venture and the products or services it provides (or will provide) to its customers
  • the name and contact details of an individual at the endorsing body who can verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office
  • you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement
  • your business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business
  • the business is active and trading
  • the business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months based on its assets and expected income, weighted against its current and planned expenses
  • you have demonstrated an active key role in the day to day management and development of the business
  • the endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that you will continue to spend your entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures
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4. Innovator visas: how to meet the requirements for permanent residence in the UK✅

Requirements

This section tells you what requirements you must meet in order to be granted settlement in the Innovator route.

Before you consider applying, you must check that:

  • the application is valid
  • your passport or travel document is genuine
  • general grounds for refusal do not apply

To be granted settlement as an Innovator, you must:

  • Meet the general requirements in Appendix W, part W4
  • Meet the specific Innovator settlement requirements in Appendix W, part W6

Requirements of part W4:

To be granted settlement as an Innovator, you must:

  • be at least 18 years old on the date of decision
  • the applicant’s last grant of leave must have been in the Innovator category
  • not fail under the general grounds for refusal
  • meet the requirements for English language set out in Appendix KOLL
  • not be in breach of any immigration laws
  • meets the continuous residence requirement

Continuous Residence:

  • For the settlement in the innovator category, you must have continually resided in the UK for at least 3 years immediately prior to application. In determining if you meet this requirement for continuous residency, you must be satisfied that you have not had combined absences from the UK in excess of 180 days in any consecutive 12-month period.
  • Where you have had excess absences due to your assisting in national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis overseas the time spent providing this assistance will not be counted.
  • All other absences should be considered when assessing continuous residency however decision makers can exceptionally allow absences where you have provided evidence of compelling or compassionate circumstances for your excessive absence. Examples of where such a decision may be appropriate include:

✔ natural disasters

✔ life threatening illness of the applicant or close family member

Settlement endorsement requirements of Part W6: 

Where you are making an application for the settlement you must provide an endorsement letter which must confirm all of the following:

  • the name of endorsing body
  • the endorsement reference number
  • the date of issue (which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application)
  • your name, date of birth, nationality and passport number
  • a short description of your business venture and the products or services it provides (or will provide) to its customers
  • the name and contact details of an individual at the endorsing body who can verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office
  • you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement
  • your business is registered with Companies House and the applicant is listed as a director or member of that business
  • the business is active and trading
  • the business appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months based on its assets and expected income, weighted against its current and planned expenses
  • you have demonstrated an active key role in the day to day management and development of the business
  • your business venture meets at least two of the settlement success criteria

Settlement success criteria

Endorsing bodies must also confirm in their endorsement letter that an applicant has achieved at least 2 of the following:

  • at least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement
  • 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
  • the business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK
  • the business has generated a minimum annual revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts
  • the business is generating a minimum annual revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas
  • the business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers
  • 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)

Innovator teams: You do not need to be the sole founders of their businesses. Whilst multiple Innovators in the same company can receive endorsements each applicant must have been endorsed for achievements in their own right. Where there are multiple Innovators endorsed via the same company the settlement criteria relied upon must have been multiplied by the number of Innovators associated with the business. This can be achieved by either:

Applicants each using different success criteria (4 met in total). Example:

The applicants can demonstrate that they have:

  • created 10 jobs for resident workers
  • at least £50,000 has been invested in the business
  • the business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1million in
  • the last full year covered by its accounts
  • the business has engaged in significant research and development and has
  • applied for intellectual property protection in the UK

Applicants doubling the minimum requirement to reach 2 individual success criteria.

Example: The applicants can demonstrate that they have:

  • created 20 jobs for resident workers
  • invested at least £100,000 in the business

3 success criteria met and one doubled.

Example: The applicants can demonstrate that they have:

  • at least £50,000 has been invested in the business
  • the business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1million in
  • the last full year covered by its accounts
  • the business has engaged in significant research and development and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK
  • created 20 jobs for resident workers
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5. Evidence of maintenance: ✅

Proof of Maintenance

This section tells you what evidence you must provide as proof of maintenance to support an initial or extension application for the Innovator visa.

You must provide evidence of personal savings, which cover a period of 90 consecutive days, and no more than one calendar month before submitting the application.

The documents must:

  • be on the organisation’s official letter-headed paper or stationery
  • have the organisation’s official stamp
  • have been issued by an authorised official of that organisation

Evidence must be in the form of cash funds. You must not:

  • include any overdraft facilities
  • accept other accounts or financial instruments (such as shares, bonds and pension funds), regardless of notice

You must provide one of the following:

  • personal bank or building society statements covering 90 consecutive days – the most recent statement must be dated no earlier than one calendar month before the date of the application
  • building society pass book covering the previous 90 day period
  • a letter from the bank confirming your funds and that they have been in the bank for at least 90 days
  • a letter from a financial institution regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) or, in the case of an overseas account, the home regulator (official regulatory body for the country in which the institution operates and the funds are located), confirming funds

The information must clearly show: 

  • your name
  • the account number
  • the date of the statement
  • the financial institution’s name and logo
  • transactions covering the 90 day period
  • there are sufficient funds present in the account (the balance must always be at
  • least £3,310 or £945, as appropriate)

As evidence the following are acceptable:

  • other bank statements printed on the bank’s letterhead
  • electronic bank statements from an account, if they contain all of the details listed above and:
  • you provide a supporting letter from the bank, on company headed paper, confirming the statements provided are authentic
  • the electronic bank statement has the official bank stamp on every page

The following are not accepted:

  • mini-statements from automatic teller machines
  • statements which simply show the balance in the account on a particular day
  • These are not acceptable as they do not demonstrate you hold sufficient funds for the full period required.
  • You must not consider any money earned when you were in breach of the UK’s immigration laws as evidence of maintenance funds.
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6. Dependants: ✅

Requirements

Under paragraphs 319A to 319K of the Immigration Rules, the following dependants are allowed to come to the UK to join a person granted entry clearance or leave to remain as an Innovator in this category, provided they meet the requirements of the rules:

  • spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner
  • dependent children
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