INNOVATOR VISA for the UK (in 3 steps) in 2020

Welcome to Innovator Visa Start for the UK




These are three things that you need to demonstrate to make a successful application for a UK innovative visa. This is also relevant if you’re applying for a UK startup visa. Here are also everything you need to know to apply under these roots.  The three things you need to demonstrate are: innovation, viability, and scalability.


This means the applicant has a genuine original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and or creates a competitive advantage. If you’ve been thinking about applying previously under the old tier 1 entrepreneur visa, all you needed to do is invest in an existing or new business in the UK but it did not necessarily need to be new. It didn’t have to need an element of innovation. You could even invest in an existing franchise and I was speaking to someone yesterday who was asking me, “Can I invest in a franchise for this startup visa or innovative visa?” and I was just saying that, you got to be careful here a franchises are on the whole or if not invariably worldwide businesses or successful businesses at least on a national level that have an existing model, they have a prototype which can then can be replicated.

If you’re buying into an existing franchise then by its nature, it’s not necessarily something new so there are possible exceptions to this rule, but a franchise is not generally going to cut it. It may be that you are setting up your own franchise that might be ok but really an innovation, you’re going to be looking for something which is in probably in the tech space or at least that’s likely. Every business needs a digital marketing plan and website etc. that’s a given but most innovation today, you will see in the tech space and the innovation criteria is going to be easier to satisfy if you’re doing something which has the digital element.

There are clients who’s looking at doing something which basically involves building a community about around a particular community in London of a particular national and ethnic background. Building a community around that which historically you would have seen more in the form of a community centre and what we’re doing is working that into something which is much more digitally focused about building  an online community and this will manifest itself in the form of meetings at community centres events and one-to-one interactions but you need to have some element of innovation that’s most likely to be seen in connection with digital where are there exceptions to this. It might be you don’t have a digital business but there’s some unique IP intellectual property. If you look at the settlement criteria, either settlement criteria includes a substantial research and development and an application for IP protection so that’s another litmus test if you like. If what you’re doing is not going to result in something which is capable of being protected and you want to apply under that limb of the settlement criteria so R&D protection. The R&D substantial, Rd developments and you’ve applied for IP protection and that’s only one of many criteria. One of many routes that you can go down but innovation itself is essential.

There’s another client and he’s looking at doing something in AI space artificial intelligence and intelligent elegent automation that just lends itself but to innovation. He’s in a space where there is lots of innovation and the sector itself is new so that might be less of a challenge and then perhaps less of a needs to do something which has a digital strong digital element because AI give something which is outside of the digital space, but the digital space would be a starting point.


The applicant who is actively developing the necessary skills knowledge experience and market awareness to be successfully run the business. This is framed in the language of skills, knowledge and experience but  the finance is going to be a strong element of that unless you can show you’re going to be able to financially support yourself in the UK and support your business in the UK, you’re not going to qualify under this criteria viability. It’s also about financial viability. There’s two elements of that because the UK is actually quite an expensive place between in London but there are various incentives depending on the business sector that you’re in and what you’re doing. There are incentives and tax breaks for example. You can qualify for example, if you’re doing something in thin tech space there’s plenty of benefits the government is really trying to incentivize people to start up fintechs because we’re losing some business in breaks it – to the continent and so there’s a big push for London to be the digital heartland of the Europe. Part of that is incentivizing fintechs because we have a very strong financial sector base in here in London.

On viability, we’re talking here about financial viability. Some of the clients have income from an existing business abroad and their startup is funded by that and if you speak to people in the startup space a lot of if you’re completely fresh starts up and you’re coming from position you’re salaried where you’ve been salaried a lot of people. If you’re starting a startup, the first thing needs to do is get a job, in other words you need some form of residual income to keep they startup going in to fund the many expenses that I start up a new business entails. On that point, work what can you work out and what can’t you work out. There’s a couple of points to be made so there’s a difference between the startup and innovator work restrictions for the UK.

For the the startup visa, the endorsing body has got to be reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing and business ventures so that’s the majority of their working time so there’s still scope and it’s going to be guidance on this. There’s been no guidance yet the rules make it clear that this is the majority of your working time but still leaves scope for working on something outside of your business which is bringing in income or having property portfolio or rental properties which you’re earning residual income from. This is to be contrasted with the work restriction if you like for the innovative visa so the endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

There’s probably two points to be made about this and the first point is that, if you have some for some of passive income and that’s not going to be a problem whether you’re on to the innovative visa or startup visa or income from from investments but the second point is that, it’s possible to in some cases it will be able to incorporate the revenue generating activity within your business proposal and that’s quite possible. If you’re going to be moving, if you are working, if you are salaried at the moment you moving into a position where you’re going to be more on a consultancy basis and that can be incorporated within the business plan.

Novelty, the viability, scalability still needs to be demonstrated but the key thing and point of vulnerability for any business is going to be the the first few months or possibly the first year if that’s when a period when you may not be automatically generating income from your business but you’re still going to need some income to keep you going. For some, this isn’t going to be a problem. I do it for large international operations who are setting up subsidiaries. There are also other visa routes of available. For example, I am talking about the sole representative visa for the UK so this isn’t for everyone and for some people the viability and sense of viability isn’t going to be a problem. It may be that you’ve got venture capital funding depending on your business I can introduce you to my network which includes funders and includes universities. I’ve got a project on at the moment to assist innovator and startup visa applicants where I will connect you with a university and under this program in the UK and knowledge exchange program, you may qualify to have students from the University to assist you in your enterprise because universities are very much keen on innovation that a lot of them have innovation hubs, a lot of them are looking to connect with the private sector to give students experience in technology or areas of innovation and connect people with the startup world which is a very exciting place to be, so that’s the viability criteria.


There’s evidence of a structure so evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets so you’ve got to demonstrate this. Scalability in really or only sort of a standard definition would involve some sort of multiple of revenue year upon year or being able to demonstrate the potential for that. This definition is slightly different. There’s evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth international markets. The first of these looks structured planning and potential for job creation that sets the bar pretty low but growth in to national markets. That’s key so it’s not requiring and necessarily a multiple of revenue as one would ordinarily understand and the scalability to mean, it means growth international market and really that equals having a market share nationally so showing the pathway to having a market share nationally in your particular area.

The interesting thing about this is that you know you’re going to need to niche down the more generic your proposition the more general it is. Probably the less likely it is that you’re going to be able to show that you can take a share of the national market or you have a pathway to be able to achieving that so one could apply here the you know will it fly test so when you’re doing your viability analysis you’re also looking at look what’s our pathway to a share in the marketplace nationally and what is that market share gonna be so the business plan again will need to be ambitious. This all boils down to the business plan in the first instance so that’s where all of these ideas going to be articulated as a first step towards securing support of an endorsing body. 

Those are the three criteria. They all should be embodied in the business plan and don’t use a generic business plan. It’s important to have all the stakeholders involved in the process of formulating your business plan that’s what I assist clients with doing if you just formulates your business plan or business ideas independently of the various stakeholders and potential supporters and funders and universities etc. then you’re taking a high risk strategy, much better to take an approach which involves taking soundings from the various stakeholders and prospective clients the of your potential business and develop it imminently and incrementally and that’s basically the approach that I take so identifying the perspective sort of supporting and body taking your skill set and moving towards a match so that your feature is ultimately going to be granted and so you can you can implement your business successfully in the UK.