Innovator Visa – The new route for entrepreneurs

From March 29, 2019 Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa has been replaced by Tier 1 Innovator visa. Those migrants, who have already been in the UK under Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, can continue to stay in the UK under their existing visa. They will be able to apply for extension of their Entrepreneur visas and also for ILR under the old rules for Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. The innovator visa is designed for those who can demonstrate relevant experience in business.

By introducing the new immigration visa the government is looking to address previous concerns with entrepreneur visa application process, which was too subjective and dependEnt on the assessment of the Home Office caseworker. By requiring applicants to secure endorsement prior to making their application to the Home Office, it is hoped the new visa will offer a more objective evaluation of the viability of the business idea.

The investment amount has been significantly reduced, from £200,000 under the old Entrepreneur visa route to £50,000 under the new Innovator route. A smaller capital requirement should open up the route to a wider pool of candidates and shift the focus of the application on the merit and potential for the business idea to be successful.

The main criteria are:

  1. Endorsement by a relevant business sponsor. Applicants are required to secure endorsement by a business sponsor, who will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability. After the visa is granted the applicant will have to maintain a Regular contact with the endorsing body.
  2. Minimum investment of £50,000 in the business should be secured from any legitimate source. This has been reduced from £200,000 for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa applicants. This investment is waived if the applicant is switching from the Start-Up visa.
  3. English language requirement.
    The application fee for the new route has been set at the same rate as the entrepreneur visa.


The applicants of Tier Innovator visa can be eligible to apply for ILR in the UK after 3 years’ continuous residence in the country, provided a minimum of two of the following conditions are met:
At least £50,000 has been invested and spent in the business
• The business has created 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 paying at least £25,000
• The business has generated gross revenue of at least £1 million
• The number of the business’ customers has at least doubled in the 3 years and is 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 is generating at least £500,000 in revenue with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas


The candidate’s a visa application will have to get Endorsement from an approved body. The government publishes a list of organisations authorised to endorse applications for the Innovator route. There are currently 24 endorsing bodies, covering the breadth of sectors.
Candidates have to provide a business plan along with other relevant supporting documentation to evidence that they satisfy the following requirements:

Originality of the business idea will be the critical factor. The business plan will have to demonstrate the product, service and/or its promotion is genuinely innovative, inventive and original and that it new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.



Candidates will need to possess and evidence the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully deliver their business idea. Moreover, the business itself must be able to show it can maintain cash flow until profitability.

A key determinant will be potential contribution to the UK economy in the form of job creation and planning for growth into national and international markets.

The endorsing organisation must also be reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing the business venture. The innovator may not work for another business.

During the period of change, it is quite challenging for applicants to ensure they are working to current eligibility and decision-making criteria as some criteria are still rather subjective. It is our view that, following a “probation” period, which may last from a few months to a year, the Innovation visa can provide the non-EU candidates with an excellent opportunity to develop their business and make a contribution to the vibrant UK economy as well as to enjoy the benefits of living in one of the most desirable countries of Europe, where innovation is part of the tradition.