Tier 1 Innovator visa for Entrepreneurs

What is the Tier 1 Innovator visa?

As of 29 March 2019, the Tier 1 Innovator visa has replaced the popular Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. The Tier 1 Innovator visa is for entrepreneurs looking to set up and establish a business in the United Kingdom. Applicants must show that their business is credible and viable and it must be endorsed by a respected and approved endorsing body (see below).  The Tier 1 Innovator visa for experienced businesspeople seeking to establish a business presence in the United Kingdom.

What are the key differences between the new Tier 1 Innovator visa and the former Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa?

Unlike the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, Applicants who wish to apply for the Tier 1 Innovator will no longer be required to invest at least £200,000 in their proposed business. The Home Office has introduced a significant change helping potential entrepreneurs by reducing the initial investment amount from £200,000 to £50,000 for new Applicants. The funding can come from any source and Applicants will not need any investment if their business is already established and has been endorsements for an earlier visa.  The funds must be held for a consecutive 90 day period with the last statement dated within 1 month from the date of submission. There will be an English language requirement of B2 and Appendix O of the Immigration Rules applies.

The Home Office will no longer carry out the Genuine Entrepreneur Test but this task will be delegated to the relevant endorsement body. This should make the actual visa application process straightforward. The main difference is the introduction of the “endorsement requirement” by a relevant business sponsor.

What are the requirements for a Tier 1 Innovator visa?

As mentioned above, the Tier 1 Innovator visa is for entrepreneurs/businesspeople who wish to set up and establish a business presence in the United Kingdom. The following requirements must be met:

  • Applicants must have a credible business idea;
  • Applicants must have at least £50,000 in cash to invest in their proposed business idea;
  • Applicants must meet the English language requirement (Level B2) in accordance with Appendix O of the Immigration Rules;
  • Applicants must meet the maintenance requirement of £945 and the hold the funds for 90 consecutive days; and
  • Applicants must receive a suitable endorsement (see below).

The endorsement must be from an appropriate body which is expected to include some higher education institutions which meet the requirements. The endorsement bodies must have a proven track record of supporting entrepreneurs that are approved by the Home Office. A business plan will be required when applying for the endorsement. Applicants must meet the innovation, viability and scalability requirement to receive an endorsement.

Innovation – Applicants must demonstrate that their business idea is genuine and original. The business idea can be for a tangible product-based business or a service-related business.

Viability – Applicants must demonstrate that their business is practical and credible. Applicants would be required to show that they have the expertise or specialist knowledge of their chosen business field to enable the business to success. Applicants must prepare and submit a well-drafted business plan to show that the business has a clear vision and all the relevant considerations such as start-up costs, target market, market segmentation and competition have been taken into consideration. The business plan should also show the projected cash flow forecast for the first 3 years for the business. Information on other relevant factors such as strengths and weakness of the business and the impact of future growth/decline of the business sector they wish to operate in.

Scalability – Applicants must show that their business idea will benefit the economy in the United Kingdom and the business will contribute to job creation and growth into relevant markets.

Home Office fee for Tier 1 Innovator visa – The Home Office application fee remains the same as the old Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa £1021 (entry clearance) and £1277 (switch in-country). IHS is currently £400 per year.

Will there be settlement (indefinite leave to remain) options under the Tier 1 Innovator visa?

Similar to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa there will be a settlement (indefinite leave to remain) option for Applicants. There will be a fast-tracked settlement route for Tier 1 Innovators who are able to meet the following requirements (at least two must be met):

  • Applicants must have invested at least £50,000 in their business;
  • The business must have created at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers;
  • The business must have created 5 full-time jobs for resident workers with a minimum salary of £25,000;
  • The business must have generated gross revenue of at least £1 million;
  • The business must show that there has been an increase in the number of business customers;
  • The business has contributed to valuable research and development and has applied for intellectual property protection in the United Kingdom; or
  • The business is generating a minimum of £500,000 with £100,000 from exporting overseas.

It should be noted that the above is yet to be formally confirmed and there may be some changes to the settlement requirements once the updated Immigration Rules, Home Office Policy Guidance and Appendix W of the Immigration Rules is published on 29 March 2019.

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