Innovator Founder Visa

On 9th March 2023, the Home Office presented its latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules” (HC1160) to parliament. The statement includes proposals for important changes to the existing Innovator visa and the ending of the Start-up visa route. In this article, we will explain what we know about the new Innovator Founder visa and how this will differ from the existing Innovator visa scheme.

Why Has The Innovator Founder Visa Been Introduced?

Since its launch in March 2019, there have been long-standing concerns that the existing Innovator and Start-up visas were not fit for purpose. The Home Office’s own statistics show that the schemes were not particularly popular; in 2022, only 299 Innovator visas and 377 Start-up visas were issued.

The low take-up of these visas was in part due to the lack of flexibility provided. Not only did Innovator visa applicants require £50,000 available to invest in their business, but they were also restricted in their ability to do secondary work in the UK. The new scheme aims to address these shortfalls.

In July 2021, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published “UK Innovation Strategy: leading the future by creating it”. This outlined plans to revitalise the Innovator route by making it simpler, faster, and more flexible. The new Innovator Founder visa represents the outcome of these plans.

What is the Innovator Founder Visa?

The Innovator Founder visa will replace the existing Innovator visa, however, it will still target overseas business people who wish to establish an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK. In addition, the new route will continue to enable innovators to gain permanent accelerated settlement in the UK after just 3 years (compared to the normal 5 years).

The new Innovator Founder visa makes two main changes to the innovator route:

  1. Removal of the £50,000 investment fund requirement

Under the new scheme, there will no longer be a set requirement for applicants to show evidence of £50,000 or more in investment funds. The explanatory notes accompanying the statement of changes state, “The new route removes the £50k minimum funds requirement currently applied to those coming to the UK to establish an innovative business in order to make more flexible provision for those with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and sufficient funds to deliver it”.

2. Greater flexibility to do secondary work

The Innovator Founder visa will also make it much easier for holders to do secondary work in the UK to support themselves while establishing their new business. The statement of changes explains that Innovator Founder visa holders will be able to do secondary work as long as this is in a skilled role at RQF level 3 or above. RQF level 3 is equivalent to an A-level qualification (i.e. college level).

Final words

The latest statement of changes to the immigration rules means that the Start-up route will no longer be open for new applications from 13th April 2023 unless supported by endorsements issued prior to this date. Those applying under the newer Innovator Founder visa route will benefit from less stringent investment criteria and greater flexibility when it comes to secondary employment.

Garth Coates is a leading niche immigration firm based in the heart of London, specialising in all forms of personal and business immigration, including visas, global mobility, sponsorship and compliance, settlement, and citizenship. For more details on the new Innovator Founder visa, speak to a member of our business immigration team on Tel: +44 (0)20 7799 1600 or by completing our online contact form.

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