Innovate your way to the UK

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The new Innovator Founder Visa is an exciting opportunity for individuals with unique business ideas who want to establish their own businesses in the UK.

In recent years, seasoned and aspiring entrepreneurs alike have faced significant challenges in the ever-changing landscape of UK immigration. The removal of several business-orientated immigration categories, such as the Investor and Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, has left potential immigrants unsure as to what routes can be utilised to live and work in the UK. If individuals do not qualify for British Citizenship or have any immediate family connections that could grant them a visa, they may face challenges in finding alternative options. 

These changes do not necessarily mean bad news overall. Even though some of the erstwhile favourites are now gone, this has paved the way for some new and interesting categories to be introduced. One such option is the new Innovator Founder visa.

Innovator Founder Visa 

Stemming from the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, the Innovator Founder visa was opened to applications on 13 April 2023. It replaced the previous versions (and essentially combined), the Innovator and Start-Up visa. This change was caused by the low uptake by applicants and the process being compromised for abuse and is difficult to monitor. 

Much like its predecessors, the Innovator Founder visa route requires an applicant to first obtain endorsement from an endorsement body approved by the Home Office to prove that they have an Innovative, viable and scalable business idea, which they plan on opening and operating in the UK. In conversations with current endorsement bodies, it is clear that they are eagerly awaiting new applications for this new simplified process.

From a glance, the following changes in the process brought by the Innovator Founder are the most notable and perhaps most beneficial:

  1. The number of endorsing bodies approved by the Home Office has significantly decreased from a previous 50+ options to only 4. The main reason for this is for the Home Office to have more control over the structure of the process and place more emphasis on the endorsement process. While the previous system did have certain markers that needed to be met, each endorsement body seemingly charged its own fees (sometimes exorbitant), and all differed from the services they offered. Under the new system, all four endorsing bodies may only consider what the applicants submit to them and charge a uniform once-off fee. This brings about a more organised and predictable system.  
  2. There is no longer a set investment figure that an applicant needs to show for the purpose of the visa application. Previously, applicants had to show that they had £50,000 available to invest in their new UK venture. Whilst the guidance still suggests that the applicant will need to show their funds to prove that their business plan is viable, this will now more likely be dependent on each unique venture. 
  3. The visa holder will now be able to take on other employment opportunities (within certain parameters, of course). This was a major setback in the previous iteration, as a visa holder could only work for their newly established business and with the economic landscape at the time, a lot of visa holders struggled immensely to get their fledgling businesses off the ground and ultimately gave up the race. 

What does the process look like?

The first step under the new system will be approaching a registered endorsement body. Here, the applicant will need to have a comprehensive business plan that addresses the following aspects:

  1. Innovation – The applicant must present a business idea that meets an existing market need in the UK or creates a competitive advantage. 
  2. Viability – The applicant must be the driving force behind this idea and show they have the skills, expertise, and resources to meet their business plan markers realistically.
  3. Scalability – The applicant must prove that they considered the growth of the business through a structured and credible growth plan, which can potentially also reach international markets if need be. 

Once this comprehensive business plan and some other applicable documents have been drafted, an application needs to be made to a chosen endorsement body. The chosen endorsement body will then assess the plan according to very specific Home Office Citeria and decide whether to endorse it. 

Should endorsement be successful, the applicant and their family, if applicable, will be able to apply for a visa to work and reside in the UK, which will start the new and exciting journey.

Recommended Actions by Breytenbachs 

Contact Breytenbachs to explore this new and exciting avenue in more detail. Breytenbachs can offer full guidance and assistance in the process and has already assisted several successful applicants on this route. 

JP Breytenbach, Director

Solicitor of England and Wales, now practising as an OISC Registered UK Immigration Consultant 

Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants Ltd

[email protected]

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