Our immigration and visa partner, Kingsley Napley, share their latest insight on the UK's new Innovator Founder Visa Route. Read it below or visit their blog for this and other issue updates.
The new Innovator Founder visa route will commence from 13 April 2023, which will also see the end of the Start-Up visa scheme.
The Innovator Founder route will replace the previous Innovator route and there will now only be three Home Office approved Endorsing bodies. Going forward, new applicants (who do not have an endorsement letter prior to 13 April 2023) will need to seek an endorsement with one of the three new Endorsing Bodies approved for the Innovator Founder route.
The previous Endorsing bodies (now known as ‘Legacy Endorsing bodies’) will continue to maintain applicants who entered the Innovator visa scheme before 13 April 2023. They will be able to continue endorsing applicants which they have previously issued endorsement letters for but only for the same business idea used in a previous application.
The requirement to show the business proposal is innovative, viable and scalable is still a key feature under the Innovator Founder route. You can apply with a new business concept. Alternatively, you can apply under the same business category, provided that you have previously obtained permission as a Innovator Founder, Innovator, Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and was assessed in a previous application using the same business concept. While the new route is vastly similar to the previous scheme, the new route does offer some welcome changes here
No £50,000 GBP minimum investment requirement
Previously, applicants were required to show at least £50,000 GBP available to invest in the new business but this requirement has been scrapped under the Innovator Founder route, which should offer greater flexibility for entrepreneurs. Businesses that do not need a large amount of capital to kick start the business will see great benefit to this. However, if your business idea requires significant cash injection to start the business, then the new Endorsing bodies may still want you to demonstrate you have the necessary funds available so that you can start your business in the UK, usually for at least the next 12 months.
Minimum two contact points
Legacy Endorsing bodies were previously required to stay in contact with Innovator applicants at checkpoints of 6, 12 and 24 months. The new rules now only require a minimum of two contact points which may present more flexibility as to when new applicants ought to meet with their Endorsing body. Different industries and businesses will have different timelines in how they develop their business so moving away from set 6, 12 and 24 month checkpoints will help ease the pressure for some entrepreneur innovators to develop their business under less rigid timescales.
Secondary employment allowed
Previously, it was a condition that Innovators could only work for the business the Innovator has established in the UK. Now, Innovator Founders can take up secondary employment provided that the role is at a skill level not less than RQF level 3, which is equivalent to A-levels or high school leavers. This is a welcome change as it is not uncommon for entrepreneurs to start their new business venture while being in employment for other businesses. This reflects the reality for genuine entrepreneurs who are multifaceted. It would also help those to earn and maintain their life in the UK until their business is at a stage where the applicant no longer requires earning from their secondary employment.
Can I use an endorsement letter issued by a Legacy Endorsing body under the new scheme?
If you are applying on the basis of a new business, you can use the endorsement letter issued by the Legacy Endorsing body if the letter is dated before 13 April 2023. Alternatively, if the Legacy Endorsing body previously endorsed you as a Start-up applicant, then the same Legacy Endorsing body can endorse you to apply for the Innovator Founder route.
If you are applying under the same business category, you can only rely on the endorsement from a Legacy Endorsing body if you previously obtained your first endorsement letter with that same Legacy Endorsing body before 13 April 2023 and subsequently applied on the Innovator Founder visa route post 13 April 2023.
With the upcoming changes, applicants will now need to check a number things before they apply. Please contact Kingsley Napley for a checklist for Innovator Founder applicants.