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    Innovator Founder Visa


    British laws allow several visa routes for foreign citizens who wish to establish their residency in the United Kingdom. Talented entrepreneurs can apply for the UK Innovator Founder Visa. Let us discuss what this visa is, what the eligibility requirements are, and how to apply for the Innovator Visa.

    What is the Innovator Founder Visa?

    This is a business immigration option designed for both start-up founders and experienced entrepreneurs. It was formerly called Tier 1 Innovator Visa but was renamed in April 2023, and its requirements were revised (for instance, applicants no longer need to invest a specific amount of funds into their future business project).

    The Innovator Founder route is designed for ambitious businesspersons who want to relocate their company to the UK (or launch a local business after they move to the country). Yet, not any business will do: applicants shall demonstrate that their project is innovative, original, and economically viable, and has a potential for growth.

    How to apply?

    In order to secure your visa, it is best to consult Innovator Founder Visa lawyers. They will check whether you are eligible for this immigration route, and will guide you through the entire process to ensure that your application is not rejected.

    The following steps include:

    1. Ensuring your eligibility and strengthening your innovative business idea
    2. Preparing the business plan and other project-related documentation
    3. Obtaining an endorsement letter
    4. Applying for the visa
    5. Getting approval and moving to the UK

    Once in Britain, you will be able to proceed to launching your business (or resuming your business activities there if you relocate your company from your native country). Your endorsing bodies will be likely to provide mentorship and assist you along this new and challenging business path.

    Innovator Founder Visa requirements

    Such a visa can be obtained by a foreign national above the age of 18 who meets a number of eligibility requirements. Their list is not exhaustive since some additional requirements may apply depending on the applicant’s home country, nature of business, and other parameters.

    Endorsement letter

    It shall be issued by a competent UK-based institution and serves for proving that British authorities have no concerns with regard to the origin of your funds, and have no reason to believe that the business was launched for illegal purposes.

    To request an endorsement letter, you shall be either the founder or the key member of your team. The letter shall be issued not more than 3 months prior to the application date.

    Detailed business plan

    Applicants shall explain why their business is promising, how it can contribute to the British economy, and what the key business milestones that are expected to be achieved in the near future. The business plan for the Innovator Founder Visa shall either be entirely elaborated by the applicant or contain their significant contribution. It may include the business idea description, market analysis, marketing and sales strategy, investment requirements, payback projections, job creation plan (if you plan on hiring local professionals to become part of your team).

    Sterling Law offers comprehensive business plan writing services for Innovator Founder Visa. We have successfully obtained endorsement for 95% of the business plans we have prepared. With 5 years of experience specifically in endorsing business plans for the Innovator Visa and a total of 10 years in business plan writing, taking into account our previous work with the Tier 1 Entrepreneur programme, we bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. We strictly adhere to the Home Office guidance for endorsing bodies when crafting your business plan, ensuring that it meets all the necessary requirements.

    English language proficiency

    To be eligible for the UK Founder Innovator Visa, you shall pass the English language test and get at least a B2 level (equivalent to IELTS 5.5). Candidates shall demonstrate good language skills in reading, listening, writing, and speaking.

    Financial independence

    Since a newly founded business does not usually yield profits right from the start, applicants shall demonstrate that they have adequate financial means to provide for themselves while staying in the UK. The minimum amount you must have in your bank account for 28 days before you apply for a visa is £1,270.

    Negative TB test

    This requirement applies only to individuals from countries where such a medical procedure is mandatory.

    Endorsing bodies

    As mentioned above, one of the crucial requirements for obtaining the visa is an endorsement letter. This is an official proof that your business ideas are valuable and worth developing in the United Kingdom. While assessing your business, the endorsing institution will also carry out a due diligence to check that you comply with the local legislation.

    Among the local Innovator Founder Visa endorsing bodies that can issue an endorsement letter there are:

    • UK Endorsing Services
    • Innovator International
    • Investors Limited
    • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP)

    In the majority of the cases, it is sufficient to apply for an endorsement letter enclosing detailed information on your proposed venture. However, some of the bodies (like the GEP) endorse only the participants of their programme.

    If you are a member of a founding tea, each other member shall apply for their endorsement letter individually while demonstrating their instrumental role in it as well.

    Required documents

    Apart from an endorsement letter and business papers, a typical set of documents includes an application, the applicant’s passport, an English language certificate, information on other executive team members (if any), and a proof of your financial situation (a bank certificate etc.). Depending on the candidate’s personal circumstances, other documents may be required, and the list of documents is subject to occasional changes. This is why it is crucial to check the most up-to-date requirements before applying for your visa.

    How long can you stay on an Innovator Founder Visa?

    The validity of this type of visa is 3 years. Once this period is over, an extension can be requested but it is required to prove that you still meet all the eligibility criteria.

    How much does it cost?

    The application fee for foreign nationals who are based outside the UK is £1,191. If you are applying to extend or change your visa within the UK the application fee will be £1,486 per person.

    You must also pay a INS (Health Surcharge) payments for the future access to the UK healthcare (mandatory):

    • Main applicant — £1,035 per year (3 years on the visa — £3,105 overall) 
    • Dependent adult — £1,035 per year (3 years on the visa — £3,105 overall) 
    • Dependent child — £776 per year (3 years on the visa — £2,328 overall)

    Visa processing time

    Another advantage of applying from outside Britain is a shorter processing time: normally, decisions are adopted within 3 weeks from the application date. Candidates who already live in the UK and apply from within the country will have to wait for at least 8 weeks.

    Conditions of stay

    Like any other immigration route, the Innovator Founder Visa provides for certain conditions that the visa holder shall abide by. A natural requirement is that the entrepreneur shall engage in business activities for which they obtained their visa.

    The visa does not prevent its holder from assuming another job. However, it shall fall within the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) as a skilled role.

    Can I bring dependents to the UK?

    Visa holders can immigrate with the immediate family members. These include a spouse or a partner and financially dependent children below the age of 18. If the entrepreneur immigrates with their family, the minimum monthly salary requirement increases: it shall include £315 for the first child and £200 for any additional child. If the applicant’s partner is also economically dependent, the availability of another £285 per month shall be proven.

    Does the Innovator Founder route lead to settlement?

    Foreign entrepreneurs who moved to the UK on such a visa can file for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) right after the initial 3-year visa is over. To be eligible for a permanent settlement, immigrants shall prove that their business has expanded considerably over this time. In particular:

    • They have already invested at least £50,000 into their company
    • They have created at least 5 full-time jobs for resident employees whose early salary is £25,000 or more (if 10 or more jobs are created – then no minimum salary requirement holds)
    • The company’s gross revenue in the previous year was at least £1 million
    • The number of the company’s customers is higher than the average number of customers of comparable British businesses
    • The business actively engages in research and development activities and/or has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK

    Switching to a Innovator Founder Visa from other visas

    Businesspersons who were previously granted a Start-Up Visa, a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa or an Innovator Visa can switch to the Innovator Founder Visa. In this case the application fee will be slightly lower but this route is not designed for holders of other visas designed for students, parents, seasonal or domestic workers and so on.

    A new endorsement letter shall be obtained since the Home Office will need to see that your business is active, sustainable and actively developing. Besides, you will have to attend two contact pointing meetings with your endorsing body. Yet, visa switching enables you to continue running your business while putting your stay in the UK in line with the latest legal requirements.

    How can we help?

    Obtaining a UK business visa is not smooth sailing, and even the smallest error or some neglected new rule can lead to your application being rejected. To avoid this, it is recommended to seek the Innovator Founder Visa guidance, and this is where our company can help.

    Sterling Law is a renowned law firm with years of experience in handling business immigration cases. We offer comprehensive legal assistance and support our customers on each stage of the application process – from assessing the eligibility requirements to actually relocating to the UK:

    • Our legal team will guide you through the eligibility requirements, your obligations, and the opportunities as a prospective Innovator Founder Visa holder in the UK. We will develop a strategy for profile enhancement and Visa application.
    • Our business plan expert will evaluate your business idea and conduct UK market research to ensure its innovativeness
    • Our business plan expert will craft a professional business plan, ensuring that all eligibility criteria are met and that your future business is innovative, viable, and scalable in the UK
    • Our solicitor will compile the necessary documents to complete your profile representation for the endorsement application and submit your application to the Endorsement Body
    • Our legal team will prepare you for the interviews to ensure you navigate all endorsement assessment stages smoothly
    • Upon receiving the endorsement approval letter, our solicitor will prepare the necessary documents for you and your dependents to apply for the Innovator Founder Visa and Dependents’ Visas accordingly
    • We will act as your legal representatives throughout the entire application process until you receive your final Visa approval from the Home Office

    Our legal fees for representation are as follows:

    • One-hour consultation for case assessment and strategy development — £165 + VAT
    • Business idea assessment by the business plan expert — from £500 + VAT
    • Business plan preparation — from £4000 + VAT to £6000 + VAT, depending on the complexity of the case
    • Endorsement Body application and Innovator Founder Visa application with our solicitor — £3000 + VAT
    • Dependent Visa application with our solicitor — £600 + VAT

    Entrust your business immigration to experienced solicitors from Sterling Law!

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