In March 2019 the UK announced the Start-Up and Innovator Visa pathways into the country. Since the introduction of the new Visas, the Coronavirus Pandemic and resulting lockdowns saw applications grind to a halt for the better part of 18 months. However, in the last 12 months applications for what are considered to be the perfect solution for businessmen looking to establish a presence in the UK have seen a tremendous increase.
Innovator Visa or Start Up Visa: What are the differences?
There has been a common misunderstanding about the two new visas that needs to be set straight. Both of the visas for the UK are suitable for any type of business, not just IT or technology focused businesses. The former Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa, a visa specific to eligible graduates of UK educational establishments, has been replaced by the Start-Up Visa, and the former Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa has been replaced by the Innovator visa.
The Innovator visa caters towards more seasoned entrepreneurs who have an existing business or business idea and can invest funds into the business. The start-up visa on the other hand is meant for budding entrepreneurs who may not currently be able to invest funds into a business.
Under the Innovator visa, you can start other businesses in addition to the initial business but will not be permitted to take on external employment. Start-up visa holders on the other hand, are permitted to undertake external employment while continuing to develop their businesses.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of the Innovator and Start-up Visas?
There are pros and cons to each visa, and it is recommended that you engage the services of our advisory team to assist selecting and applying for the most suitable visa for your needs. You can contact our advisory services team here.
What so I need to Qualify for an Innovator or Start-Up Visa in the UK?
Both the Innovator and Start-Up visas for the UK have very clear, almost identical requirements. For both visas the following requirements must be met:
- You must be at least 18 years of age.
- You have not previously established a business in the UK (some exceptions apply).
- Your business idea will need to be endorsed by an authorized organization not more than 3 months before your application. Authorized organizations include approved investment firms, incubators or business accelerators located in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales.
- You must have a clear and viable business plan with supporting documents and evidence – investing the time, effort, and expense of drawing up a professional business plan will be crucial.
- You genuinely intend to run your business in the UK and are capable of doing so as stated in your application.
- You meet the desired level of fluency in the English language by showing competence of CEFR Level B2 which is equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
- You have access to funds to support your stay in the UK. This currently stands at £945 for 90 days (£630 for dependents). Supporting evidence is again required.
In addition, if you are applying for the Innovator Visa, your business must have access to at least £50,000 in capital. Proof of these funds will be required, and investment claims will be scrutinized.
Endorsing your Business Plan or Idea:
Your business idea and/or plan must be endorsed by an accredited institution related to the nature of the business. These institutions may include approved investment firms, business incubators and accelerators anywhere within England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales. Three important and pertinent questions will form the basis of the accreditation and will be used in determining the outcome of the visa application. These questions are:
- Is your business idea unique and innovative?
- Is your business plan viable for the UK?
- You need to prove that you intend to open a new company or invest in an existing company that is both scalable and has a reasonable level of sustainability.
- You must also produce a valid business plan that meets the highest British standards.
- Does your business idea have the potential for growth and revenue generation and to what degree of certainty?
Upon receipt of your visa, you maintain contact with your endorsing body, achievements and results must be reported. If your business does not succeed in line with your forecast, your endorsement may be withdrawn, and the visa application may need to start afresh.
Where does the Start-Up Visa apply?
Ultimately, the Start-up Visa applies if you don’t have access to £50,000 for the Innovator Visa. In a nutshell, the start-up visa is ideal for young entrepreneurs who have a superb idea that can be turned into a successful business who lack funds as the business is at an early stage. As the business develops and finds its feet, the process of applying for an Innovator Visa is a next step. Basically, the start-up Visa is buying time for what could be a successful business.
How much do the Innovator and Start-Up Visa’s Cost?
Application fees for start-up visas typically cost around £370 and £1,100 for an Innovator License, these fees are non-refundable. Each eligible dependent, Spouse and/or minor child, joining you in the UK will need to pay the same.
How Long Can I Stay in the UK?
With the Innovator Visa you are automatically granted a 3-year stay in the UK. After 3 years has lapsed an extension of up to a further 3 years can be applied for. You will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) as an Innovator after spending 3 years in the Innovator visa category and can apply for Citizenship after 5 years.
With the Start-up visa you are only initially granted a 2-year stay in the UK. During this 2-year period your business needs to have had some considerable success and must have created jobs in the UK. Only once the criteria that determines business success has been met can you apply for an Innovator visa and follow the same path as above.
How Long Does the Application Take?
Each application varies but typically, the decision should be made within three weeks.
We hope this article has increased your interest in the Start-Up and Innovator visas. If you would like professional advice and legal assistance with with either of these programs, please free to contact us using the form below.