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The Ultimate Guide to the UK Innovator Founder Visa

Updated 04.06.24 14 minutes read

The UK government has established various visa programs to promote job creation and economic growth. The Innovator Founder Visa program provides a legal avenue for foreign residents to start businesses in the UK.

Started in April of 2023, the Innovator Founder Visa combines the role of two now-expired visa programs into a single path forward for foreign entrepreneurs seeking to establish a new business in the United Kingdom. 

The inclusion of “Innovator” in the name of the program is no accident. There is now a deliberate emphasis on innovation when selecting applicants and one of the explicit goals of the program is to support new businesses that are lacking in the current market. In addition to their innovative potential, applicants for this visa are also judged on the viability of the concept and scalability once it comes to market. 

Since its fairly recent debut, the Innovator Founder Visa has been met with enthusiasm from the business community due to its applicant-friendly features:

  • Streamlined Process: It consolidates and simplifies the previous visa categories, making it easier for entrepreneurs to understand and navigate the application process.
  • No Minimum Investment Requirement: Unlike its predecessor, the Innovator Founder Visa does not require a minimum investment amount, making it more accessible to a broader range of entrepreneurs who might not have substantial initial capital but possess innovative business ideas.
  • Eligibility for Innovative Ideas: The visa is designed to attract entrepreneurs with innovative, viable, and scalable business ideas. This focus on innovation aligns well with the UK’s goal of fostering a dynamic business environment.
  • Path to Settlement: The Innovator Founder Visa offers a clear path to permanent residency (Indefinite Leave to Remain) after three years, provided certain criteria are met. This can be a significant draw for entrepreneurs looking for long-term stability.
  • Flexibility: The visa allows entrepreneurs to work on their business and, if necessary, take on other work to support themselves. This flexibility can be crucial for new entrepreneurs who need additional income sources while establishing their businesses.
  • Family Inclusion: Entrepreneurs can bring their immediate family members (spouse/partner and children) with them, making it an attractive option for those looking to relocate with their families.

The information provided here is meant as an outline of the program. See the official website for more information or consult with an immigration professional for legal advice.

Now that we’ve outlined why it has thus far been a success, let’s look at the purpose and strategic goals of the Innovator Founder Visa. 

What the Innovator Founder Visa Does

The UK Innovator Founder Visa program is designed to attract experienced entrepreneurs who want to establish an innovative business in the United Kingdom. The key purposes of the program are to support these areas:

Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The visa targets individuals with innovative, viable, and scalable business ideas. The aim is to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within the UK.

Economic Growth
By attracting talented entrepreneurs, the program seeks to boost the UK economy. The businesses founded by visa holders are expected to create jobs, stimulate economic activity, and contribute to the UK’s overall economic development.

Global Competitiveness
The program aims to enhance the UK’s standing as a leading global destination for innovative business ventures. This helps the UK remain competitive in the global market by attracting elite entrepreneurial talent.

A Diverse Business Ecosystem
By adding entrepreneurs from around the world, the program contributes to a diverse and dynamic business ecosystem within the UK, leading to a more vibrant and resilient economy.

A Simplified Immigration Process
The Innovator Founder Visa consolidates and simplifies the immigration process for entrepreneurs, making it easier for them to establish their businesses in the UK without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.

Overall, the UK Innovator Founder Visa program is a strategic initiative to promote innovation, attract global talent, and strengthen the UK’s position as a hub for entrepreneurial activity.

Now, let’s look at the eligibility criteria for applicants for the Innovator Founder Visa. 

UK Innovator Founder Visa

Eligibility for the Innovator Founder Visa

Establishing eligibility for the Innovator Founder Visa starts before you file the application. 

That’s because the first step in becoming eligible involves having your business idea evaluated by an “endorsing body”. There are three such organizations:

Their role is to examine the proposed business venture and review it according to the three metrics mentioned above:

  • Innovation: The innovation must be at the center of the business concept and deliver a real market advantage over current competitors.
  • Viability: The project must be aimed at a clear, demonstrated market opportunity based on original research.
  • Scalability: The strength of the team behind the idea and their go-to-market strategy. 

If a project is approved by one of the endorsing bodies, it is given an endorsement letter, verifying that it meets the standards expected for the Innovator Founder Visa. On the basis of that endorsement letter, the individual or team behind the project can formally apply to the program. 

Other eligibility requirements for applicants include being at least 18 years of age, meeting an English language proficiency standard and demonstrating that they have enough financial resources to support themselves while in the UK. 

Duration of the Innovator Founder Visa

The Innovator Founder visa is initially granted for three years. It can be extended for additional 3-year periods, as long as the business continues to meet the criteria and remains endorsed. There is no maximum limit on the number of extensions.

Visa holders are able to apply for settlement once they’ve been in the UK for 3 years, provided they meet certain criteria, such as continuing to run their endorsed business and meeting the general requirements for settlement.

During the initial three-year period, applicants must meet with the endorsing body that issued the endorsement letter that made participation in the program possible. The meetings come at 12 and 24 months after getting started and the purpose is to show that the project is making the expected progress. If the results of these reviews are unsatisfactory, the endorsing body may withdraw their support, which can in turn result in the visa being canceled. 

What the Innovator Founder Visa Provides

Successful applicants to the Innovator Founder Visa program enjoy several significant benefits:

  • A Pathway to Permanent Residency. Referred to as “Indefinite Leave to Remain” (ILR), one of the most significant benefits of the Innovator Founder Visa is that it offers a pathway to permanent residency in the UK. After living in the UK for three years, visa holders can apply for ILR, provided they meet certain criteria related to their business activities and residency requirements.
  • Eligibility for British Citizenship. After obtaining ILR and living in the UK for an additional year, individuals can apply for British citizenship. This provides full rights to live, work, and vote in the UK and the ability to travel on a British passport.
  • Mentorship and support. The endorsement process provides access to mentorship and support from approved endorsing bodies, which can be invaluable for business development and networking within the UK’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • Flexibility in Business Operations. Innovator Founder Visa holders can engage in multiple business ventures as long as they are endorsed. This flexibility allows entrepreneurs to diversify their investments and pursue various business opportunities within the UK.
  • Access to Funding and Investment Opportunities. The UK has a vibrant venture capital and private equity market, providing ample opportunities for funding. Visa holders can connect with investors, accelerators, and incubators to support the growth of their businesses.
  • Family Inclusion. Successful applicants can bring their dependents (spouse/partner and children under 18) to the UK. Dependents have the right to work and study in the UK, making it an attractive option for entrepreneurs with families.

The UK Innovator Founder Visa offers a range of benefits that make it an attractive option for experienced entrepreneurs and investors. From the pathway to permanent residency and citizenship to access to a robust business environment and market opportunities, this visa category supports the establishment and growth of innovative businesses in the UK. 

UK Innovator Founder Visa

The Role of a Business Plan in the Innovator Founder Visa Program

Business-oriented immigration programs everywhere depend on the inclusion of a comprehensive business plan, and the Innovator Founder Visa is no exception. Business plans are specifically listed as one of the required elements of an application package. 

Innovator Founder Visas are awarded using a points system, with 70 total points needed to qualify. Under the scoring system used, just submitting a business plan is worth 30 points — nearly half the total needed. 

Then, if the plan clearly demonstrates that the proposed venture is innovative, viable, and scalable, the applicant receives an additional 20 points. The other necessary points are gained through showing English proficiency and financial independence. 

The required business plan makes the entire case for the business idea and is the single most influential factor in proving that the venture aligns with the values of the visa program. 

Submitting a strong Innovator Founder Visa business plan is the best way to maximize your chances of getting approved, and that’s where Joorney can help. We’ve written nearly 30,000 business plans to satisfy the requirements of business immigration visa programs around the world. 

Business plans from Joorney are:

  • Tailored to your specific situation and goals. We understand that every applicant’s situation and goals are unique. Therefore, we work closely with each client to create a customized plan that tells their story and maximizes their chances of success.
  • Based on experience in over 180 industries and fields. Our team of writers has experience in nearly every imaginable business sector. This breadth of experience allows us to craft plans specific to each applicant’s industry and field of practice.
  • Comprehensive and detailed. We understand the importance of both presenting a compelling case for your proposed venture and attention to detail in business plans for Innovator Founder Visas. Our team of writers and editors thoroughly reviews each plan to ensure that it meets the specific requirements of the visa program.

Look to Joorney to Help Start Your UK Business Ambitions 

A well-written business plan can make all the difference when it comes to an Innovator Founder Visa application. It can showcase your project’s innovation, viability and scalability while demonstrating how it helps to further the goals of the visa program. 

Our team of international, multilingual consultants at Joorney understands the importance of crafting a high-quality business plan that meets the specific requirements of the Innovator Founder Visa application process. We want to help you tell your story and showcase your potential so that you can take the next step toward achieving your goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about our business plans, reach out to us today.

Joorney Business Plans is not a law firm nor an immigration consulting firm, and no information provided in this document should be considered as legal advice or recommendation regarding any immigration application program. All information provided in this document should be verified by a licensed or certified immigration professional before the reader can act on this information. As such, it is understood that Joorney Business Plans Inc. shall not be liable for any loss or damage of whatever nature (direct, indirect, consequential, or other), whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, which may arise as a result of your use of (or inability to use) this document, or from your use of (or failure to use) the information on this document.