Innovator and Start-Up Visas

The UK offers a new business visa route geared towards the innovators, which replaces the previous Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. It provides an exciting opportunity to set up a business in the UK with little or no initial investment.

The innovator or start-up visa consists of an application process, demanding not only legal knowledge but a combination of highly specialised technical expertise together with a creative world-smart approach. 

JMW is one of a handful of firms that have truly mastered these applications. Our team of expert solicitors has proven experience in successfully handling these applications with a complete solution.

To speak to a member of the immigration team about applying for an innovator or start-up visa, contact us by calling 0345 872 6666 or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.

How JMW Can Help

JMW’s team of experienced advisors will hold an initial no-obligation consultation with you in order to discuss how we may assist you in translating your innovative idea into a strong pitch detailing core aspects of your business model. The 30-minute consultation will also help to determine the business concept and gauge whether you have the potential to make an application under the innovator or start-up category and advise accordingly.  

We will then ‘stress test’ your business concept, which allows a deep dive into your idea to focus on the innovative and business elements. Further to conducting research on facts and figures, we will work to crystalize core elements, where necessary, to meet the set criteria by both the Home Office and the relevant endorsing body. 

The information is then married into a critical synopsis, which will then be presented to appropriate endorsing bodies to gauge feedback as to whether your idea is likely to receive the required endorsement or not. 

Unique to JMW is our ability to gauge the approval of the endorsing body prior to diving deeper into the application process. Through this process, JMW has become one of the few law firms in the UK successfully completing numerous applications for innovators and start-ups.

Once we receive positive feedback from the relevant Home Office endorsement body on the business concept, we will continue to work closely with you and the relevant endorsing body to gain endorsement, which may require you to formally pitch your business concept or present a more detailed business plan. 

The last stage of the process, once endorsement has been achieved, will be to prepare and present your visa application in order to be granted leave as an innovator.

Our focus is to take your application in stages to manage expectations and fees whereby we would only move to the next stage of the application process once the previous stage has been successfully completed.  

We have successfully achieved entry clearance for numerous applicants under these categories and continue to be engaged in numerous further applications.

What is an Innovator Visa?

If you have an idea that you believe is original and innovative, then the innovator visa route could be an option for you. Contrary to the misconception that this visa route is reserved for technological innovators, it is, in fact, encompassing of almost all areas of innovation. The crux of the application is to have a sound innovative idea, which is viable and scalable and has been approved by a Home Office endorsing body.

For this visa route, you are required to demonstrate that you have an innovative business idea, are an experienced business person, and in possession of £50,000. 

There is also an English language requirement at CEFR level B2 that needs to be met, as well as a maintenance requirement. 

The visa will enable you to launch your business idea in the UK and also provides a route to settlement for you and your family after three years.

What is a Start-Up Visa?

The start-up visa is an attractive category for the young, dynamic innovator who is looking to step into the world of business for the very first time. The most exciting feature of this category is that there is no initial investment required.

The route is similar to the innovator category as you must demonstrate that you have an innovative idea that has been endorsed by an approved Home Office endorsing body. 

Although the English language requirement stands, there is no need to demonstrate past experience. This visa provides a route to settlement for you and your family after five years.

What is the Difference Between Innovative and Start-Up Visas?

The key differences between the two visa routes are as follows:

Innovator Visa RouteStart-up Visa Route
This route is for the experienced entrepreneurThis route is for the aspiring business person
There is an initial investment criterion of £50,000There are no investment criteria
For a duration of three years and can be extended any number of timesFor a period of two years and cannot be extended; you must switch into another category (such as the innovator category).
Leads to settlement in the UK after three years at the earliest on the proviso that the legal requirements are metDoes not lead to settlement. You must switch into another category which leads to settlement
Permitted to invest in either a new or existing businessAs a start-up, you must set up and develop new business
Permitted to form a team consisting of two innovators with each investing £50,000 eachPermitted to form a team consisting of two partners with each having its idea endorsed


What are the criteria for settlement through the startup and innovator visa?

The start-up visa does not lead to settlement since it is designed to be a stepping stone for the aspiring entrepreneur to reach their ultimate goal of being a recognised innovator through switching to the innovator visa category. The innovator visa leads to settlement after three years. 

Whether your visa is under the start-up or the innovator category, you must meet the milestones set by your endorsing body and report your achievements and results.

In order to qualify for settlement in addition to the general requirements, you would need to demonstrate that you continue to be endorsed by the relevant body and take a key role in the day-to-day management of the business, have registered your business with Companies House (or listed yourself as a director or member of an existing business) and have met certain milestones. 

The milestones that are required to be met for settlement are detailed - here is an overview:

  • You have made the required minimum investment of £50,000, 
  • You have created at least 10 full-time jobs (or five, dependent on salaries)
  • You have a proven increase in customers
  • You had an annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last financial year 

Further to obtaining indefinite leave to remain in the UK, you would be permitted to apply for British citizenship further to having held indefinite leave to remain for 12 months, and total residency in the UK of five years.

What fee structure can JMW offer for innovator and start-up applicants that would offer a high-quality service, as well as the best value of their money?

At JMW, we operate a client-focused approach where your interests come first. Thus transparency for all parties in all matters, including professional fees is central to our ethos. There are no surprise or hidden fees since we operate in a fixed fee structure and spell out the scope of our work prior to engagement.

For start-up and innovator clients, we offer a staged fixed fee structure so that our fees are fully transparent and you are only liable to pay fees for the next stage of the process upon a successful outcome in the previous stage. 

Following a free no-obligation consultation to determine whether you have an innovative concept, our fees are broken into three stages:

Stage 1: Business concept and synopsis
Stage 2: The endorsement stage that will include pitching your business concept and providing a more detailed business plan
Stage 3: The visa application stage

Can you help if I have an innovative business idea but I have yet to crystallise this into a business concept?

As part of our stage one process we offer two options, each of which attracts a different fee: 

Option A 
This is for the applicant who has a business concept in mind and has already conducted research, facts and figures. We will work on the concept to crystallise core elements and formulate a detailed synopsis. The synopsis will be used to gauge interest from the endorsing body and where interest is expressed we then move to stage two. 

Option B
This is for the applicant who has a business concept in mind but may not have conducted any research. We would spend greater time to work into more detail into the concept and the ‘Stress Test’ to crystallise core elements meeting the criteria to formulate a detailed synopsis. The synopsis will be used to gauge interest from the endorsing body and where interest is expressed we then move to stage two.

Will I be interviewed or required to pitch my business concept to a Home Office endorsing body?

As part of the endorsement process, certain endorsing bodies may wish you to pitch your business concept either in person or via a video conference. Whilst you may be able to talk about your business concept for hours condensing your concept into a 15-minute presentation and convey all relevant information is an art in which we are extremely experienced.

Can I form a team with other innovator applicants?

Yes, you can form a team with other innovator applicants but you cannot share the same investment funds. Your team must have £50,000 for each innovator applicant. Thus, if you have two innovator applicants, your team must have £100,000 to invest. The Home Office will also consider the experience and credibility of each team member when assessing the application.

Can I change my business concept once I have been granted an innovator visa?

The Home Office recognises that many new businesses fail and this is not necessarily an indication that you did not have a strong business idea. There is no limit to the number of times that an applicant can be endorsed for an innovator visa. However, each time you will need to present a new business idea to a Home Office-approved endorsing body and show that you have £50,000 funding available. 

Am I able to include dependent family members on my application for an innovator visa?

It is possible to include your spouse and any children under the age of 18 years old as your family members. They will be given leave to enter/remain in the UK in line with any leave that is granted to the Innovator applicant.

Can I switch to an innovator visa from within the UK?

Yes, you would be permitted to switch to an innovator visa from within the UK if you have previously been granted leave under the start-up category or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category. It is also possible to switch if you hold valid leave to remain under any Tier 2 category or as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant.

In addition, if you came to the UK as a visitor in order to secure funding and had a supporting letter from an endorsing body, you would also be permitted to switch your visa from within the UK.

Talk to Us

If you are looking to make an application for an innovator or start-up visa, contact JMW Solicitors’ immigration team today by calling 0345 872 6666. Alternatively, fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.

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