The Innovator visa – explained

Hand holding up a lightbulb to the light

This article was published by the Great British Mag team on 23 February 2021. 

Had a lightbulb moment that gave you an idea for a new, innovative business? Want to stay in the UK after graduating to launch it? Or perhaps you have already started a business here and want to continue running it? Keep reading to see if the Innovator visa might be for you. 

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What is the Innovator visa?

The Innovator visa is for anyone who wants to set up an innovative business in the UK – one that’s like nothing else currently on the market here. So if, when you graduate, you have a great idea for a business that the UK hasn’t seen anything like before, applying for an Innovator visa might be the way to go. 

It’s also intended for those who have already set up an original new business in the UK and want to continue living here to run it. 

What are the eligibility criteria for the Innovator visa?

As you might imagine, there are a particular set of requirements you and your proposed business must meet. 

In terms of the business idea you apply with, it must be unique – different from anything else the UK already has – and be endorsed by an approved body (you can learn more about endorsing bodies on the government’s website). 

You’ll need to be fluent in English – your UK university degree can act as proof of this, if you’re not from an English-speaking country. You will also need to have had £1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days when you apply, to prove you can support yourself financially. 

How much investment will I need to be eligible?

Applicants for the Innovator visa will need to have at least £50,000 of investment funds for their new venture – and be able to prove where it’s coming from. 

However, if you’re renewing your Innovator visa or switching to one after already getting your business up and running, you won’t need these funds.

If you want to stay in the UK to pursue a business idea but can’t secure any funding, take a look at the Start-up visa

How do I apply for an Innovator visa?

The application process for Innovator visas is done online, through the government’s website. There are various documents that will be required for you to apply for an Innovator visa. These include: 

  • A letter from an endorsing body to show that your business has been officially assessed
  • A valid passport (with a spare page for your visa)
  • Bank statements to show that you have at least £1,270 to support yourself financially 
  • Proof of your investment funds
  • Your tuberculosis test results (this only applies to citizens of certain countries)

How long does an Innovator visa last?

Innovator visas expire after three years, but you can apply to extend your visa every three years under the same terms. That said, you might be eligible to apply for permanent settlement in the UK after your initial three years – if you’re granted that, you won’t have to keep renewing your visa. 

How much does an Innovator visa cost?

If you’re not already in the UK and are planning to move here with your Innovator visa, it’ll cost £1,021. If you’re already here under a different visa and want to switch to an Innovator visa the fee is £1,277. 

On top of the visa fee, you’ll need to pay the healthcare surcharge, which is £624 for each year you intend to stay. This covers you for all your medical care through the NHS. 

How long does it take to get a decision on my application?

You should hear back from the Home Office with a decision on your application within three weeks if you’re applying from outside the UK, or eight weeks if you’re already here. 

What can I on an Innovator visa?

If you have an Innovator visa you can set up your own business (or businesses) and work for it, either as an employee or in a self-employed capacity. You can’t work anywhere else though, or claim state benefits if you’re not earning very much from your venture. 

When your innovator visa comes to an end after three years, you can apply for permanent residence. 

What if I’m not eligible for the Innovator visa?

There are other visas you can apply for if you want to stay in the UK after you graduate, such as the Graduate Route, the Start-up visa or the Skilled Worker visa

You may also want to read

Everything you need to know about the Start-up visa

Can I stay and work in the UK after university?

Skilled worker visa guidance for students