When was UK Innovator Visa launched and which visa category it replaced?
On the 29th of March 2019, the Innovator visa category was launched by the Home Office as a replacement for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa category, which is no longer a valid visa category in the UK. Along with the UK’s transition into the world’s hub for tech comes the allure of investment capital.
Innovator visa category aims to encourage the development of and investments in viable, innovative, and scalable businesses in the United Kingdom in order to drive economic growth.
What is the definition of the Innovator Visa and who is it aimed at?
In contrast to Start-up visa this visa category was created for more experienced entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in the UK.
Under this route, applicants are required to demonstrate an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. Applicants should also have access to at least £50,000 to invest in their business.
The main goal is to attract international talented tech entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to boost UK’s economy
The rapid rise in value for the UK tech sector can be, in a large part, attributed to a wave of tech adoption ranging from digital health apps to education platforms, video conferencing and e-commerce during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fastest period of growth took place between 2020 and 2021, when the ecosystem increased by 42% in revenue.
In 2018, the UK tech ecosystem was valued at $446bn. But a growth surge between 2020 and 2021 – accelerated by rapid digital transformation during the pandemic – helped propel the UK tech ecosystem by 42% towards the $1tn milestone.
The situation with Investment in Tech Sector in the UK
Like last year, London Tech Week saw the release of key statistics on the state of investment in the tech sector by Dealroom and Tech Nation. This data shows that despite global economic uncertainty, so far investment in UK tech companies has remained resilient during 2022, with the UK outperforming most of their international competitors in a series of metrics:
- UK start-up investment saw the biggest annual opening on record in 2022, with $11.3B raised by UK start-ups in Q1, compared to $7.9b in Q1 2021. This was driven by a sizable increase in larger deals (those from €100M–€250M).
- With $15.6b, the UK ranks second globally for startup investment so far in 2022, after just the United States, ahead of both India and China for the first time and doubling the funding of any other European market.
- London is the biggest European hub for start-up investment so far in 2022 ($11.3b). But it’s not just London, Bristol and Oxford also rank among the top 20 start-up European hubs.
- The UK is home to 122 unicorns, behind only the US and China for the creation of billion dollar tech companies, and first in Europe. The UK is also home to 248 potential future unicorns, valued over $250M.
- Demand for talent in UK tech is stronger than ever in 2022, with 8.5M open vacancies in the last year. London also ranks second globally for tech salaries vs. cost of living, with an average tech salary of £75,278.
Statistics throughout the years – Innovator Visa Success Rate
As per UKVI statistics in 2020 there were 222 visas granted and the refusal rate varied from 24% to 10% based on Q1 2021.
In 2021, 321 applications were successful, and the refusal rate was 11%.
In Q1 2022 the refusal rate was 33%, and in Q2 2022 refusal rate was 24%.
How long is the UK Innovator Visa granted for?
Innovator visa is initially granted for a period of three years with a possibility to apply for UK settlement (ILR) if your business can qualify.
In order to qualify for the extension, applicants must be able to show that their business has made significant progress. This will be judged against their initial business plan.
Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body. With some exceptions, applicants will have funding to invest in their business. This category may lead to settlement in the UK (if certain requirements are met).
Endorsement criteria of the UK Innovator Visa
Securing innovator visa endorsement is the first step in the application process for the UK’s new innovator route for international entrepreneurs.
Let’s discuss what you need to do to obtain an endorsement. Endorsement is an official approval of your business idea by an authorised endorsing body. An endorsement is issued in the form of an endorsement letter which is one of the key documents that you will be submitting with your Innovator visa application.
Endorsing bodies are existing companies specifically selected by the UK government to help decide which Innovator visa applications from non-UK entrepreneurs have the greatest potential.
They must confirm that your business idea is innovative, scalable & viable.
An applicant must set out a specific business idea in a clear and structured proposal (business plan). This business idea must satisfy the following Innovator visa criteria:
- Your business idea must be INNOVATIVE
Innovative means that you have a genuine, original business idea that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
- Your business idea must be VIABLE
Under this criterion you must demonstrate that you have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, and market awareness to successfully run the business.
- Your business idea must be SCALABLE
Your business plan must show evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.
To sum it up, your Innovator Visa eligibility ultimately rests on getting an endorsing body to consider your business against the 3 cornerstone criteria (innovation, viability, and scalability), each of which have their own specific metrics of judgment, as well as convincing them of your commitment towards making your business a successful “UK enterprise”.
I think I have an innovative business idea what are the next steps?
Unfortunately, having a brilliant business idea for this type of visa is not enough. You will also have to meet the following requirements to qualify for the Innovator route:
- Applicant must have access to £50,000 to invest and be able to prove source of funds;
- Applicant must meet English Language Requirement (IELTS score of 5.5 or English degree);
- Applicant must prove that they have enough personal savings to support themselves while in the UK (£1270 to support yourself, plus £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child);
- Applicant must have a Business Plan and Endorsement Letter;
- Applicant must have relevant business experience & appropriate education.
Once you tick all the boxes you can proceed to the first stage of obtaining an Innovator visa and apply for endorsement. Complete our tailored eligibility test and evaluate your chances of relocating to the UK via Innovator visa route.
- ENDORSEMENT BODY INNOVATOR VISA
- HOW TO APPLY FOR UK INNOVATOR VISA
- HOW TO OBTAIN ENDORSEMENT LETTER UK INNOVATOR VISA
- INNOVATOR VISA
- INNOVATOR VISA UK
- UK INNOVATOR VISA
- UK TECH VISA