02 April 2019

Start-up and Innovator visas came into force on 29 March 2019. They replace Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, which is already closed for new applicants and the Graduate Entrepreneur visa which will be closed from 06 July 2019.

Start-up category is for people seeking to establish a new business in the UK for the first time. Applicants will have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body.

You can apply for a Start-up visa if you want to set up a business in the UK and you are from outside the EEA and Switzerland. Before you apply, you must have your business or business idea, assessed by an approved body, who will provide you with an endorsement letter if your business is viable.

To apply for a Start-up visa category, you must be at least 18 years of age and prove your knowledge of English language. You may not have to prove your knowledge of English if you have already proved it with your earlier application, or if you are a national of certain countries. You may also have to provide proof of savings to support yourself and your dependants while you are in the UK.

On a Start-up Visa you can stay in the UK for 2 years but you cannot apply to extend this visa. This category does not lead directly to settlement in the UK, but applicants may progress into the Innovator visa category, which may lead to settlement.

Any time already spent in the UK on a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa counts as part of the 2 year.

You can bring family members with you, may switch to this visa from another visa category, can take additional job whilst working for your business. However, you cannot apply for benefits, work as a doctor or dentist in training, work as a professional sportsperson or settle in the UK.

You don’t have to be the sole owner of the business and may be a member of an entrepreneurial team.

Innovator category is for more experienced business people seeking to establish a business in the UK. You can stay in the UK for 3 years under this visa category and it may lead to settlement in the UK.

Similar prohibitions apply with regards to benefits and employment as in the Start-up category. However, the rules are more strict in innovator category as you cannot undertake any additional employment other than working for your own business.

Entry clearance or leave to remain in both these categories may be curtailed if an endorsing body withdraw its endorsement or loses its status.

For both Start-up and innovative categories, the endorsement body must confirm that the applicant’s business venture is innovative and genuine, which meets the market needs and creates a competitive advantage. The endorsing body will also confirm that the applicant is actively developing the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business and increasing the potential for job growth in the national markets.

If the applicant makes a settlement application, the endorsement letter must confirm that the applicant meets all the requisite criteria and has invested at least £50,000 into the business, which has been actively spent in furthering the endorsed business.

The number of annual visas to be granted under this category is far less than the Entrepreneur visas they are replacing. There are currently 24 endorsing bodies and if they each give 25 endorsement letters, the total will be 600 per year. Under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route about 1000 visas per year were granted.

There was no advance information or guidance offered by the Home Office to prepare either the lawyers or the endorsement bodies for these visa categories. Some endorsing bodies are not even aware that two new business visa categories have been introduced. Time will tell how successful these new categories will be, provided their life is not cut short as abruptly as their predecessors!

For more information on Start-up and Innovator visas or any other immigration matters please contact our Immigration department on 01225 562581.

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