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Innovator visa and Start-up visa: how to choose the right one for you

Visa routes of Start-up and Innovator for foreign entrepreneurs wishing to come to the UK were launched not long ago, in March 2019. They have not yet fallen into a routine and applications have not been that many, but they are said to be perfect solutions for businessmen aiming at conquering the British market.

Innovator or Start-up: what is the difference

It is worth mentioning straight away that both visas are good for basically any business and not just IT technologies as has been commonly misunderstood. A Start-up visa was introduced to replace a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa granted to graduates of UK higher education institutions. Start-up visa works for a wider pool of entrepreneurs. An Innovator visa replaced a Tier 1 Entrepreneur route.

Innovator vs Start-up. Advantages and disadvantages of each route

Innovator visa

Start-up visa

For established entrepreneursFor aspiring businessmen
Investment of £50,000No investment required
Validity 3 yearsValidity 2 years
Can be extended any number of times, each time for 3 yearsCannot be extended. Can switch to another visa, e.g. Innovator
Leads to settlement and citizenshipDoes not lead to settlement and citizenship
Invest in both new and existing businessSet up and develop a new business
Entrepreneurial team can be formed with each partner contributing £50,000Entrepreneurial team can be formed with each partner having their idea endorsed


Both innovators and start-up entrepreneurs must have their business idea endorsed, i.e. approved, by one of the authorised organisations. They include investment firms, incubators and accelerators working in various fields and located in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.

Innovators must prove that they intend to open a new company or invest in an existing one; either way the business must be scalable. A business idea must be also innovative and viable. The same applies to a Start-up visa. To get approval, you must provide a valid business plan made to the highest British standards.

Moreover, once you get a visa, you must keep in touch with your endorsing body and report your achievements and results. If your business is not as successful as was forecasted, your endorsement can be withdrawn, and you would have to start the whole thing anew. As of today the lists of approved bodies for Innovators and Start-ups coincide. However, we recommend checking the relevant list for each category.

Anything else?

Yes. Get ready to prove your knowledge of English to a certain level. It can be done through one of the two options; either by passing a language test or providing a Bachelor or Master diploma from a university recognised in the UK.

Application fee for start-up visas is £363, for Innovators – £1,021. Bear in mind that you will need to pay the same for each dependant joining you in the UK. By the way, eligible dependants include a spouse and minor children.

Besides, you must have your bank statements ready to show you have sufficient funds to support yourself and a family in the UK – £945 for the main applicant and £630 for each dependant.

The decision should be made within three weeks.

Please refer to our website for more details on each visa: Innovator visa and Start-up visa.

We can only give you tailored advice when we analyse your situation and circumstances. Each case is different and requires in-depth analysis. Our immigration lawyers have many years of experience in helping our clients get their visas and solve their immigration and legal issues.

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