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Citizenship guide
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Innovator visa to the UK: a route to permanent residence and British passport

PUBLISHED: 26 September 2019

In March 2019, the Home Office stopped accepting applications for Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas. Instead, they offered two new routes, a Start-up visa and an Innovator visa. This article will focus on the latter.

As you might guess, there are certain requirements that you must meet in order to get an Innovator visa. On the other hand, there are also bonuses that an Innovator gets, like the ones a Tier 1 Entrepreneur was entitled to. For example, they can be eligible for settlement after 3 years in the UK, instead of more common 5, and their family too, provided, of course, that they comply with some criteria.

Who is an innovator?

You will be classed as an innovator if you are a foreigner willing to invest at least £50,000 in a new of existing UK company. If you are staring your business from scratch, it must be assessed and supported by one of the organisations from the approved list published on the government website.  Before it can be endorsed, your idea must be evaluated for three qualities: innovative, viable and scalable. And you must be able to demonstrate this even after you get a visa, after 6, 12 and 24 months, because that’s when you will need to report to your endorser.

Business apart, innovators must also comply with certain rules and regulations. However, they are no different from the requirements for Tier 1 Entrepreneur migrants and therefore are not a subject of this article.

Entrepreneurial team

An innovator can partner up with as many other businessmen as they want and form a team, in which case every partner must have access to and be able to invest £50,000.

Let’s say you have got a visa and are now thinking about staying in the UK permanently. We will break it down for you here in terms of what to do in order to obtain permanent residence and secure your status.

How to extend an Innovator visa

An innovator visa is valid for three years and can be extended for as many times as you want and can. In order to do it, you must:

  1. Continue running your business or establish a new one.
  2. Get your business endorsed by an approved body, whether it’s an existing or a new company.
  3. Be able to invest £50,000 or more in a new company. If it is a team, then every one of you must be able to put at least £50,000 in a pot.

UK permanent residence in 3 years

If your business meets certain criteria (see below), you get a great opportunity to apply for an indefinite leave to remain in the UK 3 years after your first Innovator visa is granted, without the need to extend it. What you must do. First of all, get a letter from your endorsing body with the details of the following:

  • How your business has developed and what it has achieved since the last endorsement.
  • Your business is active and will be operating for at least another year.
  • The applicant’s role in the business and that they will keep directing it for one more year as a minimum.

Requirements to the business

Your business will be required to meet at least 2 of the following 7 requirements in any combination, 1 and 5, or 6 and 7:

  1. You have spent at least £50,000 on running and growing your business since the last visa was granted.
  2. In the last 3 years, the number of customers has increased at least twice and exceeds the average customer count for other UK businesses that operate in the similar field.
  3. The company has been doing research and development and has registered patents.
  4. Annual gross revenue in the last financial year has been at least £1 million.
  5. The company has generated annual gross revenue of £500,000 where at least £100,000 is from exporting goods and services abroad.
  6. At least 10 full-time jobs have been created for resident workers, e.g. British citizens.
  7. Your business has employed not less than 5 resident workers full-time and their average gross salary is at least £25,000 a year.

Requirements to Innovators

  • You must not be absent from the country for more than 180 days in any 12-month period during the three years prior to settlement application. Your dependants will get indefinite leave to remain only when and if you get it as the main applicant.
  • You must show that you speak English at least at the B2 level. The same applies to all dependants over 18.
  • You must pass the so-called Life in the UK test, with all adult family members. It is a multiple-choice test with a number of questions that can be challenging even for those born in the UK. But do not despair, you can prepare for it – how well depends on you only.

Why it is good to become permanent resident in England

Innovators and their families have a chance to get ILR in the UK in 3 years after moving to the country. The settled status gives you limitless opportunities for employment, education and free movement within the United Kingdom. One year later you will be eligible for British citizenship and with it comes the benefit of visa-free travel to over 160 countries of the world.

Our qualified immigration lawyers provide expert advice and support and help avoid mistakes when preparing your application. We will be with you every step of the way until you get your permanent residence and a British passport.

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