The Home Office announced on 09 March 2023 that the Innovator and Start-up routes would be replaced by a single, streamlined route – the Innovator Founder Visa. The Innovator Founder Visa route will become available to applicants from 13 April 2023. The number of Endorsing bodies has been cut down to just three. The previous Endorsing bodies - now known as ‘Legacy Endorsing Bodies’ - will continue their existing roles with applicants on the old Innovator and Start-up routes, and this relationship will continue until those applicants are eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Applicants on this new route must still provide an innovative, viable and scalable business plan for a new business idea. However, the previous requirement to show access to at least £50,000 available investment for their business is no longer needed. This should not be seen as removing any need for available funds as the viability of an applicant’s business plan may be dependent on a sensible and sustained financial investment.
Applicants must still show access to funds to support themselves. If the applicant has not been living in the UK for at least 12 months, they must show access to £1,270 held in their account for the 28 days prior to making the application.
The old Innovator route required contact between Legacy Endorsing Bodies and applicants at 6, 12 and 24 month intervals. The new Innovator Founder route makes mandatory only two instances of contact, but the new Endorsing bodies may require further contact at their discretion.
The English language requirements remain the same under the new Innovator Founder route. Applicants must prove they can read, write, speak and understand English to a level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), unless they are a national of a listed country.
Previously, applicants under the old Innovator route were prohibited from working for any other business than that which they had established under this route. The new Innovator Founder route permits applicants to undertake employment in addition to their own business or businesses. This employment must be for a role which is at least RQF Level 3 (or UK A-Levels).
The new Innovator Founder immigration route is a route to settlement and will be open for applicants to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 3 years in the UK on this route. If applicants are currently on the old Innovator route, their time in the UK will still count towards settlement.