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New Innovator Founder Visa Offers Limited Opportunity for Entrepreneurs


The UK government has launched a new visa route, the Innovator Founder visa, on 13 April 2023, aimed at attracting talented entrepreneurs to establish innovative, viable and scalable businesses in the UK. The Innovator Founder visa replaces the Innovator and Start Up visa routes.
In this article, we explore the Innovator Founder visa, analyzing the changes made from the previous Innovator route, outlining the application process and eligibility requirements for the visa.

The Innovator Founder visa is designed for those seeking to establish a business in the UK based on an innovative, viable, and scalable business idea.
Applicants must have a significant role in the day-to-day management and development of the business they set up in the UK. Applicants can be the founder of the business or apply as a member of a team. Applicants must have made a significant contribution to creating the original business plan and be part of the founding team. They cannot apply to join an existing business that is already trading.

A crucial requirement is that the applicant must be endorsed by a Home Office-approved endorsing body. The endorsing body will assess the business according to categories of innovation, viability, and scalability. Factors considered include whether the applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets market needs, whether they already have, or are developing, the required skills to run the business, and if there is evidence of the potential for job creation and growth into both national and international markets.

The Innovator Founder visa has some notable changes from the previous Innovator route. These changes include removing the £50,000 investment requirement, reducing the number of mandatory check-ins with endorsing bodies to a minimum of two contact points throughout the three-year visa, and allowing applicants to undertake employment outside of their business, provided the employment is sufficiently skilled, and the applicant maintains an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business. These changes, along with the scrapping of the £50,000 investment requirement, could help to make the visa more attractive to entrepreneurs.

To obtain the Innovator Founder visa, the application process can be divided into two primary stages: (1) the endorsement application and (2) the visa application. In the endorsement application stage, applicants must show that they have an innovative, viable, and scalable business idea. They also need to be endorsed by a Home Office-approved endorsing body. The visa application stage involves providing evidence that they meet the eligibility criteria and paying the visa fee.

While the Innovator Founder visa seems to address some of the issues associated with the Innovator visa, such as reducing the administrative burden and allowing secondary employment, it is still unclear whether it will attract significant numbers of entrepreneurs to the UK.

Obtaining the Innovator Founder visa can be extremely challenging as the innovative requirement means that the business idea must be unique and different from anything currently in the UK market, making it an unviable route for many applicants.