New Innovator Founder UK visa route

Business Immigration, 13 April 2023

A new Innovator Founder UK visa route has been introduced as from 13 April 2023 to replace the previous Innovator UK visa route, which makes provision for overseas nationals seeking entry to the UK for the purpose of establishing an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK.

The new route implements changes to the Innovator UK visa route which had previously been announced in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s document “UK Innovation Strategy: leading the future by creating it”, published on 22 July 2021 which focused on how to support businesses to innovate by making the most of the UK’s research, development and innovation system.

The new Innovator Founder UK visa route is for a person seeking to establish a business in the UK based on an innovative, viable and scalable business idea they have generated, or to which they have significantly contributed. The application must be supported by an endorsing body and an applicant must have a key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business.

Simplification of the previous Innovator UK visa route requirements

The new route removes the £50,000 minimum funds requirement previously applied to those coming to the UK to establish an innovative business in order to make more flexible provision for those with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and sufficient funds to deliver it. The changes also relax existing restrictions on Innovator migrants engaging in employment outside the running of their business, provided such secondary employment is in skilled roles to RQF Level 3 or above.

Under the previous Innovator UK visa route, applicants had to show that they had at least £50,000 of funds available to invest, or which had been invested in their business and they were not permitted to undertake any work other than for working for the business which they were establishing in the UK.

Criteria to be met for the new Innovator Founder UK visa route

All of the following criteria must be met to successfully qualify for the new Innovator Founder visa:

  • Aged 18 or over on the date of application
  • The application must be for a business or business idea which is supported by an endorsement letter from an Endorsing Body or Legacy Endorsing Body
  • For those applying for their first visa under the route, they must have a genuine, original, viable and scalable business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage and be either the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team
  • For those applying for an extension of stay under the route, the business must be active, trading and sustainable and the applicant must have made significant progress against their business plan. The applicant’s business must also be registered with Companies House and the applicant must be listed as a director or member of that business and involved in the day-to-day management and development of their business
  • All applicants must show English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) of at least level B2 (unless an exemption applies)
  • All applicants must have held £1270 in their bank account for a 28-day period before they apply (unless an exemption applies)

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) on the new Innovator Founder UK visa route

Successful applicants will be granted leave in the UK for a maximum period of 3 years and the route provides the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK after having spent a 3-year continuous period in the UK with permission as an Innovator Founder subject to meeting rigorous business establishment and sustainability requirements.

Closure of the Start-Up UK visa route

The changes also close the Start-Up UK visa route to new applications except where they are supported by endorsements issued before 13 April 2023. With the removal of the £50,000 minimum funds requirement for Innovator Founders, it is no longer necessary to retain a separate route for start-up entrepreneurs that do not have access to this level of funds.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at