The Chancellor of the Exchequer this week stated “even as free movement ends, Britain will remain open to talent from around the world” and cited the new Innovator and Start Up visa routes as changes to ensure this.

We’ve previously looked at the new routes in our overview blog here and the Start Up in-depth blog here. Now we take a look at the Innovator visa route in more detail and whether it will, as stated, mean Britain is open to talent from around the world.

The Innovator Visa overview

This visa was introduced on 29 March 2019 to replace the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. It is intended for businesspeople who already have experience and funding to start a business in the UK. Applicants will require an endorsement from an endorsing body and £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source. The funding requirement will be waived for those switching from the Start-up category who have made significant achievements against their business plans. The innovator visa can be extended and can lead to settlement in the UK.

Eligibility

Key to obtaining this visa is having a letter of endorsement from an endorsing body. Endorsing bodies are business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers. These bodies will assess applicants’ business idea for their innovation, viability and scalability. A list of endorsing bodies is available here.

Applicants also need to have £50,000 worth of funding available to the business, be able to prove their English language skills, and be able to show they have sufficient funds to maintain themselves in the UK.

Differences to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route

The Innovator route has replaced the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route, with the focus on new and innovative business ideas, following criticism of “poor quality” businesses being opened under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route.

Positive changes include the lower funding requirement and moving the decision about whether a business idea is worthy of a visa to bodies who have experience rather than a Home Office decision maker.

There are, however, a number of issues with this new route which may make it more difficult for applicants.

Firstly, there is little information both on the list of endorsing bodies and the websites of the endorsing bodies about the innovator visa. This means it’s difficult for applicants to understand how they can obtain endorsement and is a huge initial barrier. While everyone is waiting for news and developments, this will effectively freeze new entrepreneurs from coming to the UK.

Many of the endorsing bodies have already stated that they will only offer endorsement to those businesses who have joined their accelerator programmes or who are already working with them. This puts a further huge block in the way of those entrepreneurs who are outside the UK and looking to move and invest in the UK for the first time.

Prospective entrepreneurs are also in the dark as to what criteria will be applied to their applications to judge whether their ideas are innovative, viable, and scalable. If only brand new ideas are going to be endorsed, this will cut off many businesses which could have been a success in the UK.

The English language requirement has been increased to B2 which will also adversely affect those prospective applicants who have spent less time in the UK.

On balance, whilst over time this may grow to be a useful route for starting a business in the UK, in the short term it will cut off investment in the UK from those entrepreneurs who aren’t already involved with the relevant endorsing bodies. Hopefully, the endorsing bodies will make more information available as soon as possible, or this could be a much more long term issue and mean Britain will not be open to talent from around the world.

If you are looking for advice on the Innovator visa or any other visa routes, contact Farleys Solicitors’ immigration team on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry through our online enquiry form.