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February 29, 2024

The UK Innovator Founder Visa: A Simple and Affordable Alternative to the Global Talent UK

The UK Innovator Founder Visa offers a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs in the technology and IT sectors to relocate to the UK to launch or move their business there.

Program Overview

Launched on April 13, 2023, the UK Innovator Founder program replaces the previous Innovator and Start-Up visas, offering the most lenient conditions among similar UK visas. It provides all the advantages of the Global Talent visa without requiring public recognition or achievements in IT. The primary criterion for obtaining the visa is having a business project with access to the funds required to deliver it.

Visa Benefits:
  • Team Application: Both individual entrepreneurs and teams of founders can apply.
  • Qualification Upgrade: Visa holders can enhance their qualifications by studying at UK educational institutions.
  • Personnel Relocation: By obtaining a sponsor license, it's possible to relocate your staff by hiring foreign professionals on a Skilled Worker Visa.
  • ILR and Citizenship: After 3 years of successfully running a business on the Innovator Founder visa, you can apply for Permanent Residence (Indefinite Leave to Remain; ILR), and a year after that (but not less than 5 years of living in the UK), apply for citizenship.
  • Employment: Unlike previous startup visas, Innovator Founder allows its holders to combine running their own business with employment even outside their professional sphere, provided it's skilled work.
  • Financial Requirements: The absence of a minimum investment requirement (previously at least £50,000) makes the program accessible to a wider range of entrepreneurs. Three basic conditions that must be met are innovation, financial viability, and scalability of the business.
  • Family Relocation: You can bring your partner and minor children. Relatives are allowed to work, study, travel abroad, and apply for ILR.
  • Terms and Renewal: The visa is issued for 3 years. Unlike a startup visa, Innovator Founder can be renewed an unlimited number of times.
  • Speed of approval: 1–2 months.

How to Get the Visa?
1. Prepare a business plan
  • Develop a compelling plan that meets the criteria of innovation, viability, and scalability. Focus on the uniqueness of your project and its market potential in the United Kingdom. The plan must be approved by authorized endorsing bodies.

Key Criteria for the Business Plan:

  • Innovation: Highlight the unique aspects of your project. It should be clear how your product or service differs from those already on the UK market. Consider where your innovative advantage lies, whether it is unique technology, patents, or a particular approach to business.
  • Market Research: Justify the demand for your product or service with qualitative or quantitative research. Your business plan should identify the niche you intend to fill and demonstrate an understanding of your target audience. Comparing with competitors to identify your competitive advantages is also crucial.
  • Justification and Evidence: Support your business plan with factual data and evidence. This may include test results, unit economics analysis, and feedback from potential users or partners. If your project involves innovative production, providing photos of prototypes or samples is beneficial.
  • Investments and Viability: Demonstrate the financial viability of your project. Despite the absence of strict requirements for minimum investment capital, it's important to demonstrate that you have the funds to launch and develop your business. This can be bank statements, letters from investors, or proof of interest from venture funds.
  • Scalability: Your business project should contain a clear growth and expansion plan within the UK. Specify your goals and how you intend to achieve them, including financial forecasts, hiring plans, and development strategy.
  • Founder's Personal Qualities: Explain why you are the right person to implement this project in the UK. Include information about your experience, education, and key skills. The ability to attract qualified employees, mentors, and advisors will also be a plus.

When preparing your business plan, it is recommended to use proven templates and take into account the specific requirements of the Endorsing Bodies. In addition to the main document, it is useful to prepare supplementary materials such as a pitch deck and a financial model to maximize the credibility of your project. 

2. Selecting an endorsing body and project assessment
  • Choose an endorsing body and submit your project for assessment. There is a fee for each assessment (£1000 per person), so careful selection of the organization is advised. The assessment process may include 1–2 online meetings with the team to discuss the project.

Brief Evaluation of Each Endorsing Body:

  • UK Endorsing Services: A semi-governmental organization offering assessment services to the Home Office.  While their approach can be somewhat controversial. They have supported a significant number of start-ups over the last ten years.
  • Innovator International: A company that has successfully survived the recent licensing changes in 2023. They have an excellent network of contacts and are open to communication. Their approach to assessing startups is fast, constructive, and free from unnecessary nitpicking or bias against certain countries.
  • Envestors Limited: Focused on investments and startup support, they are highly rated and among the most competent experts in the UK, despite complex paperwork. They have supported over 500 companies and facilitated the relocation of over 950 startups in the last 15 years.
  • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP): A government program aimed at supporting existing businesses in their move to the UK. They offer a wide range of services, from mentorship to investment support/ However, they expect your product to already be market-proven.

The overall process takes three to five weeks, after which you receive the approval and can proceed with the visa application and document submission through the Home Office. This stage can be considered the key stage, with only technical aspects remaining.

3. Document preparation and visa application

Collect the necessary documents and apply for the visa through the Home Office website. The process includes identity verification (either biometrics at a visa center or scanning your passport in the UK Immigration: ID Check app) and paying fees. Financial stability and English language proficiency requirements must be considered.

Required Documents for Visa Application:

  • Endorsement Letter: Received from one of the accredited endorsing bodies, confirming your eligibility for the program.
  • Identity Verification: A valid passport or another document proving identity and citizenship.
  • Financial Documents: Bank statements showing at least £1270 in your account for the last 28 days before applying. Additionally, £285 for a spouse, £315 for the first child, and £200 for each subsequent child are required (a requirement for those in the UK for less than 12 months at the time of application).
  • English Language: A minimum of B2 level is necessary. The IELTS certificate, which can be obtained by taking the exam outside of Russia, for example, in Turkey or other CIS countries, is recommended. Alternative means of proof include a diploma from studying at a university in English, graduating from a high school in the UK, or having citizenship of an English-speaking country.
  • Tuberculosis Test Results: If you have lived in a country with an unfavorable epidemiological situation in the last six months.

Your family can also join you, including your spouse or partner (with proof of a relationship of at least two years), as well as children under 18 and children over 18, provided they are unmarried, do not have their own children, and are financially dependent on you. Their visa expiration will coincide with yours.

You can apply for a visa from any country where you can legally reside for more than six months. Applications submitted from outside the UK are usually processed within three weeks, while those submitted from within the UK require eight weeks. Processing may take longer if additional evidence is needed or if you or a family member is invited for an interview.

Necessary Expenses:

  • Endorsing body assessment: £1000 per founder.
  • Adult health insurance: £1035 per year, prepaid for 3 years.
  • Child health insurance: £776 per year, also prepaid for 3 years.
  • Registration fee: £1191 (or £1486 for applications made within the country).
  • Biometric fee: £19.20.
  • IELTS Exam Cost: If necessary.

After successfully completing all the steps, you arrive in the UK, receive your BRP (Residence Permit), and start a new chapter in your life!

How can we help?

If you're looking to develop your business or startup, especially in the innovative sector, in the UK, the Innovator Founder program could be the ideal and swift way to achieve your goals. Moreover, it presents a unique opportunity to relocate with your entire team, which is a great opportunity in itself. However, if you don't have a specific project to implement, consider alternative paths, such as the Global Talent Visa program, to avoid the hassle of later renewing your status.

At Relogate, we're ready to assist you with drafting a business plan for the UK Innovator Founder visa. Our services start from €5900. Our team specializes in both developing an idea from scratch and refining an existing project to meet approval criteria. We provide a complete document preparation service and support you through all stages of the visa process, from initial business plan development to assistance with relocation and business development in the new country. We help find mentors, investors, and partners, as well as assist in business registration and building connections with the local business community.

We invite you for a 30-minute free consultation with our specialist to discuss your relocation prospects.

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