The advent of this more “accessible” visa for entrepreneurs with effect from 13 April 2023 means there will be no need for the Start-up visa, since a minimum £50k investment will not be required under this new route.
A level of investment appropriate for the Business Plan will however be required and thus the plan must be “affordable” and fully budgeted. One must not therefore assume that the removal of the minimum investment renders it an easy “start-up” route, since the financial viability is likely to be scrutinised closely.
The Innovator Founder 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 one of three endorsing bodies, namely Geminus Innovation Ltd (Preston), Envestors Ltd (Droitwich) or UK Endorsement Services (Wigan).
The Innovator Founder may be acting as a sole entrepreneur or be an instrumental part of a team. They must have a key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business.
Whilst the new offer echoes many features of the earlier Innovator route, besides doing away with the minimum investment of £50k, this new Innovator Founder route does have some other attractive aspects. Although the Innovator Founder must play an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the established business, secondary employment will be allowed at RQF level 3 (Skilled worker level). There must however be at least “two contact points” at regular intervals with the Endorsing Body, as opposed to at prescribed intervals for the progress checks.
An Innovator Founder cannot however hire themselves out to another business. Moreover, on extension the Innovator Founder will need to demonstrate that the “business is active, trading and sustainable and demonstrates significant achievements against the business plan.” Thus, the original business plan must be realistic whilst being impressive enough to secure endorsement.
To secure endorsement the Innovator Founder must be a fit and proper person and there should be no concerns over the legitimacy of sources of funds or modes of transfer of funds. There should be no reason to believe that the applicant or their endorsed business may be the beneficiary of “illicit or otherwise unsatisfactorily explained wealth”. This may reflect the UK government’s concerns over nationals of certain countries and money laundering and due diligence is likely to be more rigorous.
An endorsement is no guarantee of the visa itself being granted. Ironically, and perhaps less appropriately, a greater level of discretion may be placed with Home Office caseworkers by the removal of the minimum investment requirement.
The English language requirement is higher than for Skilled worker and will be at B2 and there will be a financial requirement to be met, as with most PBS routes.
The Innovator Founder route is a route to settlement after 3 years. They may be joined by a partner and dependent children. The dependent partner may qualify for ILR after only 5 years. The somewhat high threshold “success” criteria for ILR however appears to remain unchanged.