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UK’s Start-up visa to close, but the new Innovator Founder route offers applicants a better route to UK settlement

Financial district of London

UPDATE 13 April 2023: Innovator Founder visa opens new improved immigration route to start up a business in the UK

10 March 2023

The government has announced that they will be making changes to the Innovator visa category which will make the Start-up route unnecessary and obsolete, so they will be closing this category to new applicants. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick presented the Statement of Changes in the UK Immigration Rules to parliament on 9 March 2023.

Potential Start-up visa applicants may now want to wait for the new Innovator Founder UK immigration route to open.

How do the Start-up and Innovator visas work?

The Start-up route is currently available to non-British and Irish citizens who wish to establish a business in the UK.

The business plan must be assessed as innovative, viable and scalable by an endorsing body approved by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI).  Start-up visas are currently issued for two years and the individual can work carry out additional work in the UK to earn an income while getting their business up and running, but time on this route does not count towards indefinite leave to remain (also called settlement or permanent residence).

The Innovator route currently has similar requirements but also requires the individual have at least £50,000 to invest in the business.  Innovators cannot currently work for any business except their own but the time spent in this category does count towards qualifying for indefinite leave to remain after three years.

What will the new Innovator Founder visa entail?

The changes announced by UKVI in the latest Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules combine the best aspects of these two categories in the new Innovator Founder route.  While business plans still need to be endorsed by an appropriate endorsing body, there is no requirement to show the initial capital to invest in the business and individuals can undertake additional work.

The good news is that, unlike the Start-up visa, time spent in the UK under this route counts towards qualifying for indefinite leave to remain, so this new visa is much more helpful on a route to settlement.

What should entrepreneurs consider about the closure of the Start-up visa route due to changes to the Innovator visa route?

Prospective applicants who wish to apply under the Start-up route must have an endorsement issued by an endorsing body before 13 April 2023, but anyone who is considering this route may wish to consider waiting for the new Innovator Founder category to open on 13 April 2023 in order to benefit from the new provisions.

Applicants who have an endorsement under the Start-up route which was issued before 13 April 2023 should note that the final date for applications under the Start-up category will be 12 July 2023.

People who currently hold permission under the Start-up route may be able to switch to the Innovator Founder route if they meet the appropriate requirements. They should be looking into this well before their two-year Start-up visa is due to expire. They would need to meet requirements around the performance of their business against their original endorsed business plan.

The business requirements are rather stringent and complex. Feel free to call us for a consultation.

For more detailed immigration, sponsorship and right to work advice and for any other questions on these and other UK immigration developments, please contact us on +44(0)207 033 9527 or enquiries@vanessaganguin.com.