You can apply for an Innovator Founder visa if:
- you want to set up and run an innovative business in the UK – it must be something that’s different from anything else on the market
- your business or business idea has been endorsed by an approved body, also known as an endorsing body
- you meet the other eligibility requirements.
This visa used to be called the Innovator visa.
If you’re from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
If you or your family member started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, you may be able to apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme.
The deadline to apply was 30 June 2021 for most people. You can still apply if either:
- you have a later deadline – for example, you’re joining a family member in the UK who was living in the UK by 31 December 2020
- you have ‘reasonable grounds’ for being unable to apply by 30 June 2021 – for example, you had an illness or were the victim of domestic abuse
Check if you can still apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Otherwise you need a visa to work in the UK.
Irish citizens do not need to apply for a visa or to the EU Settlement Scheme.
You must be able to show that your business idea is:
- new – you cannot join a business that is already trading
- innovative – you must have an original business idea which is different from anything else on the market
- viable, with potential for growth
- scalable – you must give evidence of planning that includes creating jobs and growing into national and international markets
You’ll need to get an endorsing body to assess that your business idea meets the requirements.
Knowledge of English
You must be able to speak, read, write and understand English. You’ll usually need to prove your knowledge of English when you apply.
If you’re not eligible for an Innovator Founder visa
You may be eligible for another type of visa to work in the UK.
How long you can stay
You can stay for 3 years if you either:
- come to the UK on an Innovator Founder visa
- switch to this visa from another visa while in the UK
You’ll need to meet with your endorsing body after 12 months and 24 months to show you’re making progress with your business. Your visa may be cut short if your endorsement is withdrawn by the endorsing body. If you want to stay longer, you must re-apply with a new endorsement before your current visa expires.
If you want to stay longer in the UK
You can apply to extend your stay for another 3 years when your visa is due to expire. There’s no limit on the number of times you can extend.
You may be able to apply for settlement once you’ve been in the UK for 3 years.
How to apply
You must apply online.
How you apply depends on whether you’re:
- outside the UK and are coming to the UK
- inside the UK and extending your current visa
- inside the UK and switching from a different visa
Your partner and children can apply to join you or stay in the UK as your ‘dependants’ if they’re eligible.
How long it takes
As part of your application, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide your documents.
You may need to allow extra time if you need an appointment to do this. You’ll find out if you need one when you start your application.
Getting a decision
Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within:
- 3 weeks, if you’re outside the UK
- 8 weeks, if you’re inside the UK
If you need to go to an appointment, you may be able to pay for a faster decision. How you do this depends on whether you’re outside the UK or inside the UK.