New UK Immigration Laws: Is the Start-Up or Innovator Visa the Best New Route into the UK?


Relocating to a new country requires courage, regardless of your financial or personal situation. Especially when you propose to base your application for immigration on your intention to open a new business in the country you are relocating to, and when ultimately, the success of your business venture will dictate whether you can indeed continue to live and work in that country.

Since moving to the UK as either an entrepreneur or business owner is one of the most challenging and complicated ways to do so, immigration lawyers advise that you consider all your visa options first.   You could, for example, come to the United Kingdom on a work visa, like the skilled worker visa, and gain experience working in the country before starting your own business, or you could apply for the UK Expansion Visa, which has recently replaced the Sole Representative of a Business Visa (Representative of an Overseas Business).

What Visa options are there for Overseas Entrepreneurs and Business Owners?

Since the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa was made defunct back in 2019, the Home Office has replaced it with the Innovator Visa.

There are numerous visa and work permit options available of course but the two main options, if you want to get a visa based on your decision to create a business in the UK, are the innovator visa or the start-up visa.

Innovator Visa

According to the Home Office, the Innovator route will be reformed “to provide an ambitious investment route that works more efficiently and successfully in support of the UK’s economy.” The goal is to ensure that the visa holder is actively involved in their investments.

The Innovator route enables accomplished business owners to create a business in the United Kingdom. It allows you to stay in the United Kingdom with your family for up to 5 years, after which you can apply to remain in the United Kingdom.

To apply for the Innovator Visa, you first must get approval from an authorising body, which certifies that your business meets the required criteria of being innovative, viable, and scalable, as well as that you are committed to making it work.

In addition, you must invest a minimum of £50,000 in the UK business.

UK Start-Up Visa

The Start-Up route for all first-time business owners in the United Kingdom. Graduates and non-graduates alike are eligible to apply and need no initial funding.

The visa is only valid for two years, after which you must apply for another visa category, like the Innovator visa, to continue building your business.

Applicants first must obtain the approval of a university or an approved business sponsor. This procedure will involve the creation of a business plan outlining your business concept, strategies, and projections.

You can then apply for a visa at the Home Office if your application is approved.

What are the Main Differences Between the Two?

The main differences are primarily in the levels of experience and investment funds available. Successful Start-up Visa applications are determined by an entrepreneur’s ‘potential’ rather than experience. You also don’t need any investment funds to apply for a Start Up Visa; all you need is a lot of ambition to open a business in the UK for the very first time.

You must, however, present a business concept that meets the criteria for innovation, scalability, and viability. An endorsement from a reputable organisation is also necessary for success.

There is also a requirement for credibility. The Home Office will want to make certain of the following:

  • Have a sincere intention of starting your business. Your work, education, and immigration history, as well as any declarations made on your application, will be considered by the Home Office.
  • Have no intention of working in violation of immigration law.
  • Have any money you claim in your application readily accessible for the purposes stated in it.

How Much Does It Cost To Apply?

Fees for both visas vary depending on where you apply and your personal circumstances.

The Innovator Visa is much more expensive, likely to cost £1021.00 for the applicant and £1021.00 per dependent if bringing family members. Extending or switching the visa, and thereby applying from within the UK, costs £1277.00.

The Start-Up Visa has a slightly lower cost of £363.00 for the applicant, and £363.00 for their partner and children. With this visa route, you can once again bring family members to the UK.

Can the Innovator Visa and Start up Visa be extended?

The options you have once your initial grant of leave expires are a significant difference between these two routes. Your visa can indeed be extended for another three years under the Innovator Visa route, and there is no limit on the number of extensions.

You cannot, however, extend on the Start-Up Visa route.

After two years, you must either switch to the Innovator Visa or leave the United Kingdom.

This means you’d have to meet the requirements for the Innovator visa.

If you want to stay in the UK for a long time, the Innovator Visa will be your only option. You can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after five years within the UK, with an additional 3 years under the Innovator Visa.

Can I Take On Other Work On Either Visa?

With the Start Up Visa, you can undertake other work and work on your own business whilst you are in the UK.

With the Innovator Visa however you can only work on your own business.

Which Documents Do I Need To Apply?

For both the Start Up Visa and the Innovator Visa you will need documentation which will be used as evidence that would need to be sent to the Home Office along with your application.

The documentation required would be:

  • Evidence / Certification of a B2 English language test pass
  • Passport or another form of valid travel identification
  • Evidence of Funding for investment purposes
  • Bank statements providing evidence that you have at least £945.00 in your bank account (savings account) for 90 (consecutive) days prior to your application.

For the Innovator Visa, you will also need documentation to evidence the £50,000 worth of investment for your business proposal.

The key distinctions between the Innovator Visa and the Start-Up Visa revolve around the applicant: and their level of experience, long-term plans, and whether you have investment funding. 

In either case, whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur or a rookie, if you have an innovative business idea that you want to bring to the UK, either of these two visa routes might work for you.

Need some Help?

The whole immigration process can be challenging but at Mishoura we can find you a qualified and professional immigration lawyer who can talk you through the whole process.

All you have to do is fill out a simple online questionnaire or book a same-day consultation with one of our knowledgeable advisors and within 90 minutes we will be able to provide you with a shortlist of immigration firms that can assist you.

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