New Innovator Founder route not aimed at investors
On 9 March 2023, the Government published its much-anticipated changes to the Innovator route. The current Innovator and Start Up routes are to close to new applicants and be replaced by a single ‘Innovator Founder’ route on 13 April 2023.
It was anticipated the updated Innovator route would accommodate investors and act as a replacement to the Tier 1 Investor visa which closed on 17 February 2022. The result is an updated visa for entrepreneurs that will do little to excite investors.
The Start-Up and Innovator routes have been available to entrepreneurs who wish to establish a new business in the UK, with applicants having to show that:
- they have an ‘innovative, viable and scalable’ business idea; and
- their new business idea has been endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body.
There will be no changes to these requirements under the new Innovator Founder route, which arguably have been key factors in the lack of take up of interest in this category, to date. Most notably the requirement that the business idea must be a new one has made this category unworkable for many entrepreneurs.
The requirement that applicants must have a key role in the day to day management and development of the business will also remain under the revised category.
Key changes to the new Innovator Founder route
The following key changes have however been made to the new Innovator Founder route:
- Minimum funds requirement of £50,000 for Innovator visas to be abolished, meaning that the Start-Up route, which did not carry such a funds requirement, has become redundant and will close on 13 April 2023 (with the exception of endorsements issued before this date).
- Innovator Founder visa holders will be allowed to take up secondary employment alongside the running of their own business provided that the secondary employment meets a minimum skill level of RQF Level 3 (broadly A-Level and the same skills threshold as for the Skilled Worker category), providing more flexibility and making the revised route potentially more attractive to some applicants.
- Certain changes to the mandatory content for endorsing body letters, including a new requirement to state there are no concerns over legitimacy of source of funds. This change is coupled with the introduction of new general grounds for refusal under a new ‘Innovator fit and proper person requirement’ to the application.
- At least two ‘contact point’ meetings must be held between the visa holder and their endorsing body during each period of permission granted under the revised category.
The 20 points previously allocated to the minimum funds requirement will be re-allocated to the business plan requirement (previously 10 points under the old route and now 30 points under the new route). There have been no changes to the English language requirement which is at an advanced speaker level (10 points) and maintenance funds requirement (10 points) of the application so in reality the previous 70 points for required for eligibility for the previous Innovator route are still required under the revised route.
Disappointingly, there have been no changes to the requirements for settlement in the UK under this revised category (also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain/permanent residency), which remain highly onerous for applicants.
At present, it is not clear whether there will be any changes to the current list of endorsing bodies from 13 April 2023 and we await further announcements. Publication of new guidance on the revised category is also awaited.
It will be disappointing news for investors and uninspiring for entrepreneurs, consequently we are likely to continue to see an increased use in the skilled worker route.
For more information please contact Rose Carey, Kelvin Tanner, or any other member of the immigration team.