Significant changes to work immigration categories

Significant changes to work immigration categories

New Innovator category replaces Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category

With effect from 29 March 2019, the new Innovator category replaced the previous Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category. The new Innovator route is aimed at experienced business people who have £50,000 to establish a new business. This funding is a significant reduction from the £200,000 required under the previous Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route. 

In order to apply under the Innovator route, applicants must be endorsed by an endorsing body in the UK. A list of endorsing bodies, including business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies can be found here.

Although the new immigration category of Innovator is up and running, some of the endorsing bodies are not yet providing endorsements. Indeed, even some established bodies such as Tech Nation will only start to provide endorsements in September 2019.

As part of an application for an Innovator visa, the endorsing body must provide an endorsement letter confirming that the applicant’s business idea meets the innovation, viability and scalability requirements:

  • Innovation – the applicant has a genuine original business plan that meets new or existing market needs or creates a competitive advantage;
  • Viability – the applicant has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run the business successfully; and
  • Scalability – there is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

Successful candidates will be granted leave for 3 years which can be extended. Time spent in the UK under the Innovator category can lead to settlement (i.e. permanent residency) in the UK, potentially after 3 years.

New Start-Up category replaces Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category

The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category has also been closed. However, there are transitional arrangements so that applicants who received endorsements under Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) prior to 5 April 2019 can apply for a visa in that category up until 5 July 2019.

The Start-Up category has now replaced the previous Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) immigration route. It is intended for applicants intending to establish a business in the UK for the first time. There is also no minimum investment required though it’s likely that some investment would be expected in order to show it’s a viable business idea. However, having no set investment figure is likely to be helpful for recent graduates or those just starting out.

As for the Innovator route, applicants need to show they have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea and be supported by one of the endorsing bodies listed here.  

One downside of this category is that it does not directly lead to settlement in the UK. Successful applicants will be granted leave to remain in the UK for two years. It isn’t possible to extend under this category but individuals may then be in a position to switch into the Innovator category.


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