The UK offers two different visas for entrepreneurs who want to start their business in the country; the Startup and Innovator Visas. Both are quite similar but also have important differences. Both share the requirement of being endorsed. The UK’s Home Office has licensed a number of successful British businesses that it trusts to check visa applicants for them. To get either the Innovator Visa or the Startup Visa, you and your business will need to seek out an endorsing body.
What are endorsing bodies?
As these visa schemes are tied to a business, the Home Office uses external expertise to check applications. All endorsing bodies are made up of experts in running businesses. They’ll have the knowledge needed to make sure your business idea meets all of the visas’ eligibility requirements.
As well as checking your documents, they’ll want to see your business plan and research. If they’re satisfied that your business has what it takes, they’ll endorse your application. From there, you can move on to applying to the Home Office.
If your application is successful, your endorsing body will stay with you throughout your time on the visa. They will perform reviews of your business to make sure that it’s progressing as planned.
If you’re on the Startup Visa, they will be the ones to decide if you’re giving enough attention to starting your business. So long as they remain satisfied, your business will keep its endorsement.
What do they check?
The Home Office has set three eligibility criteria that they expect from all businesses used in an Innovator or Startup visa application. The main duty of an endorsing body is to apply its expertise to assessing these three areas.
On top of this, they’ll check that you are eligible for a UK visa. Going through getting endorsed will help you make sure that all of your documents are in order before your application. Where this is not the case, the endorsing body will advise you on how to fix them.
Qualifying businesses must meet three core requirements:
As stated, the Home Office sets out three requirements. Businesses must be: innovative, scalable, and viable.
#1 – Innovative
The Home Office wants businesses that bring something new to the UK. You cannot use either visa to join an existing business. You’ll have to show that your business idea is one that is new to the country. This could be filling a gap in the market or providing an approach that’s sufficiently different from all existing competitors.
Your endorsing body will want to see proof of the competitor research you conducted. They will need to see that you’ve done enough work to reasonably conclude that no other business like yours is already in operation.
#2 – Scalable
Visa-eligible businesses will need to provide value to the UK. As well as growing in value, a business should be able to generate employment. Your endorsing body will look at how your business is able to grow once it has started. They’re looking for your potential to create jobs for local workers, so this needs to be part of your plan.
When determining if your business has done enough to progress from an Innovator Visa to settlement, two conditions from the list are: create at least ten full-time jobs or create at least five highly paid full-time jobs. These can be used as a rule of thumb to guide your scalability planning.
#3 – Viable
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Home Office requires that businesses be able to succeed in the UK. The visa is a long commitment, and removal of endorsement and visa is something they wish to avoid.
Your business plan should prove that you and your businesses will be able to thrive in the UK business market. This, above all else, is why endorsing bodies are experts in UK business. They know what is needed.
If you wouldn’t be happy to take your business plan to an investor to ask for money, it’s not ready for an endorsing body. Some endorsing bodies will, however, offer additional advisory services to help you perfect your strategic planning.
The Innovator Visa requires a business to have secured a minimum amount of finance before applying. The Startup Visa carries no such requirement.
If you apply for the Innovator Visa, your business must have £50,000 per applicant secured. This means that for each person using the business in their application, a separate £50,000 is necessary.
This requirement does not apply to dependants that join you on your visa. Your partner and children do not count towards this funding minimum but do for personal funding requirements.
An applicant has to be able to show that they’re able to financially support themselves as they establish their business. If on the Innovator Visa, this money has to be separate from your £50,000.
The amount required varies depending on the number and nature of dependants that you will live with. In any case, you have to show that you have had a minimum of £1270 in your bank account for at least 28 consecutive days before application.
If your dependants have their own personal accounts, these accounts may be used to show their portion of the minimum amount. There may also be requirements for English proficiency and health, depending on where you apply from.
Are you endorsing body ready?
If you think your business plan shows that your business meets all three of these requirements, then it is ready to be taken to an endorsing body. So long as you have all the correct documents, translated as necessary, you can find your endorsing body.
John Courtney is Founder and Chief Executive of BoardroomAdvisors.co, which provides part-time Executive Directors, Non-Executive Directors and paid Mentors to SMEs without either a recruitment fee or a long-term contract.
John is a serial entrepreneur, having founded 7 different businesses over a 40-year period, including a digital marketing agency, corporate finance, and management consultancy. He has trained and worked as a strategy consultant, raised funding through Angels, VCs, and crowdfunding, and exited businesses via MBO, MBI, and trade sale. He has been ranked No. 30 in the CityAM list of UK Entrepreneurs.