The United Kingdom is one of the most connected countries in the world and a highly desirable destination for private clients and entrepreneurs. At its centre is the capital city of London, a business and cultural phenomenon that attracts people of virtually every nation in the world. The UK’s financial and commercial reach is unparalleled and, when factoring in the attractive tax regime for residents and non-domiciled persons, has contributed to the country’s reputation as a safe investment environment.
Despite having left the European Union, there is no reason to believe that the UK’s influence in the world will wane. Certainly, the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit and high standards of education and governance are set to stay as the nation looks towards a broad-based set of international relationships.
The UK Home Office announced in 2019 that the Entrepreneur Visa (Tier 1) category would be terminated and be replaced by a new “Innovator Visa”. The UK Innovator Visa requires an applicant to have a business idea and launch a new venture that has been endorsed by an Endorsing Body, which is an organisation that has been approved by the Home Office to assess start-up ventures. The venture must be innovative, viable and scalable.
The applicant must be 18 or over, and be from outside of the EEA and Switzerland, and must meet the English language requirement. A spouse/partner and children under the age of 18 may also be included in the application.
The Innovator Visa demonstrates the commitment of the UK Government to simultaneously create and support innovative businesses in the UK and to attract foreign human and financial capital into the UK economy.
Path to ILR
Applicants who apply under an Innovator Visa may qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after only 3 years, subject to demonstrating that the business that they co-founded satisfied at least 2 out of the following 7 criteria:
- At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and has been actively spent furthering the business plan outlined in the applicant’s previous endorsement.
- The number of the business’ customers has at least doubled within the most recent three years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable products or services.
- The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property (IP) protection in the UK.
- The business has generated a minimum annual revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts.
- The business has generated a minimum annual revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
- The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have existed for at least 12 months.
- The business has created the equivalent of at least five full-time jobs for resident workers, which have existed for at least 12 months and have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any expenses)
Innovisa is a new platform dedicated to matching foreign applicants with pre-vetted start-ups that meet the UK Government’s criteria of being innovative, viable, and scalable. Each listed venture is seeking to raise between £250,000 and £400,000 and to grant the applicant an equity stake in the business and integrate the applicant into the founding team.
The Innovisa team work closely with foreign applicants to assess their qualifications, experience, and skill-set, and then either introduce them to a UK partner with a venture ready to launch, or search for another suitable option commensurate with their interests and background.
The main benefits of the UK Innovator route are:
- Capital outlay can be as low as GBP 280,000 (under USD 400,000), including the equity investment and all legal, professional and government fees
- Apply for permanent residency as early as 36th month after arriving in the UK
- It allows the applicant to earn some employment income from the UK start-up over those 36 months
- Engages the applicant for at least 15+ hours per week in some dedicated work in support of the business
- Government processing time is typically between 2-4 weeks.
- Less expensive alternative to the Tier 1 Investor route
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