If you achieved UK immigration through a UK-Start up visa, but you wish to switch into another business visa category, you may be eligible to do this. Because the Start-up visa validity period is only two years, some people who arrive in the country through it ultimately try to switch to the Innovator, (the Innovator visa validity period is up to three years, with the possibility to extend). Because of the popularity of this kind of switch, today’s blog will provide a step-by-step process for those looking to apply to change to the Innovator visa from the Start-up. In addition to an overview of the application process, readers of today’s blog will learn who can and who cannot apply to switch to the Innovator visa. 

Start-up visa and Innovator visa: a comparison

  • The Start-up and the Innovator visa are both UK business visas available to foreigners who want to establish businesses in the country which are unique—i.e. like nothing currently operating in either England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. 
  • Both the Startup and the Innovator visa require that applicants get their respective businesses endorsed by official bodies. While many of the endorsing bodies for the Start-up visa are the same as those for the Innovator, you should confirm which bodies are available for the Innovator visa when you apply to switch. 
  • The Innovator visa validity period is three years (with an indefinite number of extensions); the Start-up visa validity period is two years, with no possibility to extend. 
  • Both the Start-up and the Innovator visa have similar eligibility conditions, including a knowledge of English, proof of subsidence, and an age requirement. 

Steps to apply to change to Innovator visa

  • 1. Apply in time 
    • Make sure that you lodge your application to switch to the Innovator visa prior to the expiration of your Start-up visa.  
  • 2. Check if you meet the eligibility requirements 
    • In order to be eligible to switch to the Innovator visa, you should check that you meet the following requirements: 
      • You are 18 years old or over. 
      • You have evidence that you can financially afford your cost of living in the country. 
        • If you are applying to switch into the Innovator category and you haven’t yet spent a full year in the country, you need to present evidence of having a minimum of £1,270 in your possession. This money must be present in your bank account for a minimum of 28 days in a row in order for you to meet this requirement (i.e. you cannot simply deposit £1,270 into your account the day before you apply). 
      • You demonstrate your knowledge of the English language. 
        • Applicants applying to switch to the UK Innovator visa must meet the English language requirement. 
        • Because the English language requirement for the Start-up visa is the same as that for the Innovator visa (B2 on the CEFR scale) applicants who are applying to switch will have automatically met the requirement.
        •  However, you will still have to present evidence of having met the English language requirement on your application to switch, either by demonstrating that you are applying as a national of a country recognized as English-speaking by the UK government, present proof of having obtained a degree from an English-language school/university, or passing an official English-language exam.   
      • You receive an endorsement from an official body.
        • Click here to access the list of Innovator visa endorsing bodies.
      • You meet the investment fund requirement. 
        • The investment funds requirement for the UK Innovator visa is £50,000 for those looking to establish a new company. 
        • Please note that you will not need to meet this requirement in the event that the business you are applying for was previously endorsed on your Start-up visa (i.e. it is already set up and operating in the country) or the business you had is different in nature from when you first applied for your Startup visa, but the endorsing body you received your first endorsement from has agreed to continue endorsing it in its current iteration. 
        • Please note that if you are applying to switch to an Innovator visa as a team, each team member must individually meet the minimum investment funds requirement for the UK Innovator visa (i.e. if you are applying with three other people, they must each present £50,000).
  • 3. Assemble your required documents 
    • Applicants to switch to the Innovator visa must submit a number of required documents as evidence of their identity and their ability to meet the various eligibility requirements. 
    • Required documents include a passport, official endorsement letter, bank statements demonstrating that you meet the investment and personal savings requirements, and materials showing your English language abilities (either proof of nationality, proof of graduation/degree from an English-language college/university, or official SELT scores), and proof of negative tuberculosis test results (depending on what country you are applying from). 
    • Please note that all of the above documents/materials must be presented in either English or Welsh, or accompanied by an official translation into either of those two languages.   
  • 4. Access the application 
    • Applicants who are applying for the Innovator visa can apply to switch into the category by contacting us here
  • 5. Meet the biometric material requirement 
    • At some point when you are applying for the Innovator visa switch, you will be asked to meet the biometric material requirement, either by having your photos and fingerprints collected at a visa center or uploading your information to the “UK Immigration: ID Check application”. 
  • 6. Pay the visa fees
    • At some point during the application process, you will have to submit an application fee. 
    • The fee to switch into the Innovator visa category for a single applicant is £1,277. 
    • In addition to the application fee, you will also have to pay the health surcharge fee, which vary depending on the nature of the application. 
  • 7. Await your decision 
    • The majority of applicants switching from a Start-up visa to an Innovator visa will receive a decision on their application status eight weeks after applying. 
    • Please note that UK immigration law forbids applicants from leaving the United Kingdom or Ireland while their application is being processed. If you go abroad while your application is pending and are found out, it will likely be cancelled, and you will have to start the application process all over again. 

Who cannot apply to switch to Innovator visa?

  • Please note that applicants on the below categories of visas are ineligible to switch to the Innovator visa:
    • Student visas in the short-term category
    • Seasonal worker visa 
    • Visit visa 
    • Domestic worker in a private household visa 
  • In addition to those on the above types of visas, the following types of applicants are also ineligible to switch to the UK Innovator visa:
    • Those who have received “permission to stay outside the immigration rules”.
    • Those on immigration bail.
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