If you are pursuing UK immigration, you may be wondering what visa will allow you work in the country. Because applicants for UK business visas can choose among several visa categories, it can be difficult to determine what visa is the best fit for you. In particular, many applicants express confusion over the difference between the UK Start-up visa and the Innovator visa—what’s the difference between an innovative business and a Start-up anyway!? Both UK business visas, they nevertheless each offer distinct pathways to UK immigration. Applying for the correct visa—the one that best fits your would-be professional career in the country—is essential to being approved for a visa to work in the UK. Today’s blog will therefore present an overview of both the UK Start-up visa and the UK Innovator visa. By its end, you should be able to determine if the UK Innovator visa is suitable for you and your family, or whether UK Start-up visa immigration is in fact the correct path for your journey. 

Start-up Visa and Innovator Visa Differences

  • 1. Duration
    • The main difference between the UK Innovator visa and the UK Start-up visa is that the latter is more restrictive in terms of how long you can remain in the country on it. 
    • UK Start-up visa immigration limits applicants to a maximum of 2 years in the UK, while those on innovator visas can stay up to 3.
    • Additionally, the innovator visa can be extended indefinitely, while the start-up visa cannot be extended at all. 
    • Finally, those on an innovative visa will likely be granted the opportunity to apply for permanent settlement in the country after residing in it for a certain number of years—those on Start-up visas will not have this option. 
  • 2. Limitations on working
    • The innovator visa is suitable for applicants who are ok with working exclusively at their own company. This is because people with innovator visas cannot receive a salary from any UK business entity other than their own.
    • In contrast, someone on a Start-up visa could theoretically be employed by another company in addition to his or her own. 
    • Being limited to working at your own business as an innovator visa holder means you have to be more careful about costs, as you will not be able to draw a salary elsewhere in the event that your company faces economic difficulties. 
  • 3. Cost
    • Innovator visas are significantly more expensive than start-up visas: innovator’s range from £1,021 to £1,277 for a single applicant, depending on where you are applying from; start-ups range from £363 to £493. 
  • 4. Endorsement bodies
    • While the UK Start-Up visa and the UK Innovator visa require applicants to receive endorsements from an established body, there are different endorsement lists for different bodies. 
    • If you have a Start-up visa, you have the option of seeking an endorsement from both a British university/college AND a business/company with a track record of extending support to entrepreneurs in the country. In contrast,   innovator visas do not allow endorsements from higher education institutions. 
    • For the list of innovator endorsing entities, click here.
    • For the list of Start-up visa endorsing entities, click here.

Similarities between the UK Innovator Visa and the UK Start-up Visa

  • Both visas are available exclusively to non-British applicants. 
  • The innovator visa and the UK Start-up visa are both available to applicants who are attempting to pursue UK immigration for business purposes.  
  • Both visas are available to those looking to establish an “innovative” “new” and “viable” company/business in the country.  
  • Both visas require you to obtain an endorsement from an established entity, formally known as an “endorsement body.” Some of the viable endorsements are available to both visa applicants: for example, Start-up visa and innovator visa applicants can both receive an endorsement from the company “Blue Orchid Enterprise Solutions Ltd.” 
  • The application process for both visas is entirely online, except in the event that the candidate is asked to appear in person for a visa interview. Both application processes will vary depending on whether the person is applying from abroad or domestically. 
  • The application process for both visas requires candidates to have their fingerprints and photos (biometric information) collected. 
  • Both visas allow for the possibility of your family joining you in the country on your visa.
  • Both visas allow you to enter and exit the country at will. 
  • Both visas have the following restrictions: neither allow you to work in the UK as a sportsperson or receive welfare while you are in the country. 
  • While they cost different, applicants for either kind who are from one of the below countries will pay £55 less than individuals from countries not on the list: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden or Turkey. Additionally, applicants for both visas will likely be liable for a fee of a £19.20—the cost for biometric information collection in the country. Finally, both visas are subject to the UK healthcare surcharge. 
  • The processing time for both visa applications is the same: applicants applying from within the country can expect to wait up to 56 days for a decision, while those applying from abroad will likely hear sooner, in around 21 days. 
  • Both visas have similar English language requirements, which both applicants must demonstrate through the same way (i.e. by taking one of the official tests or showing proof of having graduated/received a degree from an English-language college/university/high education institute. 
  • The visa validity period for both visas can be reduced in the event that one of the bodies that endorsed you on your initial application withdraws their endorsement. In the event this occurs, both visas require that you seek another endorsement, or risk having to leave the country before you intended. 
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