Overview

You can apply for an Innovator visa if:

  • you want to set up and run an innovative business in the UK - it must be something that’s different from anything else on the market
  • your business or business idea has been endorsed by an approved body, also known as an endorsing body
  • you meet the other eligibility requirements

If you’re from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

If you or your close family member started living in the UK before 1 January 2021, you may be able to apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme.

Otherwise you need a visa to work in the UK.

Irish citizens do not need to apply for a visa or to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Eligibility

You must be able to show that your business idea is:

  • new - you cannot join a business that is already trading
  • innovative - you must have an original business idea which is different from anything else on the market
  • viable, with potential for growth

Knowledge of English

You must be able to speak, read, write and understand English. You’ll usually need to prove your knowledge of English when you apply.

If you’re not eligible for an Innovator visa

You may be eligible for another type of visa to work in the UK.

How long you can stay

You can stay for 3 years if you either:

  • come to the UK on an Innovator visa
  • switch to this visa from another visa while in the UK

If you want to stay longer in the UK

You can apply to extend your stay for another 3 years when your visa is due to expire. There’s no limit on the number of times you can extend.

You may be able to apply for settlement once you’ve been in the UK for 3 years.

If your endorsement is withdrawn

Your visa may be cut short if your endorsement is withdrawn by the endorsing body. If you want to stay longer, you must re-apply with a new endorsement before your current visa expires.

How to apply

You must apply online.

How you apply depends on whether you’re:

You can include your partner and children in your application to stay in the UK if they are eligible.

How long it takes

As part of your application, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide your documents.

You may need to allow extra time if you need an appointment to do this. You’ll find out if you need one when you start your application.

Getting a decision

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within:

  • 3 weeks, if you’re outside the UK
  • 8 weeks, if you’re inside the UK

If you need to go to an appointment, you may be able to pay for a faster decision. How you do this depends on whether you’re outside the UK or inside the UK.

Fees

How much you pay for an Innovator visa depends on your situation and where you apply from.

Who you’re applying for Apply (outside the UK) Extend or switch (in the UK)
You £1,021 £1,277
Your partner and children £1,021 each person £1,277 each person

You must pay the visa fee for each person that applies at the same time as you or applies later to join you in the UK.

Healthcare surcharge

You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.

Check how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.

If you’re from an eligible country

Your application fee will be automatically reduced by £55 if you’re from one of the following countries:

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.

This reduction only applies to your visa application. Your partner and children will still need to pay the full application fee.

If you’re applying to extend or switch in the UK

You may need to pay £19.20 to have your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken.

What you can and cannot do

With an Innovator visa you can:

  • set up a business or several businesses
  • work for your business - this includes being employed as a director, or self-employed as a member of a business partnership
  • bring your partner and children with you as your ‘dependants’, if they’re eligible
  • travel abroad and return to the UK
  • apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) if you’ve lived in the UK for 3 years and meet the other eligibility requirements

You cannot:

  • do any work outside your business, for example work where you’re employed by another business
  • work as a professional sportsperson, for example a sports coach
  • apply for most benefits (public funds), or the State Pension

If your application is successful, you’ll get a full list of what you can and cannot do with an Innovator visa.