Latest Developments in UK Start-up & Innovator Visas
There have been considerable changes to the government’s attitude to awarding the Innovator and Start-up visas over the last few months. When they were originally introduced, the idea was that selected bodies, called endorsement bodies, would consider the applications and then determine whether they fulfilled the requirements of originality, credit, credibility, viability, scalability after considering business plans. The test did not seem too hard and the Home Office approved virtually all the endorsements without much inquiry. The basis of the Innovator and Start-up visas was that the Home Office would no longer be involved, as with the abolished entrepreneur visa earlier, in having to consider the business merits of the application. So that's the way things used to be. A lot of people obtained visas through this window without too much inquiry.
But over the last few months, the position has changed radically. The Home Office now believes that a number of endorsement bodies have been granting approvals without really making a proper inquiry into whether the ideas being put forward qualified as original and met the other tests. So, they've changed their attitude. They now review the endorsements very carefully, almost reconsidering the whole application, and decide whether they will accept the decision of the endorsement body.
So, it is now the case that most endorsements are being rejected at the second stage. It is now no longer as easy to obtain a visa and there are more changes coming in October which will result in virtually all of the endorsement bodies being abolished. The endorsement bodies have all been requested to tender for a further contract to provide endorsement services, and this is a very complicated and difficult process, and most of them are not inclined to carry on.
So, there will only be at best a few endorsement bodies from October onwards, maybe just one or two or three. So, the whole situation is going to change and these endorsement bodies will be applying a much stricter test to whether or not the ideas being put forward are genuinely original and creative. So that is a very important consideration now.
What is the practical effect of this? What should you do to give yourself the best chance? First, your business plan now has to be of a much higher standard. Second, we know the Home Office do detailed open searches to see if they can find any other similar business. If they can, they will reject your application. Often, their decision as to what is a competitive business is wrong because they don't understand the idea being put forward in the first place. So, you have to make very clear, when you apply that what you're doing is genuinely an original idea. And you've done all the checking and all the searching like the Home Office want to do. You've done it for them, and you make sure that you make it obvious that that is the case.
The next practical point is this. If you are able to do so, your application, in my opinion, would have a greater chance of success, if it were made from within the UK than from outside.
Now, of course, that begs the question, how do you get inside the UK to make your application? And the answer to that question is, you need to consider the fees or opportunities that would enable you to do that. I can't really go into that sort of detail here but this is an aspect to consider.
Another option to remember, which most people are not fully cognizant about, is the Isle of Man, which is part of the British Isles. The Isle of Man operate their own Innovator and Start-up visas and the business plans there are considered by an endorsing body that is effectively the Isle of Man government. They don't apply exactly the same tests as in the UK and they have different considerations. In some ways, they are easier but in one or two ways they're more difficult. So we like to consider the islands as another option.
These considerations may be helpful should you choose to proceed. And obviously talking to us and looking at all your visa options becomes important. So, we'll be happy to help you if you get in touch with us.