As the Innovator category matures and we rapidly approach the time when applicants are looking towards their future in the UK and making applications for indefinite leave to remain, it is important to know exactly what is required ahead of time, so that business decisions can be made and all necessary actions taken. In this post (which accompanies our earlier post on the topic) we look at the requirements for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator.
Generic Innovator Visa ILR Requirements – Validity and Suitability
As with most immigration categories, Innovator visa holders who wish to apply for settlement have to show that:
- They have used the correct application and followed all requirements to submit a valid application;
- They are in the UK;
- They meet the English language and Life in the UK requirements;
- They have not breached immigration law and have completed a continuous period of residence (of three years) in the category.
Eligibility Requirements for ILR or Settlement as an Innovator
Applicants for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator must make great progress in their business in three years (or five years, if they previously held leave as a start-up migrant).
The Innovator route requires that at least two of the following are achieved:
(i) At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering the business; or
(ii) The number of the business's 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 main products or services; or
(iii) The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK; or
(iv) The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts; or
(v) The business is generating a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas; or
(vi) The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for settled workers lasting 12 months or more; or
(vii) The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for settled workers, each of which has a mean salary of at least £25,000 a year (gross pay, excluding any allowances) lasting 12 months or more.
These requirements are very burdensome for a new business, particularly given many businesses have struggled due to restrictions related to the pandemic.
It is not clear at all how item (ii) will be achievable, given Applicants are unlikely to know or be able to find out 'the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable products' . There is no indication in the caseworker guidance as to how one might successfully rely on this. As such, for now, this appears to be largely meaningless and Applicants should be planning to meet two of the other criteria.
Unless an applicant switched into the Innovator category from the Start-up route (where, if applying on the basis of the 'same' business, investment funds need not have been demonstrated) Innovator ILR applicants should have invested and spent at least £50,000 in furthering their business. This will mean that they can rely on (i), and need just to prove one other of the achievements in (iii) – (vii).
The remaining criteria are of course in three distinct categories – R&D, revenue and job creation. Depending on the nature of an Applicant's business, it may be more feasible to meet the requirements in one of these categories than another – some businesses will lend themselves to creating high numbers of jobs more easily than overseas exports. Whichever requirement is the target, it is important that plans are put in place to achieve this from an early stage during leave as an Innovator, so that the Endorsing Body knows what to expect and all necessary documentation is gathered in a timely manner.
It is important to note that, where more than one Innovator has invested in the same business, they cannot share the same means of meeting these criteria. The Rules state in INN18.3 that "if two applicants are relying on the requirement to have created 10 jobs, 20 jobs must have been created in total."
Endorsing body confirmation
Not only must an Innovator visa holder applying for ILR meet these criteria, but they must also have an endorsement letter issued no more than 3 months before the date of application, and this letter has to confirm:
- The details of the endorsing body and details of someone at the endorsing body who can verify the contents of the letter if required;
- The Applicant's details;
- A business description and the main products or services the business has provided;
- That the applicant has shown significant achievements, judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement;
- That the business is active and trading and registered with Companies House and appears to be sustainable for at least the following 12 months, based on its assets and expected income, weighed against its current and planned expenses;
- That the Applicant is a director or member of that business and has demonstrated an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business; and
- That two (or more) of the above ILR achievements (i)-(vii) have been met.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.