Innovator Founder Visa: Business Endorsement Requirements Explained

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The Innovator Founder Visa route allows entrepreneurs to establish businesses in the UK. Requirements include innovative, viable, and scalable business ideas, endorsed by approved bodies. Here's an overview of application criteria and endorsements.
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The Innovator Founder Visa route is for entrepreneurs who are looking to establish a business in the UK. To be eligible, your business idea must be innovative, viable and scalable and you have an endorsement letter from an approved UK endorsing body or legacy endorsing body.

This post will explore the business requirements when preparing an Innovator Founder Visa application. For further guidance in relation to making an Innovator Founder Visa application, see our previous article, Innovator Founder Visa Route Application Guide where we answered a number of frequently asked questions.

An Overview of the Innovator Founder Visa Route

Similar to the previous Start-up and Innovator visas, Innovator Founder applicants must be issued with an endorsement letter from an endorsing body listed on the Home Office website here. The letter must confirm that your business meets either the same business or new business criteria. You will also need to show that you are a genuine Innovator Founder applicant.

You must meet the English language requirements at CEFR level B2 in all four components of reading, writing, speaking and listening. If you are applying for entry clearance or have been in the UK for less than 12 months, you will need to have held at least £1,270 for a 28 day period prior to the date of application.

General Requirement for Innovator Founder Visa Endorsement

When applying for an Innovator Founder Visa, you must submit an endorsement letter from one of the endorsing bodies mentioned in our article here. The letter must contain specific details, such as their name, reference number, date of issue and your personal details.

The letter from the endorsing body will need to confirm that:

  • You are a fit and proper person to receive endorsement under the Innovator Founder route;
  • The endorsing body has no concerns over the source of any funds you have invested into your business;
  • The endorsing body has no reason to believe that you or your business may be the beneficiary of illicit or unexplained wealth.

Endorsement Criteria for the New Business

Business plan requirement

To apply for an Innovator Founder Visa endorsement, you must have a business plan and show that you have generated or significantly contributed to the business ideas. The endorsing body will expect to see how you demonstrate your day to day role in carrying out the business plan. You must confirm that you will have at least two contact point meetings with the endorsing body at regular intervals during your period of permission.

You can be the sole founder of the founding team or an instrumental member of the founding team.

Innovative, viable and scalable business requirement

Your business idea should meet the following criteria:


This involves having an original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

What this means: The endorsing body will take into account what is innovative about your business idea and how it is unique if it is a new idea. If there are other existing products, how is your business idea different or better than what is already known. They may also want to know the target market and how the users of this market will benefit from your service or product.

Other relevant information: who are your competitors in the UK and the status of your product or service, for example, whether your product has been launched.


Your business plan must be realistic and achievable based on the resources available to you. You must also have or be actively developing the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run the business successfully.

What this means: The endorsing body may consider whether your business idea will have a good chance of success in the UK. It is likely that they will want to know how your qualifications, work experience and skills can contribute to the success of the business.

Other relevant information: It may be useful to show the market research undertaken and the amount of investment funds available for starting the business.


You must provide evidence of structured planning and there is a potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

What this means: Whether there is a potential for the project to grow into national and international markets and create jobs for the team in the UK.

Other relevant information: You may want to provide any plans for building a UK based team and how you plan to expand your business.

In our article, Innovator Founder Visa Endorsement Guidance, we explored the criteria for endorsement and the next steps after endorsement.

Endorsement from Legacy Endorsing Bodies

These are endorsing bodies who were previously approved by the Home Office. To meet the new business criteria, an endorsement letter will only be accepted and points awarded if:

  • the letter was issued before 13 April 2023 for use in the Innovator route; or
  • your previous permission was under the Start-up route and the endorsing body for your previous permission is the same endorsing body supporting your current application.

Endorsement Criteria for the Same Business

To be eligible for the same business criteria:

  • you must have or have had permission as an Innovator Founder or on the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route;
  • your business must have been previously assessed by an endorsing body or legacy endorsing body while you had permission on the Innovator Founder or Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route;
  • if you have or have had permission as an Innovator Founder, you must demonstrate that you have attended at least two contact points meetings with your endorsing body at regular intervals or regular checkpoint assessments with your legacy endorsing body and confirm that you will have at least two contact point meetings with the endorsing body at regular intervals during your period of permission;
  • Your business is active, trading and sustainable and you have made significant progress against the business plan;
  • Your business is registered with Companies House and you are listed as a director;
  • You are active in the day-to-day management and development of your business;

Endorsement from Legacy Endorsing Bodies

An endorsement letter from a legacy endorsing body will only be accepted if you have or in the 12 months immediately before the date of application, had permission as an Innovator Founder or permission under the Start-up route and it is the same legacy endorsing body supporting your current application and your previous permission.

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.

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