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The UK Investor, Innovator, and Startup Visas: Eligibility and Application

Update 2022: Previously known as UK Tier 1 Visa. As of February 16th, 2022 the UK has scrapped its visas offering foreign investors fast-track residency implemented with immediate effect.

The UK has held its place as one of the highest regarded countries in the investment immigration industry. But we have few reservations when it comes to investing and residing in the UK, especially when it comes with such a high price for investors. Here is everything you need to know about the Investor Visa eligibility, rules, application process, and other ILR (permanent residency) options: the UK Innovator Visa and Startup Visa.

UK Investor Visa for Investors

Eligibility

Determining whether you’re eligible to apply for a UK Investor Visa is relatively easy. 

You must: 

  • Be over 18 years of age
    Have a clean criminal record
  • Be of good character
    Not have tuberculosis if you come from a high-risk country
  • Have at least £2 million in funds at your disposal

Note how there is no longer a requirement as to your nationality. Before, only non-EEA applicants used to be able to apply for the UK Investor visa, but it has since been opened up to everyone post-Brexit.

Now, let’s talk about those funds because there are a bunch of requirements for those too. 

You can either have the money, or they can be your partner’s (married, unmarried, in a civil partnership, same-sex – the important thing here is that you’ve been together for at least two years). 

Have you held this money for at least two years? Good, because you won’t need to take any additional steps. 

However, if the cash has been in your possession for less than two years, you will need to trace the origin of all of it and let the UK government know too. 

The money needs to be held in a regulated financial institution (anywhere in the world), from which you’ll need to provide a certificate that proves that you’re free to use the money. 

In other words, you’ll need to show that your funds could be transferred to the UK, be converted into pound sterling (if applicable), and be spent.

The Application Process

Once you or your professional advisor have determined that you’re eligible to apply, you’ll have to follow a pretty straightforward application process. 

First, you’ll apply and receive your UK investor visa. Then, you’ll settle in the UK and obtain its citizenship, if you wish. 

You can start your UK investor visa journey 12 months before lodging your application, but you can also choose to first apply for your UK investor visa and make the investment within three months of receiving it. 

If you have a partner and/or dependent children, each person will need their own separate application. However, the investment sum is per family. 

Here is what the entire process looks like, in a nutshell:

1. Open a UK bank account at a regulated financial institution.
2. Invest £2, £5, or £10 million in UK business shares, in a business that’s active and trading. You can also do it at a later stage, see step 9.
3. Gather all of the required documents.

  • A valid passport with a blank page for a visa.
    Your tuberculosis test results, if you’re from a high-risk country (valid for 6 months).
  • Criminal record certificate from any country that you’ve lived in for at least 12 months over the last 10 years.
    A letter that proves that you have a UK bank account that you can use for your investment funds (valid for 3 months).

4. Look for a place where you could reside once you arrive in the United Kingdom.
5. Approximately 3 months to 3 weeks before you arrive in the United Kingdom, fill out the UK investor visa application online and submit all of the required documents (must be translated and certified, if not in English). The fee per application is £1,623.
6.
Wait approximately 8 weeks for a decision if you’ve applied from within the UK or 3 weeks if you’ve applied from abroad. You can expedite the process and get a decision handed down in just 5 working days if you pay for priority service.
7. Arrive in the United Kingdom and attend a biometrics appointment (£19.20) to take your fingerprints and photographs at a local UK visa application center.
8. Within 10 days of your biometrics appointment, collect your residence permit at your local Post Office branch. You can also get your permit collected by a sponsor if you’d like; you should choose this option when you apply.
9. If you haven’t already made the investment, now is the time to do it. You must make the qualifying investment within three months upon receiving your residence permit.
10. After 3 years, renew your residence permit for another 2 years (£1,623) by proving that you’ve actually lived in the United Kingdom and that you’ve maintained your full investment. If you accrue interest or dividend payments from your investment, those can be withdrawn without impacting your visa holder’s immigration status.
11. Spend at least 9 months per year in the UK to qualify for ‘settled’ status (i.e., permanent residence). How soon you can achieve this status will depend on how much you’ve invested (minimum 2 years). To obtain the status, you will need to prove knowledge of the English language. The fee is £2,389 per person.
12. Similarly, depending on how much you’ve invested, you’ll be able to apply for UK citizenship after some time (minimum 5 years).
13. Each year that you spend living in the UK, you’ll need to pay a £400 Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This is a per-person charge, meaning that your partner and/or children will need to pay £400 too.

As you can tell, obtaining your Investor Visa and even getting a permanent residence status is straightforward in the UK, even if it is a little demanding.

And although we’re sure people go through the application process on their own, it’s always better to have solid financial advice before you start making any investment immigration moves due to the tax implications that every such move has.

Other ILR Programs

The UK offers a path to ILR (permanent residency) for qualified entrepreneurs who want to start or invest in a UK business and are tolerant of more risk through Startup and Innovator Visas.

UK Innovator Visa

Eligibility

Not everyone will be able to take advantage of the Innovator visa to gain entry to the United Kingdom. 

However, if you’re eligible to apply, you’ll be able to bring your family as well.

You can bring your partner (married or unmarried), as well as dependent children under the age of 18. Each member of your family will need his/her own application.

The required investment sum will remain the same, meaning no additional funds are needed for your family members to come to the UK. 

To apply, you must be: 

  •  At least 18 years of age
    From outside of the EEA and Switzerland
  • Able to speak English at a B2 level
    Able to prove that you have enough money to support yourself

  • In possession of at least £50,000 in investment funds
    Able to get your business idea endorsed by an approved body

Let’s talk about your business idea and its endorsement in more detail.

A local organization that’s tasked with assessing the viability and the innovativeness of your business idea will need to be contacted. 

Many of them are universities, but there are some private business organizations too, including Seed Camp, Deep Science Ventures, Med City, Tech Nation, and lots of others. 

You’ll need to apply to an endorsement body that’s relevant to your business idea and, essentially, provide them with a comprehensive business plan.

You’ll need to detail every single aspect of your business, including growth projections, profit calculations, cash flow, and job creation, and demonstrate how your business meets the three aforementioned endorsement criteria. 

From our recent experience, ideas that do well in the endorsement process are in the fields of FinTech, EdTech, and MedTech, although you can also apply within other industries. 

Since you will need an endorsement for your business in every stage of your Innovator visa (the initial application, an extension, and settling permanently in the UK), you will need to maintain regular contact with the organization that endorses your business. 

You will have a mentor assigned to you and speak to them every six months to monitor the progress of your business. 

Sounds like a handful, doesn’t it? Well, you won’t have to go at it alone. 

You’re allowed to apply for the Innovator visa with co-founders. You can even put an entire entrepreneurial team together. 

However, each of you will need to put in the required minimum sum. 

The Application Process

If you would like to pursue an Innovator visa to live and work in the United Kingdom and have successfully gained the endorsement for your business, you can then apply for the Innovator visa.

The process will go like this:

1. Approximately 3 months before you intend to lodge your visa application, initiate the process of the business idea endorsement with the relevant organization.
2. Once you’re issued an endorsement letter, you must send its electronic copy to [email protected]
3. Collect all of the required documents for your application. If any documents are not in English, they will need to be officially translated and verified.

  • A valid passport with a blank page for a visa.
    Bank statements showing you have at least £945 in savings in your bank account.
  • A tuberculosis test, if applicable (valid for 6 months).
    Proof that you meet the English language requirement (CEFR B2).
  • Evidence of at least £50,000 available in your bank account.

4. Apply online for your Innovator Visa (£1,021). The earliest you can do this is 3 months before your planned trip to the United Kingdom. You will get approved within 8 weeks.
5. Make an appointment at a UK visa center to have your biometrics (i.e. fingerprints and photographs) taken. This costs £19.20.
6. Find a place to live in the United Kingdom and travel to the country.
7. Within 10 days of your arrival, attend your biometrics appointment. Collect your residence permit at your local Post Office. It will be valid for 3 years.
8. Within 6 months of the issue of your residence permit, start and develop your business. You will only be able to work for your business when you’re living in the United Kingdom under the Innovator visa. No other work may be undertaken.
9. Just before your visa expires, you can either apply to renew it (£1,277) or switch to the UK Investor visa. You will need to get another endorsement of your business before you’re able to extend your Innovator visa. You may not travel outside of the UK until a decision to renew your visa is reached or your application will be canceled. A decision is normally handed down within 8 weeks.
10. You’ll be able to apply for a settled status (permanent residence) in 3 years. You will need to get your business endorsed again.
11. You could become a naturalized British citizen if you’ve lived in the UK for at least 6 years; various conditions apply.
12. Each year that you spend living in the UK, you’ll need to pay a £400 Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This is a per-person charge, meaning that your partner and/or children will need to pay £400 too.
There are some further conditions if you wish to apply for settled status. You will be eligible to apply for settlement if you’ve invested at least £50,000 in your business AND you’ve accomplished one of the following:

  • Your business has created at least 10 full-time jobs
    At least 5 full-time jobs that pay at least £25,000
  • Your business has generated gross revenue of at least £1 million
    The number of business customers has doubled in the past 3 years and is higher than the mean number of customers at comparable UK businesses
  • The business has engaged in significant R&D and has applied for intellectual property protection
  • The business is generating at least £500,000 in revenue with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.

UK Startup Visa

Eligibility

Nearly all of the eligibility criteria are the same for Start-up visa applicants, as they are for the Innovator visa applicants. 

Namely, you’ll need to be: 

  • At least 18 years of age
  • From outside of the EEA and Switzerland
    Can speak English at a B2 level
  • Able to prove that you have enough money to support yourself
  • Able to get your business idea endorsed by an approved body

What you won’t need to do is be in possession of at least £50,000 in investment funds. If you have a truly innovative start-up idea, you need no prior capital at all.

Similar to the Innovator visa, your business idea must be judged as being innovative, viable, and scalable. The same industries – FinTech, MedTech, and EdTech – are recommended for the applicants for this visa.

Once endorsed, your business will be supervised by a mentor who will monitor your progress twice a year and either continue endorsing it or not. 

Finally, you don’t need to be a solo entrepreneur as you are allowed to put together a team to work on your business. 

However, each member will have to apply for their Start-Up visa separately. 

The Application Process

Once you’ve determined that you’re eligible to apply and would like to initiate the process, it goes like this:

1. About 3 months prior to applying, obtain a letter of endorsement from the relevant endorsing body. Forward this letter to [email protected].
2. Gather up all of the required documents.

  • A valid passport with a blank page for a visa.
    Bank statements showing you have at least £945 in savings in your bank account.
  • A tuberculosis test, if applicable (valid for 6 months).
  • Proof that you meet the English language requirement (CEFR B2).

3. No earlier than 3 months before your trip to the United Kingdom, apply for the Start-Up Visa online (£363 fee).
4. Make an appointment at a UK visa center to have your fingerprints and photographs taken (£19.20 fee).
5. Travel to the UK and find a place to live, not necessarily in that order.
6. Up to 10 days after your arrival, attend the biometrics appointment and collect your residence permit at a local Post Office branch.
7. In 2 years, when your Start-Up visa is about to expire, switch to the Investor visa (outlined in the section above). The fee for making the switch is £493.
8. You’ll become eligible for permanent residence and citizenship as outlined under the UK Investor visa requirements.
9. Each year that you spend living in the UK, you’ll need to pay a £400 Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This is a per-person charge, meaning that your partner and/or children will need to pay £400 too.

Reach Out

Receiving expert guidance will be essential if you’re to apply for a UK Investor visa, Innovator Visa, or Startup Visa. Plus, advising you as to which is the best route for you to take and avoiding delays is something that we’re well versed in here at Nomad Capitalist.

If you, too, are keen to find out whether this is the country that could unlock both financial and personal opportunities for you, apply to work with the Nomad Capitalist team today. 

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