How to Apply


Business Visa Overview

There are 3 types of endorsement available within the Innovator Founder visa route

Innovator Founder – new businesses

This type of endorsement is for those wishing to apply for an Innovator Founder visa for the purposes of setting up a new company in the UK.
Please see further details on how to apply below.

Innovator Founder – same business as previous endorsement

This type of endorsement is for those who have had leave in either the Start-up or Innovator categories and are continuing as a founder pursuing a previously endorsed business venture that was assessed in their previous endorsement that led to that grant of leave, or at a contact point with their endorsing body during that grant of leave.
To apply, email You will be sent an Application form for the route you require.

Innovator Founder– settlement in the UK

This type of endorsement is for those who have spent at least 3 years in the Innovator category on the basis of founding their own business and have achieved a level of business success which meets the endorsement criteria for settlement.
To apply, email You will be sent an Application form for the route you require.

The Innovator Founder endorsement is for businesspeople seeking to establish an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK.

Successful Innovators are granted leave for 3 years at a time and can bring their family members to the UK. After 3 years, Innovators can apply to extend their stay for a further 3 years or to settle permanently in the UK. Each of these 3 stages (initial application, extension, settlement) requires endorsement from an endorsing body.

All Innovator Founder applications will be assessed on three main points: Innovation, Viability and Scalability. These are defined as:



Do you have a genuine, original Business Plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage? Are you able to demonstrate a clear and compelling unique selling proposition (USP) that is not easily replicable by others?



Is your Business Plan realistic and achievable based on your available resources? Do you have, or are actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business?



Is there evidence of structured planning demonstrating a credible path to growth and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets?

Innovator Founder Assessment Criteria

When preparing your Innovator Founder endorsement application, make sure that you have considered the following:

  • You can demonstrate clearly that the innovation element of the business is being driven and developed internally as opposed to it being outsourced
  • Your Business Plan demonstrates innovation clearly and obviously, with a new-to-market or sector approach which is supported by the Priority Themes as outlined by Innovate UK
  • The business owns the Intellectual Property (IP) and has or will have design authority for the innovation
  • Your Business Plan demonstrates clearly how the product/service scores against Technology Readiness Levels (TRL)
  • You are able to demonstrate a clear and compelling unique selling proposition (USP) that isn’t easy to replicate. You have identified that there are barriers of entry that are not easily replicated by others
  • Provide evidence throughout your Business Plan that the future growth and trade within the business is driven and generated by the core, innovative elements of the proposal
  • There is a credible and central propositions within the Business Plan related to ongoing significant research and development activity in relation to the core innovation proposition. How much of your business expenses relate to R&D should be clearly articulated within both your Business Plan and financial forecast
  • As the founder/business owner, your Business Plan and CV should very clearly demonstrate your relevant skills/experience to drive Innovation within the business

So you are ready for your submission, please see below a list of documents required to ensure we can make an assessment of your application:

  • Complete Business Plan: you can find a Business Plan template that can be used as a guide for minimum expectations HERE.
  • CV
  • Financials: 3-year forecasts including P&L, Balance Sheet and Cashflow (you can download financial plan templates that can be used as a guide HERE).
  • Identity documents: passport, second form of ID (e.g. driving licence or national identity card), selfie with passport, proof of address (e.g. utility bill or bank statement not older than 3 months)

The Scale-up endorsement is for UK businesses for which it is not possible to meet the Home Office definition of a Scale-up business but can demonstrate clear potential/ability to do this in the next 4 years.

In order to be eligible for the Scale-Up route, the businesses must already be established in the UK market and have a genuine need to recruit overseas workers through to fill vacancies at RQF level 6+.

Scale-up businesses are granted a sponsor license for a maximum period of 4 years in duration. This license only allows them to sponsor individuals applying for a Scale-up visa, however, they can apply and hold other types of license (such as Skilled Worker). A business can only be granted a Scale-up license once and is unable to extend it beyond the maximum period of 4 years.

In order to qualify for endorsement under the Scale-up route, the business must meet all of the following requirements:



Must have a minimum of 10 employees paid by PAYE



Must be solvent and trading in the UK



Must have a HMRC footprint of less than 4 years



Must be able to demonstrate potential growth rate consistent with the requirements of the Scale-up route



Must have sufficient finance to offer appropriate salaries to individuals working in roles equivalent to RQF 6

In addition to these mandatory requirements, you must be satisfied that the business meets at least three out of the following criteria:


A business has exhibited more than 20% growth in revenue or employment per year over a two-year period


Participation in relevant Government programme or receipt of relevant Government funding: a business has participated in a recognised scale-up programme (e.g., Innovate UK EDGE, DCMS Creative Scale-up); received an Innovate UK loan or grant; participated in the Small Business Research Initiative.


A business has raised a minimum of £1million in equity finance in a single round in the last 12 months.


A business has global offices or operations and generating a minimum threshold of 10% of turnover from exports.


A business’s expenditure on research, development or innovation is either 10% of overall operating costs per year for three years or 15% in one of the last three years

Visa Application

Your Journey

Register on our portal
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Complete background survey
Complete due diligence checks
Upload documents
Complete business idea questionnaire
Pay endorsement assessment fee
Due diligence assessment by UKES
Document assessment by UKES
Business plan assessment by UKES
Business plan assessment outcome
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General overview of the UKES assessment approach:

UKES uses a point scoring system to assess Innovator Founder endorsement applications. We will give consideration to the key parameters outlined below.


  • We will review and research both the market and technological advance proposed to identify clear innovative developments and credible differentiation and barriers to entry/ replicability of technology.


  • Assessor will determine if the applicant has benchmarked their business idea against demand from the market, competition and other factors which can validate that the business is viable. Assessors will be looking for a strong demonstration of Market demand having researched their market closely in terms of competition, obtained strong feedback of demand for their product or service (other than high level size of the market data), have interacted with their potential customer base and obtained positive feedback results. All businesses need sales the potential and scale of which for a start-up come from market research and validation and both Viability and scalability also hang off these.

  • We will review applicant CV(s) and request evidence of qualifications to determine if they have the skills and experience required to implement a viable business proposition.


  • We will request and review growth projections, key milestones, structure/governance, investment plan and financial profiles/forecasts to assess the growth potential for the business. Additionally, the assessor will make an assessment on the interplay between market failure or identified market niche, innovation and technological development and business/founder capacity as these indicate the potential for high and sustained growth.

  • Unique selling proposition - We will review market analysis, competitor analysis, SWOT analysis to determine the unique selling proposition of the company, taking into consideration innovation and viability.

  • Management Structure, Experience & Skills - We review and assess the applicants proposed management structure, their understanding of leadership and the importance of division of roles and responsibility to good governance particularly in high growth business. Applicants would be expected to have included the identification of Board/Non-Exec Directors capable of supporting innovation or market entry as a clear milestone in the growth plan.

  • R&D proposition - We review and assess the applicant’s R&D activities in line with their business proposition and the requirements for the Innovator visa assessment. In these cases, we would expect that R&D will make up the core element of their Innovation and be the main driver for the success of the proposed business proposition and will be primarily delivered within the business itself.

A successful application:

Please note that at Stage 9 (Business Plan Assessment), if the Business Plan and Financial Plan review is successful, then a second UKES Assessor ("Shadow") carries out second review to validate the result. On the basis that both Assessors agree, then an interview is scheduled with the applicant to discuss the business plan in more detail. Once the interview is concluded, and the interview corroborates the Business Plan, then endorsement will be granted and advised to the applicant.

An unsuccessful application:

If on the other hand the first assessment of the Business Plan and Financial review is unsuccessful, then there is no Shadow review or interview. However, to improve the likelihood of successful future applications, applicants that are declined will receive a concise yet detailed report identifying the key areas of weakness in their business proposition and may make a second (paid) application. A second application is not a guarantee of a successful endorsement if the strict criteria is still not met.

The assessment process that UKES employs, uses a panel of experts to ensure that all decisions are objective and technically informed.