Innovator Scheme

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If you have an excellent business idea and can raise the finance this could be a way for you to gain entry to the UK.

The innovator scheme is now a permanent scheme since 16 September 2002. It was originally introduced as a two year pilot scheme from 4 September 2000 to 4 September 2002. There have been over one hundred innovator applications approved for highly talented business people to come to the UK. This category should only be used if you have a business idea that will bring very considerable economic benefits to the UK and is tailored to those in the new industries of information technology and telecommunication sectors, although is open to those from other industries as well.



This scheme was introduced for the entry of entrepreneurs with an exceptional business idea, but with little capital. Some of the requirements for the scheme are as follows:

If you do not meet the requirements of this category, please go to the entrepreneurs page for details of entry under another category. If you are a citizen of Bulgaria or Romania, you can come under the EC Association Agreement which is more straightforward than entry as an innovator.

Please see our Visas for Entrepreneurs page for details of other categories.

Do I qualify to come to the UK as an Innovator?

This category is very different from other UK visa categories as it is based on a points system. The points system covers a number of criteria and is clearly targeting highly innovative businesses creating employment and bringing new skills and technology to the UK. The main features of the points system are to grant points under the following criteria (this is a simplified version):

Section 1: Personal Characteristics - Minimum Score 15

Business Experience:

Qualifications and/or relevant references:

Section 2: Business Plan - Viability - Minimum Score 15

Financial Viability:

Commercial and technical viability and management plan:

Section 3: Economic Benefit to the UK - Minimum Score 30

Jobs and skills:


The above is only an outline of the points system, and if you would like us to evaluate your case further please complete our online application form.

What do I need to show in my business plan?

What evidence do I need to support this?

What should my curriculum vitae show?

What evidence do I need to support this?

What about My Family?

You may apply for your spouse and children to accompany you as your dependants.


Your children entering the UK as your dependants are entitled to the same free education as British children. You may choose to send your children to a private school if you wish.

Health care

You and your family are eligible to free health care provided by the National Health Service. You are not required to take out private health insurance.


Your spouse and dependents are entitled to take up any lawful employment.

What about extending my visa?

Your initial visa is granted for a period of 18 months. It will be based on you meeting the requirements of the points system. The business does not need to start until you have entered the UK.

At the end of your first 18 months in the UK, you may apply for your visa to be extended for a maximum period of four years. This application should be successful if you meet the following requirements:

You and your dependants have been able to support yourselves during this period without needing public funds. Also, you have not had to take other employment during this time (your dependants are free to take whatever employment they desire).

You have created at least two full-time jobs in the first twelve months of trading.

You can demonstrate at least a five percent ownership in the UK business.

Your business continues to exist, and has sufficient funds to continue trading.

After a total of 4 years in the UK you may apply for indefinite leave to remain (Permanent Residence). A year after being granted indefinite leave to remain you may apply for naturalisation as a British citizen.

How do I Apply?

You can apply for the innovator at the relevant British Embassy outside the UK and in some cases an application from within the UK.

You will need to provide documentary evidence showing your qualifications, work experience, funding for the proposed business, etc. can assist you in all aspects of your application. If you are interested in taking this further please complete our assessment form.