Difference Between Startup and Innovator Visa UK Context

Difference Between Startup and Innovator Visa UK Context Featured Image

The main difference between UK’s Startup and Innovator Visa is that the Startup Visa is aimed at early-stage but high potential entrepreneurs starting a business in the UK for the first time, whereas the Innovator Visa is designed for more experienced business people who have funds to invest in their venture. The Startup Visa does not require applicants to have any initial funding and is granted for 2 years, mainly to individuals looking to establish a business for the first time. In contrast, the Innovator Visa requires applicants to have at least £50,000 to invest in their business (unless this requirement is waived) and is generally granted for 3 years, with a pathway to settlement if specific criteria are met. Moreover, the Innovator Visa applicants must have their business plans endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that will assess the business idea for innovation, viability, and scalability.

UK’s Startup Visa and Innovator Visa

The UK’s Startup Visa is designed to attract early-stage, high potential entrepreneurs to establish their businesses in the United Kingdom. Those who are applying for this visa typically do not need to have any form of investment funds, which makes it accessible for individuals starting a venture for the first time. Granted for a period of 2 years, the Startup Visa does not directly lead to permanent residence but can transition into an Innovator Visa, which does have a route to settlement.

The UK’s Innovator Visa, on the other hand, caters to more experienced entrepreneurs who have a viable business plan and at least £50,000 to invest in their business venture – although this requirement may be waived in certain circumstances. The Innovator Visa is granted for 3 years and includes a clear path to permanent settlement in the UK, subject to the fulfilment of specific criteria. Applicants must secure an endorsement from an approved UK endorsing body, which checks the business idea for its innovation, viability, and scalability.

Distinct Features: Startup Visa vs. Innovator Visa

  1. Funding requirements: The Startup Visa does not require applicants to have any initial capital, whereas the Innovator Visa typically necessitates a minimum investment of £50,000.
  2. Path to settlement: Holders of the Innovator Visa can seek permanent residence after 3 years, provided they meet certain criteria, while the Startup Visa does not directly lead to settlement.
  3. Visa duration: The Startup Visa is granted for 2 years compared to the 3 years for the Innovator Visa.
  4. Business experience: The Innovator Visa is aimed at those with more business experience, while the Startup Visa is tailored for individuals new to starting a business.
  5. Endorsement: Both visas require endorsement, but Innovator Visa applicants undergo a more rigorous assessment by an approved UK endorsing body.
  6. Subsequent steps: After the expiration of the Startup Visa, the individual can transition to an Innovator Visa, whereas Innovator Visa holders may apply for permanent settlement.
  7. Eligibility criteria: The criteria for the Innovator Visa are more stringent, requiring proof of a certain level of business expertise and potential for growth.
  8. Primary audience: The Startup Visa is essentially for first-time entrepreneurs, while the Innovator Visa caters to seasoned business professionals.

Commonalities: Startup Visa and Innovator Visa

  1. Endorsement necessity: Both Visa categories require the applicant’s business idea to be endorsed by an authorized UK body.
  2. Focus on innovation: Each visa stipulates that the business idea must be innovative, capable of competing in the market, and bringing something new to the UK.
  3. Business plan evaluation: For both visas, applicants must present a comprehensive business plan that meets specific criteria of innovation, viability, and scalability.
  4. Intention to establish a UK business: The primary intent for both visas is to set up and run a business in the UK.
  5. No direct public funds access: Individuals on either visa are not entitled to access public funds during their stay in the UK.
  6. Language requirement: Applicants for both visas must meet the English language requirement to ensure they possess adequate communication skills for business.

Each type of visa is catered to different stages in an entrepreneur’s journey, but both aim to enrich the UK’s economy by attracting innovative business ideas and entrepreneurial talent.

Advantages of the UK’s Startup Visa Over the Innovator Visa

  1. No investment funds required: The Startup Visa is unique in that it doesn’t require any initial capital from applicants. This makes it particularly accessible to individuals who have a great business idea but lack the financial resources to back it up.
  2. Ideal for first-time entrepreneurs: Those who are starting a business for the first time may find the Startup Visa more accommodating as it is designed specifically for early-stage, high potential entrepreneurs.
  3. Lower cost: With no need for investment funding, the overall financial cost of obtaining a Startup Visa is typically lower than that of an Innovator Visa. This includes lower visa fees and reduced maintenance funds.
  4. Simpler endorsement process: Although both visas require an endorsement, the process for obtaining one on the Startup Visa might be considered less daunting for those without an extensive business background.
  5. Flexibility: The Startup Visa provides a degree of flexibility as it allows entrepreneurs to pivot and refine their business plans without the pressure of having a significant investment at stake.
  6. Path for progression: Even though the Startup Visa doesn’t directly offer a route to settlement, it serves as a stepping stone to the Innovator Visa, which does have a clear pathway to permanent residence in the UK.
  7. Support and guidance: Given its focus on inexperienced entrepreneurs, the Startup Visa often comes with networks and support mechanisms constructed to assist applicants in developing their business ideas and navigating the UK market.

Disadvantages Compared: UK’s Startup Visa vs. Innovator Visa

  1. No direct route to settlement: Unlike the Innovator Visa, the Startup Visa does not offer a direct pathway to permanent residence upon its tenure of 2 years.
  2. Shorter visa length: The Startup Visa is granted for two years, as opposed to the three-year duration of the Innovator Visa, which means less time for entrepreneurs to establish and grow their business before needing to qualify for an extension or switch visa categories.
  3. Limited to early-stage entrepreneurs: The Startup Visa is specifically geared towards individuals who are new to business, potentially excluding those with more experience who still wish to pursue startup initiatives without the need for significant investment.
  4. Less appeal to seasoned entrepreneurs: For experienced businesspeople, the lack of immediate settlement options and a shorter visa tenure might make the Startup Visa less attractive compared to the Innovator Visa, which is tailored to their level of expertise.
  5. Requirement to switch visas for settlement: To achieve permanent residence, Startup Visa holders must first meet the criteria to switch to an Innovator Visa, adding complexity and uncertainty to their long-term settlement aspirations.
  6. Potential pressure for success: Although it offers great opportunities, there may be more pressure on Startup Visa holders to prove their business viability within a shorter timeframe to transition to the Innovator Visa.

Pros of the Innovator Visa Compared to the Startup Visa

  1. Higher investment capability: The Innovator Visa requires a minimum of £50,000 investment which can be a significant advantage for entrepreneurs keen to quickly scale their businesses.
  2. Pathway to permanent residency: A clear and distinct advantage of the Innovator Visa is the route it offers to permanent settlement in the UK after 3 years, subject to meeting specific criteria.
  3. Longer visa duration: Entrepreneurs are granted a 3-year visa under the Innovator category, which provides a longer period to establish and grow the business before renewing or transitioning the visa.
  4. Suitable for experienced entrepreneurs: The Innovator Visa is designed to cater to those with more business experience, providing opportunities for seasoned professionals to bring their ventures to the UK market.
  5. Rigorous endorsement process to assess potential: The Innovator Visa requires a thorough assessment by an approved UK endorsing body, which can add credibility to the business venture and its potential for success.
  6. Direct path to citizenship: Holders of the Innovator Visa who successfully meet the visa’s criteria have the opportunity to apply for British citizenship after fulfilling the residency requirements.
  7. Benefits from investment funds: The substantial investment that Innovator Visa holders bring to their business often means a better foundation to support business growth and scalability.

Disadvantages Compared: Innovator Visa vs. Startup Visa

  1. Requirement for significant investment: The Innovator Visa necessitates entrepreneurs to have access to a minimum of £50,000 in investment funds, which can be a barrier for those not possessing such capital.
  2. More stringent criteria: Achieving Innovator Visa status requires entrepreneurs to meet higher standards of business experience and to present a business idea with a greater emphasis on innovation, viability, and scalability.
  3. Limited flexibility in business pivoting: With a larger investment at stake, there might be less room for entrepreneurs on the Innovator Visa to pivot their business plan based on market feedback compared to the Startup Visa.
  4. Hefty financial responsibility: The financial requirement extends beyond the initial investment; Innovator Visa holders must be able to sustain their business and personal livelihood in the UK, potentially adding financial pressure.
  5. Complex endorsement process: Applicants for the Innovator Visa face a more rigorous endorsement process which may be daunting for less experienced entrepreneurs or those unfamiliar with UK business practices.
  6. May discourage smaller-scale innovation: Since the Innovator Visa is tailored for more substantial business endeavors, it might dissuade entrepreneurs with smaller-scale, yet innovative, business ideas from applying.

When to Choose the UK’s Startup Visa over the UK’s Innovator Visa

  1. No substantial funding available: The Startup Visa doesn’t require applicants to present a large sum of capital upfront, making it an ideal choice for budding entrepreneurs who may have limited financial resources but possess a robust business concept.
  2. Entering the business world: The Startup Visa is particularly beneficial for those who are venturing into the realm of business for the first time. It provides an accommodating platform for individuals who may not have extensive business experience but show high potential for success.
  3. Minimizing financial commitments: If minimizing initial financial outlay is a significant consideration, the Startup Visa is likely more appealing. The absence of the hefty £50,000 investment requisite can make this visa more accessible and reduce the overall setup costs of a new business.
  4. Flexibility in business approach: The Startup Visa could offer greater flexibility for entrepreneurs to test and adapt their business ideas. This is particularly advantageous for those who may need to pivot their strategy based on early feedback or market conditions without the burden of already having invested significant funds.
  5. Beginning a business journey: For individuals looking to take the initial step in their entrepreneurial journey and who may later aim for more permanent options, the Startup Visa serves as a stepping stone, providing time to solidify their business before considering the Innovator Visa and its path to residency.
  6. Enhanced support mechanisms: Recognizing that Startup Visa holders may be less familiar with running a business, this visa often comes with additional support structures to help guide entrepreneurs through the development of their business and understanding the UK market.

When to Choose the UK’s Innovator Visa over the UK’s Startup Visa

  1. Ready for significant investment: Entrepreneurs who have the funds and are prepared to invest at least £50,000 into their business venture may benefit more from the Innovator Visa. This capital can help to quickly scale the business and support its development needs.
  2. Seeking permanent residence: The Innovator Visa offers a direct path to permanent residency in the UK after 3 years, provided the entrepreneur meets all the necessary criteria. This makes it an attractive option for those looking to settle in the UK.
  3. Long-term business commitment: With a 3-year visa term, the Innovator Visa gives entrepreneurs more time to get their businesses off the ground and work towards sustainability before requiring a visa extension or transition.
  4. Experienced business background: Those with a solid history of business experience may prefer the Innovator Visa as it’s tailored to individuals who are likely to have a higher level of expertise and are more familiar with running a business, thus boosting their chances of success.
  5. Looking for credibility and validation: The rigorous assessment for the Innovator Visa by an approved UK endorsing body can add considerable credibility to the business. This could be beneficial in terms of gaining market trust and attracting further investment.
  6. Aiming for UK citizenship: For entrepreneurs who have their sights set on eventually becoming British citizens, the Innovator Visa is especially compelling. It not only offers a route to permanent residence but also to citizenship after the necessary period of residency is fulfilled.


Can I bring my family members if I’m on a UK Startup Visa or Innovator Visa?

Yes, both UK Startup Visa and Innovator Visa holders are allowed to bring certain family members with them to the UK. This typically includes a spouse or partner and any children under the age of 18. Each family member will need to apply for their respective dependant visa and meet all the necessary requirements, including evidence of the relationship and appropriate maintenance funds.

If my business fails while I’m on a Startup Visa, what are my options?

If your business does not succeed while on a Startup Visa, your options depend on the stage of your visa and the reasons for the business failure. You may apply to extend your visa with a new business idea, provided you still have endorsement from an approved body. Alternatively, you may need to transition to a different visa type or, in some cases, leave the UK if you cannot meet the necessary visa requirements.

What kind of support can I expect from UK endorsing bodies?

UK endorsing bodies often provide various support services to visa applicants, particularly for the Startup Visa, which is aimed at less experienced entrepreneurs. Support can include mentorship, business development programs, networking opportunities, and guidance on navigating market entry. The nature of the support will vary depending on the endorsing body and its processes.

How long does it take to obtain a UK Startup Visa or Innovator Visa?

The processing time for both Startup and Innovator Visa applications can vary, but generally, decisions are made within 3 weeks for applications made outside the UK. Depending on the workload and individual circumstances, processing times may be longer, especially if there are complexities in the application.

Are there any nationality restrictions for applying for the UK Startup or Innovator Visa?

There are no specific nationality restrictions for applying for either the UK Startup or Innovator Visa. Applicants from any country are eligible, provided they meet all the necessary criteria, including endorsement, business plan viability, and English language requirements.

How much money do I need to maintain myself while in the UK on a Startup or Innovator Visa?

The maintenance funds required will depend on your specific circumstances and the length of your stay. You will need to provide evidence that you can support yourself and any dependants without recourse to public funds. The exact amount will also be affected by whether you are applying from inside or outside the UK and if you have been in the UK for a specific period.

Can I work for another business on a Startup or Innovator Visa?

The primary purpose of the Startup and Innovator Visas is to establish and run your own business. However, individuals on a Startup Visa may take other work to support themselves during the 2-year period. On the Innovator Visa, you are expected to focus on developing your business, but you can still perform additional work that doesn’t conflict with this commitment.

If I’m on a Startup Visa, is it possible to switch to an Innovator Visa later on?

Yes, holders of a Startup Visa can apply to switch to an Innovator Visa after their initial 2 years if they meet the requirements, including securing endorsement for a scalable, viable, and innovative business idea and possibly demonstrating access to investment funds if needed for their business.

How does the UK government define innovation for these visas?

Innovation, as defined by the UK government for the Startup and Innovator Visas, refers to a business idea that is original and different from anything else on the market. It should offer either a new product, service, or business model or a significant improvement to existing offerings in terms of quality and efficiency.

Can I extend my stay on the Innovator Visa after the initial 3-year period?

Yes, Innovator Visa holders can apply to extend their stay for another 3 years if their business is active, trading, and sustainable. They will need to secure endorsement again and demonstrate ongoing business success. There’s no limit on the number of extensions, and eventually, an Innovator Visa holder may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK.
Explore the differences and similarities between UK’s Startup Visa vs UK’s Innovator Visa, including the distinguishing features that make each visa unique for entrepreneurs looking to establish and grow their businesses in the United Kingdom.

UK’s Startup Visa vs Innovator Visa Summary

In summary, while the UK’s Startup Visa and Innovator Visa both seek to foster innovation and attract entrepreneurial talent to the UK, they cater to different stages of business development. The Startup Visa is ideal for novice entrepreneurs without significant capital, offering a more accessible and less financially demanding entry into the UK business landscape. The Innovator Visa, meanwhile, is suited for seasoned businesspeople with at least £50,000 to invest, offering a direct pathway to UK settlement. Prospective applicants must carefully consider their circumstances, business experience, and long-term goals when deciding which visa to pursue.

FeatureUK’s Startup VisaUK’s Innovator Visa
Funding RequirementsNo investment funds required£50,000 investment required (may be waived)
Path to SettlementNo direct path; transition to Innovator Visa needed for settlementDirect path to permanent residence after 3 years
Visa Duration2 years3 years
Business ExperienceTailored for first-time entrepreneursAimed at more experienced entrepreneurs
EndorsementRequired, simpler processRequired, rigorous assessment process
Subsequent StepsCan shift to Innovator VisaCan apply for permanent settlement, eventual citizenship
Eligibility CriteriaLess stringent, aimed at high potential individualsMore stringent, with proof of business expertise
Primary AudienceEarly-stage entrepreneursSeasoned business professionals
SimilaritiesBoth require endorsement, focus on innovative businesses, and evaluation of business plans; both are for establishing UK businesses, do not allow public funds access, and require English language proficiency
ProsAccessible without capital, ideal for first-time entrepreneurs, lower costs, simpler endorsement process, flexibility, serves as a stepping stone, comes with support and guidanceSuitable for scaling businesses with investment, pathway to permanent residency, longer visa duration, caters to experienced entrepreneurs, rigorous process adds credibility, direct path to citizenship, benefits from investment funds
Cons No direct settlement route, shorter visa length, limited to early-stage ventures, less appealing to seasoned entrepreneurs, requirement to switch visas, potential pressure for successSignificant investment required, stringent criteria, limited flexibility, hefty financial responsibility, complex endorsement, may discourage smaller-scale innovation
When to ChooseWhen no substantial funding is available, entering the business world for the first time, minimizing financial commitments, needing business approach flexibility, beginning an entrepreneurial journey, seeking enhanced support mechanismsReady for significant investment, seeking permanent residence, making a long-term business commitment, having experienced business background, looking for business credibility and validation, aiming for UK citizenship
UK’s Startup Visa vs UK’s Innovator Visa Summary

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