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Innovator Visa: Endorsing Bodies and why Entrepreneurs need one to access the UK

Are you an entrepreneur looking into penetrating the UK market for your business? 

If your business is new and innovative, tapping the UK market may be a good stepping stone for growth. The UK has a business-friendly environment with low tax rates and little red tape. It also has a large high-spending customer base that you can take advantage of. 

How to set up or expand your business into the UK

If you’re an experienced entrepreneur, you’ll need an Innovator Visa to establish a business in the UK. 

The Innovator Visa is only granted to applicants whose business can bring value to the UK economy. If you get this visa, you’ll be given leave to travel to and from the UK for three years, with the option to apply for an extension or permanent settlement after this period. You can also bring your family to settle in the UK with you while you build your business. 

How to get an Innovator Visa

You can apply online on the government website for the Innovator Visa, but before that, you need to be assessed by an endorsing body and get their support. 

Endorsing bodies are successful UK businesses or experts approved by the Home Office to review Innovator Visa applicants’ business ideas, strategies, and other important details before applying. If everything is in order, they’ll issue an endorsement letter showing that they approve of your business for visa application. 

More information about endorsing bodies is provided later in this article, but here are the main things they’ll check.

1. Eligibility

There are eligibility requirements you’ll need to meet prior to applying. Some of these include your age, your English language proficiency, and proof that you have enough savings to support your living expenses while in the UK. 

2. Business or business idea

Endorsing bodies look for businesses or business ideas that meet the three criteria set by the Home Office. Businesses need to be innovative, scalable, and viable. 

  • Innovative – your business has to offer something new and valuable to the UK market and it can’t be similar to any business that’s already trading in the country.
  • Scalable – your business should have the potential to grow and the capacity to create jobs in the long term.
  • Viable – your business should have a feasible and achievable plan as well as the proper resources to succeed and thrive in the UK

3. Sufficient investment funds

Aside from being financially capable of living in the UK, you must also have enough investment funds for your business. It’s required that you have at least £50,000 for funding before you apply. If your business will be used by another applicant, each of you must have at least £50,000 for investment funds. 

After successfully getting the approval of an endorsing body and submitting your application online, just wait for the final decision which usually takes at least three weeks.

More about endorsing bodies

It’s best to find an endorsing body you can trust since they’ll be doing more than providing an initial endorsement. 

If your business is lacking in some criteria before application, some endorsing bodies can offer mentoring programs, expert advice, and other supplementary services to help make your business plan more robust prior to application. 

Depending on the endorsing body you select when you successfully secure an Innovator Visa, your relationship with your endorsing body will continue. For example every 6, 12, and 24 months, you will have checkpoints with your endorsing body to update them on the business’ progress. This allows them to assess if you are still meeting the standards expected. 

During your reviews, your endorsing body will guide you in your venture and help you in establishing your business by ensuring you are on plan. They will also support you should you choose to renew your visa or transition to a different one.

How to choose the right endorsing body

It’s crucial to put some thought into which endorsing body you’ll work with. You can’t just pick a random one. Some endorsing bodies have special requirements and restrictions, while others cater to certain sectors or locations only, so take note of those early on. 

Moreover, when you’re granted an Innovator Visa, you’ll have a long-term relationship with your endorsing body. They can be one of the first people you reach out to when you need help along the way. 

Because of this, it’s good to use an endorsing body that can support you with the proper advice on areas you need help with. Identify the gaps in your knowledge and opt for an endorsing body that has a record of supporting other businesses successfully in those aspects.

Boardroom Advisors is one endorsing body that has seasoned experts in a broad set of industries and business departments. They have a tried and tested process for doing strategic reviews and a number of success stories where they have helped businesses scale up.

John Courtney is Founder and Chief Executive of BoardroomAdvisors.co which provides part-time Executive Directors (Commercial/Operations/Managing Directors), Non-Executive Directors and paid Mentors to SMEs without either a recruitment fee or a long term contract.

John is a serial entrepreneur, having founded 7 different businesses over a 40 year period, including a digital marketing agency, corporate finance and management consultancy. He has trained and worked as a strategy consultant, raised funding through Angels, VCs and crowd funding, and exited businesses via MBO, MBI and trade sale. He has been ranked #30 in CityAM’s list of UK Entrepreneurs.

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