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Entrepreneurial Dilemma:

Sponsor Licence or Innovator Founder Visa

Sponsor Licence or Innovator Visa – Which Option is Right for You?

Whether you are an overseas investor, serial entrepreneur or a business owner, most probably you will be exploring at least three different UK visa categories.

These are:

To be fair a sponsor licence is not a visa, but a licence for your UK based business to grant worker visas to your employees who are from overseas and who otherwise do not have the right to live and work in the UK.

The purpose of this post is to compare sponsor licence and Innovator Founder visa.

You will note that the Global Talent visa is talent driven and the successful applicant may be an investor, entrepreneur or a business owner if the industry is right.

1. New business versus old

The main distinction between the two UK immigration categories is whether you are considering opening a new business in the UK or wish to continue your current business overseas in the UK.

Innovator Founder visa is a specific visa category, which requires you to open a brand new business in the UK, provided the requirements for the visa application are met.

For the purposes of securing a sponsor licence for your UK business, you may be investing into an existing UK business or starting a new one. 

The requirements for the sponsor licence and your business can be assessed on a case by case basis.



2. Employee or Entrepreneur

When your business applies for and secures sponsor licence every application made will be treated as a worker visa. Your business will be able to issue appropriate visas for its employees coming from overseas.

If you are an investor, entrepreneur or a business owner, you will definitely need to look up the requirements of the scale-up worker visa, especially if your UK business is eligible for this option.

If you are applying for an Innovator Founder visa, then you will be treated as an entrepreneur. As part of your application process,  you will be required to make a business investment. You are also required to demonstrate sufficient savings to support yourself and your family’s needs in the UK.

3. Polish your English

If you are from a major English speaking country, then English language requirement will not be an issue and it will be met by demonstrating your passport issued by a major English speaking country.

However, this may not be as straightforward if English is not your mother tongue. 

You need to demonstrate that your command of English is at B2 CEFR when you apply for a Innovator Founder visa.

It should be noted that this language requirement is set higher than for British citizenship application. You need to demonstrate that the level of your English is at B1 for the application to be successful.

The reason why the language requirement is so much higher for Innovator Founder visa applicants is to ensure that the business leader is able to interact with the employees and other business stakeholders in a fluent manner. This allows to minimise some of the business and regulatory risks in the future.

CEFR is a language reference evaluation framework set up by the Council of Europe and followed by the UK for UK immigration purposes.

There is no English language requirement attached for the UK business when applying for sponsor licence. However, when securing a visa for your employees, you will need to make sure that your employees meet appropriate English language requirements as required by their individual visa category.

4. Viable Business Plan

While applying for a sponsor licence or an Innovator Founder visa, you will need to present a viable business plan as part of your application.

5. Endorsing Body

A bureaucratic process is attached to Innovator Founder visa applicants. Your business idea will have to be endorsed by the approved endorsing body. Your visa application will fail if you do not manage to secure such an endorsement.

The predecessor of the Innovator Founder visa, which was the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, did not have the endorsement requirement attached to it. However, the application success rate was less than 25%.

The approved endorsing body was introduced to make sure the business was real and viable and not just a way to obtain your visa and live in the UK.

As you apply for a sponsor licence for your business there is no requirement to endorse your business idea. In fact, there is absolutely no red tape introduced to slow down the application process in any way.

The UK, especially in the Brexit aftermath, has actively reached out to highly successful overseas businesses based outside the EU and suggested expanding their business operations in the UK.

Applying for a Sponsor Licence may be a simpler and more viable option

There are a number of requirements attached to Innovator Founder visa, especially the business and the business idea need to be:

  • New
  • Innovative
  • Viable
  • Scalable
  • Endorsed by an authorised body

Sponsor licence for a new or an existing business may be a more attractive choice. Mainly, there is less red tape attached to your business and your business idea.

Of course, your UK business will need to be registered with Companies House and HMRC and meet any other regulatory requirements attached to your industry.

You will need to demonstrate why your UK based business needs overseas workers.

If your business is performing particularly well then if you are an investor, entrepreneur or a business owner relocating to the UK, then a scale-up worker visa may be the best option for you.

What happens when Your UK Visa is Rejected?

UK visa application is a detailed and demanding process and I encourage you not to leave this complex process to chance.

Working with a qualified professional may reduce the chances of your UK visa application and endorsement being rejected. It is important that you work with a duly qualified, authorised and experienced professional.

If you missed the step of working with a duly authorised professional or your UK visa application was rejected anyway, depending on the reasons why your application was rejected, you may still be eligible to apply again

This time you will need to make sure that your application is well prepared and you address Home Office’s concerns.

The worst you can do is do nothing. Non-action will endorse Home Office’s decision and will leave a poor UK immigration record, which can cause hardship and impediments later.

Get it Right from the Start! 

Need help to decide the better option for you, how to best apply and organise your business operations as well as a family relocation to the UK, schedule a phone call with me.

Book a call with me to discuss your Global Wealth Strategy as you invest, operate or relocate to the UK or Switzerland. You may submit your enquiry here.

Book a call with me to discuss your UK immigration application. Submit your UK immigration enquiry here if you need assistance with any UK immigration application.

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Saule Voluckyte, M.A.E.S, LL.B, FAIA

I have been working exclusively with UHNWI in Mayfair, London since January 2008. I built specialist knowledge and expertise required to serve ultra high net worth individuals investing, operating and relocating to the UK or Switzerland.

Within the industry, I am the single adviser who is able to traverse the different areas of expertise and bring a comprehensive approach across: global structuring, UK immigration, international taxation and FOREX to develop their global wealth strategy, while they build, grow and expand their wealth worldwide.

Previous experience as one of the senior advisors for the government, made me a go-to person when delicate and uncomfortable scenarios involving heads of state need to be handled with care and preserve privacy.

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