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The 5-Year Route to British Citizenship via the UK Innovator Founder Visa

The UK Innovator Founder visa, launched in April 2023, is designed for non-UK residents wishing to establish an innovative business in Britain. This visa substituted the previous Innovator and Start-up visa categories, becoming the main visa option for international entrepreneurs planning to start a business in the UK. Today, the UK Innovator Founder visa holders do not simply enjoy the possibility of establishing a business in the UK, but they also may obtain British citizenship.

This article discusses the route of obtaining British citizenship through the UK’s Innovator Founder Visa. We begin by exploring the eligibility requirements for the visa, including the need for endorsement by an authorised body. Then, the core of the article focuses on the pathway to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and subsequently to British citizenship. We detail the process and requirements for achieving ILR after three years, including the business success and active participation. Finally, we describe the steps from ILR to British citizenship, outlining the criteria and considerations for those aiming to become British citizens through this route.

Securing the UK Innovator Founder Visa

Criteria for a Robust Business Plan:

Before we discuss how to obtain British citizenship, it is necessary to overview the UK Innovator Founder visa requirements, eligibility, and endorsement.

A crucial step in securing the visa is crafting a compelling business plan, which is pivotal for gaining an endorsement from an authorised body. A well-articulated business plan significantly boosts the chances of securing this crucial endorsement.

Criteria for a Robust Business Plan include:

  1. Innovation: Your business idea should introduce a novel and unique concept to the UK market that is difficult to replicate. Also, highlight any traction the technology has received, including plans for patent applications and R&D strategies.
  2. Viability: The plan should demonstrate the feasibility of your business idea, including expertise, experience, and insightful market analysis.
  3. Scalability: Illustrate the potential for growth and expansion of your business. Outline plans for scaling the business, job creation potential, and strategies for entering national and international markets. Show demand for your product or service and plans for scaling production and sales.

Endorsement Process for UK Innovator Founder Visa:

A successful business plan leads to an endorsement from a UK-approved body, affirming your business as innovative, viable, and promising. This endorsement opens the way for the subsequent phases of the visa application process and, eventually, British citizenship.

From the UK Innovator Founder Visa to Permanent Residency

What is Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)?

To understand the application process for British citizenship, one has to know what ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ (ILR) means. ILR serves as a stepping stone towards settling in the UK as a citizen, commonly known as ‘settlement’ or Permanent Residency. It allows you to live, work, and study in the UK without any time limit. Once you have ILR, you can also apply for British citizenship.

How to Apply for ILR after Securing UK Innovator Founder Visa?


To be eligible for ILR under the UK Innovator Founder visa, you must meet these criteria:

  • You need a new endorsement confirming your business’s growth.
  • You should have lived in the UK for three years on an Innovator Founder or Innovator visa. Time spent in the UK on other visas doesn’t count toward ILR application.
  • If you are between 18 and 64 years old, you must pass the Life in the UK Test.
  • You shouldn’t have left the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period.

You can apply for ILR 28 days before you’re eligible. Don’t apply too early as it may lead to refusal. Also, don’t let your current visa expire before applying for ILR. If it expires, you’ll need to renew it first.

Here is a detailed overview of meeting the eligibility criteria:


For the endorsement, you need to prove your active role in managing and developing your business. The business should be registered with Companies House, and you must be a director or a member. It needs to be currently trading and should continue to do so for at least the next 12 months.

Additionally, your business should have achieved at least two of the following:

  • Invested £50,000 into business development.
  • Doubled its customer base in the last three years, surpassing the average for similar businesses.
  • Applied for intellectual property protection in the UK.
  • Generated £1 million in revenue in the last full financial year.
  • Made £500,000 in revenue in the last full year, including £100,000 from exports.
  • Created the equivalent of 10 full-time jobs for 12 months.
  • Established 5 full-time jobs for 12 months, each paying an average salary of £25,000.

Don’t get too overwhelmed: you might have already met some of these criteria when you applied for your visa. If you’ve created jobs, they must be for ‘settled workers’. These workers should be either British citizens, EEA citizens who were in the UK and working for you by 31 December 2020, Commonwealth citizens with a UK Ancestry visa, or those with indefinite leave to remain or settled status.

If you satisfy the criteria, the endorsement body will provide an endorsement letter confirming your eligibility.

You should apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain within three months of receiving this letter.

Remember, you can choose a different body from the one that endorsed your Innovator Founder or Innovator visa.

Calculating your Continuous Residence in the UK

To demonstrate continuous residency in the UK, the Home Office prefers applicants to present documents that cover long periods. These long-term documents are more effective in showing uninterrupted residence over the entire necessary duration of 3 years. Often, a single long-term document may suffice, but typically, a combination of documents is required.

Long-term evidence of continuous UK residence can include:

  • Yearly accounts for self-employed individuals.
  • Mortgage statements and evidence of payments.
  • Rental agreements and records of rent payments.
  • Yearly bank statements displaying transactions for at least six months each year.
  • P60 forms for each year.
  • Confirmation letters from care homes about residency.
  • Council tax bills.

All provided documents should consistently cover the entire required residency period, like back-to-back yearly bank statements.

Short-term documents are also acceptable but less preferred due to their limited duration coverage. These short-term proofs include:

  • Monthly payslips or bank statements.
  • Invoices for work performed in the UK.
  • Utility bills in the applicant’s name show a UK address.
  • Letters from healthcare providers or UK entities verifying interactions.
  • Passport stamps and travel tickets that show entry into the UK.

Some items not acceptable as proof of residence include personal references, photographs of personal events, greeting cards, personal scrapbooks, and digital media like CDs, DVDs, or USB sticks.

It’s crucial to check the validity period of each document. Some are only relevant for the month they were issued, while others cover more extended periods.


The application costs £2,885 per person. You’ll also need to provide your biometric information (fingerprints and photo) at no extra cost. The decision typically takes up to six months. During this period, avoid travelling outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man. If you do, your application could be withdrawn.

Life in the UK Test

Booking the Life in the UK Test is a necessary step for your British citizenship or settlement application. You must schedule your test online at least three days before and pay a fee of £50.

The UK has over 30 test centres, and you can pick your preferred location at the time of booking.

To get ready for the test, you need to study the official handbook for the Life in the UK Test. You can find the handbook in various formats like a book, an eBook, an e-learning subscription, or audio formats.

The test gives you 45 minutes to answer 24 questions about British traditions and customs.

Decision Timeline

Once you submit your application, you can typically expect a decision within six months. However, if you opted for the ‘super priority service’, a decision will be made in just two working days. If you choose the ‘priority service’, the decision will come within five working days. Note that working days are from Monday to Friday, excluding any public holidays.

It’s important not to travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man while your application is pending. Doing so could lead to the withdrawal of your application. Sometimes, processing might take longer, especially in situations where your supporting documents require verification, if you are asked to attend an interview, or due to specific personal circumstances, such as having a criminal record.

If the ILR Application is Successful

Once your application is successful, you will have the freedom to work, establish another business, pursue studies, and access public services like healthcare and schools. Additionally, you can apply for public benefits and pensions.

Be mindful that if you spend more than two years outside the UK, you might lose your indefinite leave to remain. In such cases, you would likely need to apply again to return to the UK.

From Indefinite Leave to Remain to British Citizenship

Differences Between ILR and British Citizenship

While both ILR and British citizenship provide a right of residence in the UK and access to public services, citizenship additionally grants the right to vote, hold public office, and apply for a British passport.

ILR can be lost if the individual is absent from the UK for more than two years, whereas citizenship is a permanent status


After residing in the UK for five years, individuals who have held ILR for 12 months become eligible to apply for British citizenship.

Residency Requirements

Applicants must have been physically present in the UK exactly five years before the Home Office receives their application.

They should not have spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the five years before the application and no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months.

Absences exceeding these limits may still be considered under exceptional circumstances such as illness or travel restrictions

Good Character Requirement

Applicants must demonstrate good character, meaning adherence to UK laws and respect for the rights and freedoms of UK citizens. This assessment includes a review of the applicant’s background, including criminality and financial conditions.

Application Costs

The application fee for British citizenship is £1,580. This cost does not include the fee for biometric information, which is also required as part of the application process.

Considerations for Dual Nationality

Before applying for British citizenship, individuals should ensure that their country of origin allows dual nationality to avoid losing their existing citizenship​.

Decision Timeline

The processing time for British citizenship applications varies but generally takes several months​

Applying for a British Passport

After obtaining British citizenship, the next step is to apply for a British passport. This involves a distinct procedure, where the applicant has the option to fill out either a paper form or an online form provided by the HM Passport Office. Along with the application, the applicant must submit the necessary fee and required documentation. These documents typically include a passport photograph, proof of citizenship, confirmation of identity, and additional documents that may vary based on the method of obtaining citizenship and other specific circumstances. The processing time for a first adult passport application is generally around ten weeks.

Passport Fees

To apply for a British passport after receiving citizenship, the fees vary depending on whether you apply online or via a paper form, and the type of passport you need. Here are the current fees:

  • Adult (16 and over) Standard 34-page Passport:
  • Online Application: £82.50
  • Paper Form Application: £93
  • Adult (16 and over) 50-page Frequent Traveller Passport:
  • Online Application: £93.50
  • Paper Form Application: £104

How Tech Nomads Can Help

Seeking assistance in your journey from the UK Innovator Founder Visa to British citizenship? Or perhaps you require support in acquiring the UK Innovator Founder Visa itself?

Tech Nomads stands ready to assist you in both scenarios.

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