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Changes to the UK Start-up, Innovator and Sole Rep Visa Categories


On 14 May 2020, the UK Home Secretary laid Statement of Changes to the UK Immigration Rules  before Parliament, effectively giving written notice that there would be changes which took effect on 4 June 2020. The changes do not apply to visa applications submitted or endorsements issued before/on 3 June 2020.

For the purposes of this article, we will only look at the changes affecting the Start-up, Innovator, and Representative of an Overseas Business (“Sole Rep”) visa categories.

Sole Rep Visa Category

The Sole Rep visa allows an overseas parent company to send a senior employee, who is not a majority shareholder, to the UK to establish its first UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary. Some of the key changes in this route include:

  • ownership of an overseas business is not limited to businesses that issue shares, it includes ownership by any arrangement
  • the dependent partner (of the main applicant) cannot have a majority stake, own or control the overseas business under any arrangement

Other changes, clarify the existing position, including:

  • that only genuine applicants can apply
  • the overseas parent company will need to continue to have its headquarters and principal place of business outside the UK
  • both the overseas parent company and the intended UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary must be actively trading in the same type of business
  • the applicant needs to have the skills, experience and knowledge of the business necessary to undertake the role and have full authority to negotiate and take the operational decisions on behalf of the business
  • the applicant will not engage in business of his own nor represent any other business’ interest in the UK

Start-up and Innovator Visa Categories

The Start-up and Innovator visas (which replaced the former Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category on 29 March 2019) allows entrepreneurial applicants, who have had their business idea assessed and approved by an endorsing body as being innovative, viable, and scalable, to set-up and run their business or businesses in the UK. Some of the key changes in this route include:

  • clarification that applicants must be the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team, relying on their own business plan, and responsible for executing the plan
  • an Innovator visa applicant’s business may have already started trading but the applicant must be the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team
  • the “Viability” criteria is to be expanded, requiring the applicant’s business plan to be realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources
  • allowing applicants to change business venture, as long as the endorsing body is satisfied that the new venture meets all of the requirements for endorsement, and without the need to obtain fresh endorsement or submit a new visa application

Are There Other Changes?

There are other changes which apply, for instance amendments to the Global Talent visa route, and to the EU Settlement Scheme (which take effect on 24 August 2020).


The above is a general overview of some of the key changes. If you have any questions and/or would like tailored advice on any UK immigration matter, please speak to Vincent Chung at: or to your usual Dixcart contact.

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