The Start-up visa category is for early-stage, high-potential entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business for the first time in the UK.

Applicants do not need to be a graduate or have secured any initial funding. However, applicants will need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which has been approved by an endorsing body.

The Start-up visa category is suitable for early-stage entrepreneurs who are looking to set up a business in the UK for the first time which is innovative, viable and scalable.  Applicants are expected to present a new business idea and must not have set up a business before in the UK.

Applicants can work on their own as a sole founder, or together as part of an entrepreneurial team, provided that each applicant is an original and significant member of the founding team with a day-to-day role in the business.

The business idea may relate to any sector, provided the business idea is sufficiently innovative, viable and scalable.  For example, the restriction on companies mainly engaged in property development under the previous Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category does not apply.   Applicants can develop other businesses as well as their main business idea, and are permitted to work or study outside of their business venture, provided that they spend the majority of their working time in the UK on building their business venture(s).

If you are a senior employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK then you may like to consider the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

Start-up visa holders are eligible to stay in the UK for a maximum of two years.

After this time, the visa holder may curtail their stay or apply to switch to another UK visa. Start-up visa holders typically apply to switch to the Innovator visa, which extends their stay in the UK for a further three years. After this time, visa holders may be eligible to apply for UK Indefinite Leave to Remain and ultimately British citizenship.

The investment funds requirement for an Innovator visa is waived for applicants switching from the Start-up category to pursue the same business venture under the Innovator visa.  To be eligible to switch to an Innovator visa, applicants need to have demonstrated significant achievements judged against their business plan.

In order to apply for the Start-up visa applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • You are at least 18 years old;
  • You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that has positively assessed your business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and is satisfied that you will spend the majority of your time in the UK on developing your business venture;
  • You have not previously established a business in the UK;
  • Your endorsement letter was issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Start-up visa application;
  • You genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application;
  • You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking);
  • If you are outside the UK or have been in the UK for less than 12 months then you have at least £1270 to support yourself, plus £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child.

Applicants for the Start-up visa do not need to demonstrate any investment funds, however endorsing bodies consider it compelling to see that funding is available or, where this is not possible, that the applicant has a clear and structured fundraising strategy. Applicants that wish to demonstrate investment funds may rely on money of their own or funding provided by their endorsing body.

Some endorsing bodies require a minimum level of funding as a condition of endorsement.

In order for your business proposal to be endorsed, you will need to receive a letter of endorsement from a UK Government-approved endorsing body. Endorsing bodies are selected UK higher education institution or business organisations with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs. An approved endorsing body will need to be satisfied that your business idea meets all of the following criteria:

  • Innovation: You have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
  • Viability: You have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business;
  • Scalability: Your business plan shows evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.

Read the full list of endorsing bodies.

The endorsing body will also need to be satisfied that you will spend the majority of your working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

Our multi-lingual business consultancy team is highly experienced in helping international individuals, students and entrepreneurs to develop Start-up visa-compliant business plans that meet the criteria of being innovative, viable and scalable, and are highly optimised for the UK market.

In addition, our visa consultancy team can help you with all the necessary documentation to apply to a range of suitable endorsing bodies and subsequently make a visa application to the UK Home Office.

Our team has helped over 50 entrepreneurs to successfully obtain Start-up or Innovator visa endorsement and Entry Clearance into the UK. We have a track-record of success in helping our clients to successfully obtaining an endorsement and Start-up visa.

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