Start up visa

Start up visa category is for those who have an innovative business idea and wish to open their first business in the UK. There is no specific level of investment required. However, applicant must present a business plan that is innovative, viable and scalable, and the business plan must be considered as such by one of the Home Office approved business organisations called ‘endorsing bodies Start-up endorsing bodies – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Start up visa can be obtained for 2 years only, and those who wish to stay in the UK for longer than the 2 years would have to apply for another visa category before the Start up visa expiry. The suitable option is the Innovator visa but to apply for the Innovator visa applicants have to obtain another endorsement from one of the Home Office approved business organisations called Innovator Endorsing Bodies Innovator endorsing bodies – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Endorsement is mandatory for both the Start up and Innovator visa categories and obtaining the endorsement is usually the most challenging step in the immigration process for the Start up and Innovator visas. Applicants need to obtain the endorsement for Innovator visa in good time before their Start up visa expiry.

On the Start up visa you can bring dependants to the UK (partner and/or children). During the Start up visa validity you can travel in and out of the UK, work on your business, as well as work in another job outside of your business.

Start up visa does not directly lead to Settlement/ILR/Naturalisation in the UK. However, it does count towards the Long Residence 10 year ILR.

Start up visa may, in some circumstances be used as a path to ILR/Naturalisation, when the time spent on Start up visa does counts for the long residence ILR. In this type of ILR applicant needs to spend 10 years in the UK lawfully, on any type of visa. Provided that he has not exceeded the allowed number of absences he ca apply for an ILR and, later, Naturalisation.

Requirements for the start up visa

The Start up visa category is for less experienced business persons seeking to establish a business in the UK for the first time. The requirements for the start up visa are divided into ‘General’ and ‘Specific’. Both General and Specific requirements must be met for the Start up visa to be granted. Initially the visa is granted for 2 years. Furthermore, it does NOT lead to Settlement in the UK. However, it can be switched to the Innovator category that does lead to settlement after 3 years.

start up visa uk application

Applicants who are already in the UK with certain visa categories can switch to a Start up visa from inside the UK:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 2
  • Tier 4 (General) if certain requirements are met
  • a visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur.

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General requirements

  • The applicant must be at least 18 years old;
  • The applicant must have B2 English language ability (approved English language test is required unless the applicant is a national of one of the majority English speaking countries listed in the immigration rules OR has a university degree from the UK or has a foreign university degree that was taught in English and is recognised as equivalent to UK degree by UK NARIC);
  • The applicant must pass the credibility assessment*;
  • The applicant must have £945 maintenance funds. NOTE: There is no requirement to provide evidence of maintenance funds if the letter from the endorsing body confirms that at least £945 funding has been awarded.
  • There are no general grounds of refusal (e.g. criminal record, breach of immigration rules);
  • The applicant does not need to be the sole founder of the business and may be a member of an entrepreneurial team.

*Credibility assessment:


The Home Office must be satisfied that all of the following requirements are met:

  • The applicant genuinely intends to undertake, and is capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in their application.
  • The applicant does not intend to work in the UK in breach of their conditions.
  • Any money which the applicant claims to be available is genuinely available as described, and the applicant intends to use it for the purposes described in the application.
  • The Home Office will take into account any endorsement of the applicant required under the rules, and may also take into account any or all of the following factors:
  • the evidence the applicant has submitted and its credibility
  • the applicant’s previous educational, work and immigration history
  • declarations made to other government departments regarding the applicant’s previous employment and other activity in the UK
  • any other relevant information.
  • The Home Office may request additional information and evidence from the applicant or the applicant’s endorsing body.
  • The Home Office may ask the applicant to attend an interview.

Specific requirements

Endorsement  

The Home Office has published a list of endorsing bodies. The endorsing bodies are divided into: business endorsing bodies (generally business incubators, accelerators or venture capital organisations) and Higher Education Institutions (HEI) endorsing bodies (i.e. universities).

Only the organisations from the Home Office list of approved Endorsing Bodies can grant endorsements for the Start up visa.

It is crucial for applicants to first obtain an endorsement from one of the approved Endorsing Body before applying for the visa.

Endorsing bodies have the following responsibilities:

  • To stay in contact with those they have endorsed at 6, 12 and 24 months checkpoints after their application is granted.
  • To inform the Home Office if, at these checkpoints, both of the following apply:
    (1) The individual has not made reasonable progress with their original business venture
    (2) The individual is not pursuing a new business venture that also meets the endorsement criteria set out in the immigration rules.
  • To inform the Home Office if an applicant misses any of these checkpoints without the endorsing body’s authorisation.
  • To withdraw its endorsement if either bullet point 2 or bullet point 3 above applies, unless it is aware of exceptional and compelling reasons not to withdraw its endorsement, and informs the Home Office of those reasons.
  • To inform the Home Office if it has any reason to believe that an individual it has endorsed breaches any of their conditions.
  • Must not be connected to past or present abuse of the immigration system

Endorsement criteria

The applicant’s business must meet the criteria of ‘Innovation, Viability and Scalability’ AND the endorsing body must be ‘reasonably satisfied’ that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing their business.  

The Home Office defines the Innovation, Viability and Scalability as follows:

  • Innovation: The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
  • Viability: The applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
  • Scalability: There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.

The requirement of Innovation, Viability and Scalability does not apply if the applicant’s previous leave was in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category, and the endorsement is from the same endorsing body.