Overview of the UK Start-up Visa
Note: The Start-Up visa route will no longer accept new applications after 13 July 2023. Applications made before then must have an endorsement from an authorised body issued before 13 April 2023. If you wish to immigrate to the UK to start a business, you can instead apply for the Innovator visa (now known as the Innovator Founder visa).
The Start-Up Visa was designed to support talented overseas individuals to develop their idea for a business in the UK.
It is not a requirement to be a graduate or to have available funds in order to apply for this visa.
The category is for businesses in an early stage of development that can demonstrate high potential. It is permissible for individuals to have already set up their business, but it should not have commenced trading yet (with some exceptions).
The old Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa has been replaced by the Start-up Visa and the Innovator Visa routes.
The visa can only be issued once and cannot be extended. However, it may be possible for eligible individuals to switch to the Innovator Visa category at the end of the term of the two-year visa.
As a high-value visa, the time spent on this visa can be used towards permanent settlement in the UK (also known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR)).
One of the primary requirements of the Start-Up Visa is that visa applicants must hold an endorsement from an approved endorsing body.
Another key requirement is that the idea must demonstrate innovation, viability, and scalability.
For more information on the Start-Up Visa eligibility, application help, and how our immigration lawyers can help you, continue to read on.
Who can apply for this visa?
The Start-Up Visa is a popular visa category and has a high threshold of eligibility. This means that you should be prepared to submit extensive evidence to demonstrate your suitability.
According to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), individuals eligible to apply include the following categories:
- You are aged 18 years or over
- This is your first time establishing a UK-based business (exceptions relate to those on the former Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route)
- You have received an endorsement from an eligible UK endorsing body which has assessed your business idea for the three criteria of being innovative, viable and scalable
- You can demonstrate that you intend to undertake most of your time working on your business in the UK if your visa application is approved
- Your endorsement was stamped within the last three months by the date of your application
- You have the ability and expertise to undertake business activity relating to your intended business idea
- You can provide evidence of your English language skills (up to B2 level on the CEFR Scale)
- You can demonstrate you have the required funds to independently support yourself while living in the UK
You can be considered if you are:
- Working alone as the sole founder of the business
- Working together as part of a team of entrepreneurs (where each individual meets the visa requirements)
Depending on their circumstances, visa applicants may need additional evidence to prove to the Home Office that they are eligible to submit a visa application.
It is recommended to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to help you prepare the strongest application.
UK Start-up Visa requirements
There are a number of requirements for this route and it is important to ensure that you meet the requirements before submitting an application.
As well as the eligibility criteria outlined already, the endorsement requirement is a primary feature of this visa.
This is the current list of endorsing bodies and one of these must approve your business idea before it can be considered as part of your visa application.
According to the Home Office, organisations have the ability to set their own criteria in relation to what constitutes a genuine original business idea that fulfils new or existing market needs.
If your idea is approved, the endorsing body will issue a letter which can then be submitted with your visa application. The organisation will get in contact with you after six, 12, and 24 months to review your progress according to your business goals.
The requirements by which endorsing bodies will assess your business idea are:
- The business is innovative, viable, and scalable with the aim of becoming integrated into the UK as a contributing enterprise
- It is a new business idea (which may or may not already exist/ be registered) which the applicant has started (or joined as an ‘instrumental member’ of the founding team) before it has begun trading
The business may fall under any sector without restriction, but you should have the appropriate knowledge, experience, and market awareness to develop the business.
It is possible for you to continue work with another business outside of the main idea, however the endorsing body must be satisfied you will have an adequate amount of time to develop the business.
Which endorsing body should I seek endorsement from?
It can be difficult to identify the most appropriate endorsing body. If you choose to work with IAS immigration lawyers, we can work with you to introduce you to the organisation that most closely matches your business idea and circumstances.
The Home Office will not provide advice on the endorsing body you should choose.
An organisation may submit a request to the Home Office to become an endorsing body. They must have a proven track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs and providing guidance in developing business ideas.
Many of the endorsing bodies are universities, investment businesses, innovation hubs, business incubators, accelerator businesses, or business support services.
It is recommended to view the information provided about each endorsing body and to undertake some research into the most appropriate organisation.
Does the Start-up Visa lead to ILR?
The visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain (ILR) by itself. However, it can be used in conjunction with the Innovator Visa.
If you hold the visa for two years and successfully apply for the Innovator Visa, you may be eligible to apply for ILR at this time if you meet the requirements. After holding ILR for one year, you may be eligible to apply for British citizenship.
However, there are a number of conditions that must be met in order to secure ILR after holding the Start-Up and Innovator Visas. These include remaining in contact with your endorsing body and providing evidence that you have made progress on your business venture.
Further information can be found on the Innovator Visa page.
Start-up Visa rejected
If your application for a Start-up Visa is refused, you may be able to request an administrative review of the decision, but it is normally not possible to repeal the rejection of a Start-up Visa.
Below are the recommended steps to take if your Start-up Visa is rejected (please note that you should always consult a qualified solicitor about your individual case):
- Before you submit your application, you should take care to follow the application instructions exactly to maximise the chance of a successful outcome
- When you receive your rejection letter, identify the next course of action (administrative review
- Submit your request for an administrative review as soon as possible (you have either 14 or 28 days to do so, depending on whether you applied inside or outside the UK)
- Pay the application fee for an administrative review (£80) and submit your application online
- Wait for a decision to be issued
Reasons why a Start-up Visa can be refused
- Not providing the required evidence to meet the requirements of the immigration rules
- Your application meets the grounds for refusal (e.g., admittance to the UK would be contrary to the public good, a disqualifying criminal record, breach of immigration rules, misleading information on the application, etc.)
Start-up Visas can be complex and it is recommended to work with a dedicated immigration adviser to maximise your chance of a successful application and avoid getting a rejection.
Can you extend the Start-up Visa?
It is not possible to extend the Start-up Visa as it is issued on a one-time only basis. However, it may be possible to switch to the Innovator Visa category instead.
You can switch to this category if you meet the eligibility requirements:
- Meet the required level of English language skills
- Meet the age requirement
- Meet the financial maintenance requirement
- Have at least £50,000 to invest in the business (unless the business has already been established)
You must be able to prove to the Home Office that you have held at least £1,270 in your bank account for at least 28 consecutive days prior to applying or switching to this visa.
You may be able to create a partnership of Innovator applicants if you meet certain criteria.
Last modified on August 15th, 2023 at 9:40 am
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To apply for the visa, you should expect to pay the following rates according to your circumstances:
- Applying for yourself outside the UK: £378
- Switching to this visa yourself inside the UK: £508
- Your partner or child applying outside the UK: £379 per person
- Your partner or child switching to this visa in the UK: £508 per person
There may be additional fees, including the immigration healthcare surcharge, biometric information fees, and costs of obtaining/ translating documents for submission.
If you apply for this visa, statistically, you may be likely to have your application granted.
In 2019, there were 249 decisions issued, with a success rate of 93.17%.
In 2020, there were 323 decisions, with a success rate of 97.21%.
The Start-up Visa application is very complex and requires a high amount of evidence and preparation. Our immigration lawyers have experience completing applications for this visa.
Our expert services mean that your lawyer will fully prepare you for your Home Office interview and review your business plan alongside business plan specialists. Contact us today to get started.
Our services include:
- Providing Initial advice to discuss the requirements of the Startup Visa
- Completing application forms in full
- Advise whether your business plan is likely to be endorsed
- Assist with the development and submission of your business plan
- Comprehensively checking your documents to make sure you are eligible
- Writing a Letter of Representation. This details the merits of your case to the Home Office and references UK case laws that support your application;
- Maintaining contact with the Home Office during the process
- Preparation for the Home Office interview
For advice on your current situation, or to find out if you are eligible, contact us today on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online. We have branches in London, Manchester, and Birmingham.
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