Start Up Visa Guide 2021

start up visa

The UK Start-Up Visa is a specialist work visa route for individuals to set up their first business in the UK.

It requires that applicants have an innovative business plan that demonstrates gaps in the UK market which the business would fill. Your business must be endorsed by a British endorsing body organisation or higher education institution. This visa does not allow for a route to settlement or citizenship but does allow for visa switches to another visa category that could lead to settlement.

It is important to ensure that you follow the correct steps to apply for your Start-Up Visa, as your ability to move to the United Kingdom will depend upon the acceptance of your application by the Home Office. This article will outline common questions and concerns from applicants around the world who are applying for a Start-Up Visa.

What is the UK Start-Up Visa?

The UK Start-Up Visa is a specialist work visa route for individuals who seek to create and run a start-up business in the UK.

The Start-Up Visa is a popular option in particular for international students seeking to create a start-up business in the UK after finishing their studies, or for young entrepreneurs around the world.

The Start-Up Visa is 2 years in length and cannot be extended. This visa does not allow for a route to permanent residency but permits you to switch to another visa category that could lead to settlement and citizenship.

What type of activities does the UK Start-Up Visa allow?

A UK Start-Up Visa allows for specific activities throughout your visa. You can do the following activities:

  • You can work for your business and in another job
  • You can bring your spouse/partner and children as dependants, if they meet eligibility criteria
  • You can travel abroad and return to the UK

A UK Start-Up Visa does not allow for the following activities:

  • You cannot apply for most benefits, also known as Public Funds, or a new State Pension
  • You cannot work as a professional sportsperson
  • You cannot gain permanent residency in the UK

UK Start-Up Visa requirements

To be eligible for the UK Start-Up Visa, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You must have a new, innovative, and viable business idea to set up in the UK
  • Your business plan must be assessed and endorsed by an eligible endorsing body or higher education institution
  • You must be age 18 or over
  • You must speak English at a minimum B2 Level as identified by the Common European Framework of Languages
  • If you are applying outside the UK or inside the UK but have been in the UK for less than 1 year: You must have at least £1,270 saved for at least 28 days to support yourself without relying on public funds or benefits

What are the endorsement rules for the UK Start-Up Visa?

Before applying for the UK Start-Up Visa, you must have successfully gained the endorsement of your business by an authorised endorsing body or higher education institution.

The specific requirements of the endorsement process vary broadly depending upon your specific field, your career achievements, and the requirements of the endorsing body or higher education institution you are applying to. You should choose an endorsing body that is most closely aligned with the aims, ethos, and sector of your business or business plan. You should consult the endorsing organisation and Home Office resources to ensure compliance with all requirements.

At the time of writing, the following are the Home Office’s appointed endorsing bodies or higher education institutions:

  • The Bakery
  • Bethnal Green Ventures
  • Blue Orchid Enterprise Solutions Ltd
  • Britbots
  • Capital Enterprise (IDEA London)
  • Community and Business Partners
  • Consilium Consulting
  • CyLon
  • Deep Science Ventures
  • DRS Business Solutions
  • Edinburgh Innovations
  • Emerge Education
  • Emsworth Corporate Planning (ECP)
  • Entrepreneur First (EF)
  • Envestors Limited
  • Fashion Angel
  • First Corporate Finance
  • Fortunis Capital Ltd
  • Founders Factory
  • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP)
  • Innovator International
  • Ignite
  • Innovate Britain
  • International Innovation Hub Ltd
  • Invest Northern Ireland
  • Kollider
  • Level 39
  • MDR LAB
  • MedCity
  • NEXUS
  • North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC)
  • Pall Mall Investments International
  • Panacea
  • Primus Capital
  • Queensbury Consulting
  • The Royal Society of Edinburgh
  • Sapphire Capital Partners LLP
  • Schoolgate Accounting Services
  • Scottish EDGE
  • Seedcamp
  • SETsquared Bristol
  • Severn Seed Finance (SSF)
  • SFC Capital
  • Startups Giants pls
  • The Start-up Race
  • Techstars London
  • Tech X
  • Wayra
  • Zinc
  • Arts University Bournemouth
  • Aston University
  • Bangor University
  • Bath Spa University
  • Birmingham City University
  • Bournemouth University
  • BPP University Limited
  • Brunel University London
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Cardiff University
  • City, University London
  • Coventry University
  • Cranfield University
  • De Montfort University
  • Derby University
  • Durham University
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Falmouth University School of Entrepreneurship
  • Girne American University Canterbury
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Goldsmiths University of London
  • Guildhall School of Music and Drama
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Hult International Business School
  • Imperial College London
  • Keele University
  • King’s College London
  • Kingston University
  • Lancaster University
  • Leeds Arts University
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
  • Liverpool John Moores University
  • London Business School
  • London Metropolitan University
  • London School of Economics and Political Sciences
  • London South Bank University
  • Loughborough University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Middlesex University
  • Newcastle University
  • Norwich University of the Arts
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • Ravensbourne University London
  • Regent’s University London
  • The Robert Gordon University
  • Royal Academy of Music
  • Royal Agricultural University
  • The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Royal College of Art
  • Royal Holloway and Bedford New College
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • SOAS, University of London
  • Solent University
  • University College London
  • University for the Creative Arts
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Bath
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bradford
  • University of Brighton
  • University of Bristol
  • The University of Buckingham
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Central Lancashire
  • University of Chester
  • University of Dundee
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of East London
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Essex
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Greenwich
  • University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation
  • University of Huddersfield
  • University of Hull
  • University of Kent
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Manchester
  • The University of Northampton
  • University of Northumbria at Newcastle
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Reading
  • University of Roehampton
  • The University of Salford
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of South Wales
  • University of Southampton
  • University of St Andrews
  • University of Stirling
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Sunderland
  • University of Surrey
  • University of the Arts London
  • University of the West of England
  • University of the West of Scotland
  • The University of West London
  • University of Warwick
  • University of Westminster
  • University of Wolverhampton
  • University of York
  • York St John University

Each endorsing body and higher education institution has specific requirements that applicants must follow to have the best chance of acceptance. In general, higher education institutions will only assess endorsement applicants from students, recent graduates, and alumni of the institution. Please consult specific endorsing bodies/higher education institutions and Home Office resources to ensure that you meet all criteria.

Start Up visa business case

Your business case must demonstrate that your unique business meets three key criteria points:

  • Your business must be new and not part of an existing company or organisation
  • Your business must be innovative in the UK due to market needs and competitivity
  • Your business must be viable and you must personally have the necessary skills and experience needed for the business to succeed

Whilst the Home Office does not stipulate how much detail you need to provide on these three key criteria points, it is in your best interest to provide as much detail as possible.

Crucially, your business plan will need to show you have an innovative business or business plan that fills a niche gap in the UK market. You will need to undertake extensive research and business planning to ensure that your idea is new, innovative, and viable. You must create a strong business strategy and plan to present to an endorsing body or institution of higher education.

The relevant endorsing body or higher education institution should provide guidance on their individual criteria and requirements. Use this information to help shape your business plan.

How can I apply for a UK Start-Up Visa?

You must have secured endorsement before you can proceed with the Home Office application for your visa. As part of your visa application, you will be required to submit your letter of endorsement from your endorsing body as proof of your status. This letter must be dated within three months of you making the visa application.

You will also have to prove your proficiency in the English language. For the Start-Up Visa, you must understand, write, speak, and read English at a minimum B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. You can prove your proficiency in English in one of the following ways:

  • You have successfully passed a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from a UK government-approved provider of the exam
  • You possess UK secondary school qualifications in English that you earned by studying before the age of 18 at a school in the UK
  • You are a national of a majority English language country from the following list:
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Australia
    • The Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Canada
    • Dominica
    • Grenada
    • Guyana
    • Jamaica
    • Malta
    • New Zealand
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Vincent and the Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • USA

 

The application process also requires you to submit supporting documents. Your documents must be in English or Welsh – if they are not, you will need to provide the original documents alongside certified translations. You will need to prepare the following mandatory documents and information:

  • Your valid passport with a blank page
  • An endorsement letter from an endorsing body or institution of higher education approving your business or business plan
  • Bank statements proving that you have enough personal savings for at least the past 28 days – at least £1,270 to support yourself financially in the UK. You do not need to demonstrate these funds if you have been in the UK for more than a year
  • An up-to-date Tuberculosis certificate if required for your country of nationality
  • Proof of your English language proficiency

Finally, once you have collected all of your documents you are ready to apply for your Start-Up Visa. You can apply from outside the UK or inside the UK if you are switching from a different visa category.

If you are applying for your Start-Up Visa from outside the UK:

You will submit your Start-Up Visa application online. You must either submit your application from your country of nationality or a country where you have valid immigration permission. During the application, you will need to pay the full cost of the IHS fee of £624 per year of your visa. For a 2-year visa, the total IHS fee would be £1,248. You will be issued an IHS number as proof of payment to input into the application. At the end of the online application, you will need to pay the application fee of £363. If you are from an EU country, your application fee will be reduced by £55.

Next, you will need to book a biometrics appointment at a suitable visa application centre in your country of application. You can either upload your supporting documentation online before your appointment or pay an additional fee to have your supporting documentation scanned and uploaded at the appointment. You will have your fingerprints recorded, a photograph taken, and your supporting documentation confirmed at the biometrics appointment. Your passport will likely be sent to the UK government for an entry clearance stamp to be placed inside.

After this appointment, you will normally receive a decision within 3 weeks. You may be able to pay to receive a decision more quickly than this. If your application is successful, you will be issued entry clearance in your passport which will note the first date you can enter the UK. Upon arrival in the UK, you will need to retrieve your Biometric Residence Permit. It will either be shipped to a local Post Office or sent via courier to your mailing address.

If you are applying for your Start-Up Visa from inside the UK to switch from a different visa category:

You will submit your Start-Up Visa application online. During the application, you will need to pay the full cost of the IHS fee of £624 per year of your visa. For a 2-year visa, the total IHS fee would be £1,248. You will be issued an IHS number as proof of payment to input into the application. At the end of the online application, you will need to pay the application fee of £493. If you are from an EU country, your application fee will be reduced by £55.

Next, you will need to book a biometrics appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point anywhere in the UK. It will cost £19.20 to book this appointment. You can either upload your supporting documentation online before your appointment or pay an additional fee to have your supporting documentation scanned and uploaded at the appointment. You will have your fingerprints recorded, a photograph taken, and your supporting documentation confirmed at the biometrics appointment. For some applicants, you may be able to use a mobile phone application instead of attending this appointment. You will be instructed on what to do when you submit your online application.

After this appointment or use of the mobile application, you will normally receive a decision within 8 weeks. You may be able to pay to receive a decision more quickly than this. If your application is successful, you will be issued a decision letter or decision email from the Home Office. If your visa switch is approved, your Biometric Residence Permit will be sent to your mailing address via courier.

Can I bring dependants to the UK with a Start-Up Visa?

You may be able to bring dependants to the UK on a Start-Up Visa. Their immigration status will be tied to yours throughout your visa. Dependants are considered the following:

  • A wife, husband, civil partner, or unmarried partner
  • A child under the age of 18
  • A child over the age of 18, if they’re currently in the UK as your dependant

As part of the supporting documentation for your Start-Up Visa, you will need to provide evidence of your relationship to each of your dependants such as marriage certificates and birth certificates. For children over the age of 16, you may need to provide more specific documentation.

You will need to provide evidence of additional funds to support your dependant family members. In addition to the £1,270 in savings you will need to show evidence of for your visa application if you have been in the UK for less than 1 year, you or your child or your spouse/partner will need to demonstrate receipt of the following amounts of money for the past 28 days:

  • Your spouse/partner: £285
  • Your first child: £315
  • Additional children: £200

Each dependant will need to complete a separate visa application and pay the correct visa application fee of £363 per person for applications lodged outside of the UK and £493 per person for applications lodged within the UK. Each dependant will also be charged £624 per year of the length of the visa for the IHS fee. Please note that each dependant will need to include your Unique Application Number on their online visa application, so you should submit your application first.

Switching from a UK Start-Up Visa to an Innovator Visa

You may be able to switch from a Start-Up Visa to an Innovator Visa if you meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Your business plan must be assessed and endorsed by an eligible endorsing body
  • You must be age 18 or over
  • You must speak English at a minimum B2 Level as identified by the Common European Framework of Languages
  • If your business is new – You must have at least £50,000 in investment funds to set up your new business
  • If you have been in the UK for less than 1 year – You must have at least £1,270 saved for at least 28 days to support yourself without relying on public funds or benefits

The operative differences between the Start-Up Visa and Innovator Visa are that the Innovator Visa requires your business to be sustainable, active, and trading on the UK market. Whilst you are allowed to work in another job on the Start-Up Visa, you must be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business on an Innovator Visa and be able to financially support yourself solely through business profits. Finally, your endorsing body must approve a switch from a 2-year Start-Up Visa to a 3-year Innovator Visa.

Can I settle in the UK via a Start-Up Visa?

You cannot obtain UK settlement directly via the Start-Up Visa, as it is only 2 years in length and non-extendable.

You may be able to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) by switching from a Start-Up Visa to an Innovator Visa. If you apply for and are successfully granted an in-country visa switch from a Start-Up Visa to an Innovator Visa, you can stay in the UK for an additional 3 years.

If you have lived in the UK for 3 years on an Innovator Visa, you may then be eligible to apply for ILR. This settlement status allows you to remain in the UK indefinitely without being subject to immigration control.

As a permanent resident of the UK, you can work for any employer without limitations, engage in self-employment, or study at any university without needing prior permission from the Home Office.

You may also access public funds and benefits as a permanent resident. However, it is important to note that your Indefinite Leave to Remain status can expire if you leave the UK for more than 2 years.

The general eligibility requirements for Indefinite Leave to Remain status through a Start-Up Visa and then an Innovator Visa are as follows:

  • You have lived in the UK legally for 3 years
  • You have not broken UK immigration laws over the past 3 years
  • You do not have a criminal record in the UK
  • You have not spent more than 180 days outside the UK in the past 12 months
  • You have successfully passed the Life in the UK Test
  • You speak English at a minimum B2 Level as identified by the Common European Framework of Languages

If you meet these requirements, you can apply online via ILR Form Set (O) to become a permanent resident of the UK. It currently costs £2,389 per person to apply for ILR, and your application will generally be processed within 6 months from the date of application. You can pay additional funds ranging from £500 to £800 to expedite your application.

Can I become a British citizen via a UK Start-Up Visa?

You cannot obtain British citizenship directly via a Start-Up Visa. The Start-Up Visa provides neither a direct route to permanent residency nor citizenship, as it is only 2 years in length and non-extendable.

You may be able to obtain UK permanent residency, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), by switching from a Start-Up Visa to an Innovator Visa. If you apply for and are successfully granted an in-country visa switch from a Start-Up Visa to an Innovator Visa, you can stay in the UK for an additional 3 years. If you have lived in the UK for 3 years on an Innovator Visa, you may be eligible to apply for ILR.

You may be eligible to become a British citizen after you have held UK Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least 12 months. This citizenship status gives you the same rights as any other British citizen and there are no limitations on your ability to live, work, and study in the UK. You can also access public funds and benefits as a British citizen.

Importantly, citizenship carries certain benefits not afforded to those who only possess rights of permanent residence in the UK. These benefits include factors such as:

  • Requesting a British passport
  • Voting in all elections – however, you might be able to do so in some elections depending on your existing nationality
  • Standing as a candidate for elections – however, you might be able to do so in some elections depending on your existing nationality
  • Leaving the UK more than 2 years at a time without losing residence rights
  • Obtaining British citizenship for your children if they were born outside the UK

To qualify for naturalised British citizenship through a Start-Up Visa and then an Innovator Visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be 18 years or over
  • You have lived within the UK for at least 3 years before the date of your application
  • You have held legal permanent residence status via Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least 12 months
  • You have not been absent from the UK in the past 12 months for more than 90 days
  • You must be able to prove that you were in the UK exactly 3 years before the day the Home Office receives your application
  • You have successfully passed the Life in the UK Test
  • You speak English at a minimum B2 Level as identified by the Common European Framework of Languages
  • You must meet the ‘good character’ requirements

Having lived and worked in the UK over the years, there are many political, social, economic, and practical benefits of becoming a UK citizen. You may want to apply for British citizenship due to these benefits, or simply because the UK is your home.

Start Up Visa FAQs

What is a UK Start-Up Visa?

The UK Start-Up Visa is a specialist work visa route for individuals who seek to create and run a start-up business in the UK. The Start-Up Visa is a popular option for international students seeking to create a start-up business in the UK after finishing their studies, or for young entrepreneurs around the world.

How can I get a UK Start-Up Visa?

To obtain a UK Start-Up Visa, you must have an innovative business plan that demonstrates gaps in the UK market which the business would fill. Your business must be endorsed by a British endorsing body organisation or higher education institution.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

More To Explore