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Start Up Visa

The Start-up visa category is for non-EEA nationals who are new entrepreneurs and want to establish a business in the UK for the first time.  You do not need to be a graduate or have secured any initial funding. However, all applications will be assessed for Innovation, Viability and Scalability.

The visa is available for a maximum of two years, after which point the visa holder will either have to apply to switch to another visa category, such as the Innovator visa, where they can continue to develop their business.

Home Office has defined the Innovation, Viability and Scalability as meeting the following criteria:

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.


In order to qualify for a Start-up visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:

  • You are at least 18 years old;

  • You have not previously established a business in the UK (unless you previously held leave as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur);

  • You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that has assessed your business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and is satisfied that you will spend the majority of your working time in the UK on developing your business venture;

  • 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);

  • You have at least £945 available to support yourself (and £630 for each dependant) without relying on public funds.

There is no investment funds requirement, meaning that in theory a Start-up visa can be obtained without any investment funds. However, the Home Office will want to be satisfied that you genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, business activity in the UK.

Your initial Start-up visa will be valid for 2 years, unless you were previously granted leave as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, in which case you will be granted leave for a period that will take you to the maximum 2-year limit.

It is not possible to extend a Start-up visa and Start-up visa holders are not eligible for settlement.  However, at the end of 2 years you will be able to apply for further leave to remain in the Innovator category in order to continue developing your business.  The Innovator category can lead to settlement after a further 3 years.

Applications for Start-up visas can be made from outside the UK, but it is also possible to switch into the Start-up visa category from within the UK if you were last granted leave to remain as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur (if not yet been granted 2 years’ leave in the category), Tier 2 General or Tier 2 ICT Skilled Worker, Tier 4 General Student or Prospective Entrepreneur.

You do not need to be the sole founder of your business and may be a member of a Start-up team.  This means that you may share the same business idea and plan as another Start-up team member.  However, each applicant must receive their own individual endorsement from an approved endorsing body.

As a Start-up visa holder you will not be required to spend any particular amount of time in the UK and you will be permitted to undertake employment other than working for the business or businesses that you have established.  

However, you will need to stay in contact with your endorsing body with checkpoints at 6 and 12 months.  The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you are continuing to work on your business venture and have demonstrated reasonable progress in relation to either your original or a new business idea.  Your endorsement may be withdrawn and your leave curtailed if this is not the case.  You will also need to abide by various other conditions of stay.

Your partner and any children under the age of 18 may accompany or join you as your dependant(s).

If you wish to obtain advice or legal assistance in respect of your immigration matter, we offer an affordable and confidential consultation at a fixed fee with and experienced immigration lawyer where we can answer your questions and explain the processes that will apply. Your consultation fees will be set off against your instructions to the firm if you go on to instruct us.

For more information or to book an initial consultation, please contact us

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