The United Kingdom, made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is an island nation in northwestern Europe. England birthplace of Shakespeare and The Beatles is home to the capital, London, a globally influential centre of finance and culture. England is also site of Neolithic Stonehenge, Baths Roman spa and centuries-old universities at Oxford and Cambridge.
The UK Start-up visa is for individuals 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, you will need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which has been approved by an endorsing body.
Start-up visas are one-off visas, valid for 2 years and the category does not lead directly to settlement in the UK. However, Start-up visa holders may extend their stay in the Innovator visa category and qualify for ILR three years later. Start-up visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the UK.
Who is the Start-up visa suitable for?
The Start-up visa category is suitable for early-stage, but high potential, entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business in the UK for the first time.
Generally, Start-up visa applicants will not already have started setting up their business in the UK. However, where they have, the new business should not yet have started trading. The only exceptions to this are if the applicant has already been granted leave under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, or under the Tier 4 doctorate extension scheme.
If you are an experienced businessperson seeking to establish a business in the UK then the Innovator visa may be more appropriate. If you wish to join an already trading business then the Skilled Worker visa may be more appropriate. If you wish to invest in an already trading business then you may wish to consider the Tier 1 Investor visa route. 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.
Requirements for a Start-up visa
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);
- 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.
The exact requirements that you will need to satisfy may vary depending on the circumstances of your case.
Investment funds requirement for a Start-up visa
Start-up visa applicants do not need any funds to invest in their business. However, the requirement to have a ‘viable’ and ‘scalable’ business idea means that, in practice, you may need to have funds available to invest. Some endorsing bodies require a certain level of funding as a condition of endorsement.
Endorsement criteria for a UK Start-up visa
In order for your business proposal to be endorsed, 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, or are actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business;
- Scalability: Your business plan has potential for job creation and growth into national markets.
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.
List of approved Start-up visa endorsing bodies
The Home Office has published a list of endorsing bodies for Start-up visa applications. This list of endorsing bodies contains the names of all currently approved Start-up visa endorsing bodies, as well as links to their websites and, where available, details of their application process and endorsement criteria.
Obtaining a Start-up visa endorsement
Our immigration services assist entrepreneurs from around the world to prepare successful Start-up visa applications. We can also assist applicants to secure Start-up visa endorsement. M-J Global assists in introducing to several endorsing bodies, ensuring eligible clients direct contact with investment panel members as well as transparent and timely decision-making.
Switching into the Start-up visa category
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 provided you do not have, or were not last granted, permission as a Visitor, Short-term Student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.
Joining an existing business as a Start-up visa holder
The Start-up visa category is for people seeking to establish a new business in the UK for the first time. If you are looking to join an existing business then the Start-up visa category is not an appropriate immigration route.
Applying for a Start-up visa as part of a team
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.
Start-up visa endorsement letter
If your application to be endorsed by a Start-up visa endorsing body is approved, you will be issued with a Start-up visa endorsement letter. This letter must be submitted as part of your Start-up visa application. The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the information that must be included in a Start-up visa endorsement letter. Advice from an immigration lawyer will ensure that your endorsement letter satisfies the requirements of the rules.
Start-up visa validity period
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.
Extending a Start-up visa and applying for ILR
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.
What else do I need to know about the UK Start-up visa?
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).
Applying for a Start-up visa? How our immigration barristers can help
We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to startups as part of a professional and friendly service.
Watch our video
Follow M-J Global
Get in touch
Would you like to speak to one of our immigration expert over the phone? Just submit your details and we’ll be in touch shortly. You can also email us if you would prefer.