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26 July 2022

How to get a UK Start-up visa?

6 mins

How to get a UK Start-up visa?

The UK Start-up visa is a way for entrepreneurs with approved business ideas to be granted access to a UK visa without needing to invest funds at the outset. There are strict requirements to obtain this visa which we have summarised below. 

What is a UK Start-up visa?

The Start-up visa is a relatively new route to work in the UK. It partially replaces the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route which has been closed to new applicants. It requires the applicant to establish a new and innovative UK-based business, which has been endorsed by a Home Office approved body.

The Start-up visa does not lead to permanent residence, although it can lead to settlement through progressing into the Innovator route. The Start-up visa can only be granted for a maximum of two years and is not extendable after that time. If wishing to remain in the UK after the initial two years, a switch into the Innovator route or other appropriate visa must be made.

What are the requirements?

Applicants for the UK Start-up visa must:

  • Be aged 18 or over
  • Want to set up or run a business in the UK
  • Be a genuine Start-up applicant
  • Have their business or business idea endorsed by an approved body
  • Not previously have established a business in the UK (unless the business commenced trading during the last period of permission, and that permission was as a Start-up, a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or a Student on the Doctorate Extension Scheme)
  • Meet an English language requirement in speaking, reading, writing and listening – Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)
  • Prove that they have enough personal savings to support themselves, and any dependants, while in the UK
  • Not fall to be refused under the general grounds of refusal, which include, for instance, automatic refusal on the grounds of previous overstay, deception and/or certain criminal convictions
What do I need to do in order to apply for leave under the Start-up route?

The Start-up route is a two-stage application process. Firstly, you will need to apply for endorsement from an ‘endorsing body’. Once endorsed, you will be able to apply for leave to enter/remain in this category. 

What is an endorsing body?

Endorsing bodies are on an approved list and are sector-specific. The authorising body can be:

  • A UK higher education institution
  • A business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs

The approved list can be found here.

How do I get endorsed?

You must be able to prove to an endorsing body that your business idea is:

  • New – you cannot join or invest in a business that is already trading
  • Innovative – your business plan must be genuine and original and show that it will meet new or existing market needs and/or create a competitive advantage
  • Viable – the business plan must be realistic and achievable based on your resources and skills. You must show that you have, or are actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business
  • Has potential for growth – you must provide evidence of structured planning and that there is potential for job creation and growth into national markets
Do I need investment funds for a Start-up visa?

You do not need investment funds to apply for a Start-up visa. However, the endorsing body may want to be satisfied that you have the recourses to be able to cover the start-up costs for the proposed business.

Can I make the application from within the UK?

You can apply from within the UK, unless you are in the UK on immigration bail or you have, or were last granted permission:

  • As a visitor
  • As a short-term student
  • As a parent of a child student
  • As a seasonal worker
  • As a domestic worker in a private household
  • Outside the Immigration Rules
How much are the Home Office application fees?

Entry clearance costs £378 for the main applicant, with the same fee for dependants. In-country applications to switch into the Start-up visa route cost £508 for the main applicant, with the same fee for dependants. 

In addition, you have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge which is currently £624 per person per year applied for.

How long will it take to get a decision on my visa application?

Once you have the endorsement and are able to make the visa application, the current Home Office guidance is that you should receive a decision on the visa application within three weeks if you are outside the UK, and eight weeks if you are inside the UK. Processing times are subject to change and you should check the government’s website for the most up to date guidance.

Can I work outside my business?

Yes, you can work in another job as well as working for your business.

What can’t I do under the UK Start-up visa?

Start-up visa holders cannot:

  • Work as a professional sports person or sports coach
  • Work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • Receive public funds
  • Settle in the UK unless switching to another visa
Can my family come with me?

Yes, you can sponsor your partner and dependent children under the age of 18 to come with you as your dependants.

How long is the UK Start-up visa?

The Start-up visa is for two years. Any time spent as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) counts towards the two years.

Can I get permanent settlement in the UK?

No. However, you can switch into the Innovator category, or other visa category, if you qualify and you may be able to achieve settlement through a combination of visa routes.

Applications for leave to enter or remain in the UK as a Start-up visa holder can be complex and we strongly advise that legal advice is sought before these applications are made.

What to do if your Start-up visa application is refused?

You will not have a right of appeal against the decision, but can make an application to the Home Office for an Administrative Review of the refusal. You will need to show that the Home Office has made an error in their consideration of the application.

How can we help?

Our highly regarded Immigration, Asylum and Nationality team can advise you on your application for an endorsement from an endorsing body. If you obtain an endorsement, we can help prepare the application for permission to enter and/or remain and will advise on the documentation and process.

We assist clients in navigating the constantly evolving area of immigration law, offering clear and concise advice on complex matters. For more information on the services we provide, visit our web page here.

How can we help you?

We are here to help. If you have any questions for us, please get in touch below.