Start-up visa

The programme is currently closed. The Start-up visa category is aimed at new entrepreneurs starting their first UK business and has no requirements for initial capital investment. To qualify for a visa, applicants must first obtain an endorsement from an approved endorsing body confirming that their business is innovative, viable and scalable. Applicants who are successful are granted 2 years leave. After a set period of time, holders of Start-up visas may be able to progress to the Innovator category in order to extend their stay and further develop their businesses in the UK.


On 29th March 2019, the UK Start-up visa category opened to new applicants. This category is aimed at aspiring and ambitious entrepreneurs looking to set up a business in the UK for the first time. The key requirement for the Start-up visa is the same as the Innovator visa, which is to obtain an endorsement letter from an approved endorsing body. All applications will be assessed for Innovation, Viability and Scalability.

This assessment will be carried out by an approved endorsing body, who will need to confirm this in an endorsement letter. There is a number of specific rules about the format of this letter and what should be included.   


Innovation - The applicant must have a genuine, original business plan that is in line with new or existing market needs and/or has a competitive advantage.


Viability - The applicant is actively developing or already has the required skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run their business successfully.


Scalability – There needs to be evidence of structured planning and of job creation prospects as well as potential to grow into national markets.


The initial visa is granted for 2 years with no requirement for initial capital investment.

During this period of leave, applicants will be expected to dedicate most of their time to developing their businesses. Applicants can also undertake other work outside of their businesses in order to support themselves.

After 2 years, Start-up visa holders can change to the Innovator visa category in order to extend their stay and further develop their businesses in the UK.


Eligibility Criteria (initial application):



Applicants should:


  • be at least 18 years old;
  • must not have previously set up a business in the UK;
  • be endorsed by an authorised body - this can be either from a UK higher education institution or a business organisation who has previously supported UK entrepreneurs;
  • provide an endorsement letter issued by the endorsing body;
  • have a sufficient amount of personal savings to support yourself while you are in the UK;
  • meet the English language requirement of at least CEFR Level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening. There are two exceptions which may apply, depending on your specific circumstances.



You can:


  • work in another job, as well as working for your start-up business;
  • switch to this visa from some other visa categories;
  • bring your dependent family members with you to the UK.



You cannot:


  • work as a doctor or dentist in training;
  • work as a professional sportsperson;
  • receive public funds.



Processing time:


  • the earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel;
  • priority Service may be available for entry clearance applications which should result in a decision within 10 – 15 days;
  • standard processing times for entry clearance applications is approximately 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK. For applications submitted from within the UK, processing time is currently approximately 8 – 12 weeks.



Permitted duration of stay:


  • start-up visa is valid for 2 years and you can not apply to extend this.


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We have a wealth of experience advising on all aspects of Tier 1 (Investor), Start-up and Innovator visa applications, as well as providing end-to-end immigration assistance on businesses and on the development of strategic immigration plans. We provide complete support, from sponsor licence applications and management and compliance training and audit services, to full support helping to obtain initial Skilled Worker visa for employees and further extensions.

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