How to apply for a Start-up Visa

Got an idea for a start-up company? Then perhaps the UK could be the place to launch your business.

The UK has a thriving start-up scene with London now home to 24 start-ups for every 1,000 citizens. That’s a lot of budding entrepreneurs that have decided to make the capital city a base for their business.

For recent graduates from overseas looking to establish a start-up in the UK, there is even a specific immigration route. It’s called the Start-up Visa.

The Start-up Visa is similar to its ‘cousin’ the Innovator Visa. But is unique in that it’s targeted at young entrepreneurs with genuine business ideas.

In fact, one of the biggest conditions of the visa is to prove that the idea is unique, innovative and with potential for growth.

Plus, unlike the Innovator Visa that requires large sums of investment cash, Start-up Visa applicants can get started on their business with less money. This makes it an attractive option for those with limited funding channels.

If the Start-up Visa sounds like the right immigration route for you, keep reading to find out how to apply.

Applying for a Start-up Visa

The Start-up Visa is available for applicants from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The UK is currently still in the Brexit transition phase (until the end of 2020), so this visa route doesn’t apply to EU citizens.

The application process is split into two sections; endorsement and the official immigration application.

For endorsement:

  • You and your business idea needs to be endorsed by a UK Higher Education Institution


  • By an approved business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs

Endorsement involves your business idea being reviewed and endorsed by an organisation that is relevant to your proposed business industry or niche. For example, if your start-up idea is about digital technology, then you will need to approach an organisation that deals with that sector.

You can find the full list of government-approved business organisations on the UK government website.

For the visa application you will need:

  • Evidence of English language skills at level B2 or above
  • Proof that you have enough money to support yourself

The proof of funds means you must have had at least £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before lodging the application.

If any family members (partner and children under 18) want to join a Start-up Visa holder, they must also have maintenance funds that are separate to the main applicant.

The fee for the Start-up Visa application is £363, or £308 if you’re from Turkey or Macedonia. There is also a fee of £363 for each additional dependent included in the application.

It usually takes three weeks for visa applications to be processed.

How long is the visa valid for?

Once an application has been approved, the visa is valid for two years.

With the Start-up Visa there isn’t an option to extend or apply for long-term settlement. But if the business is successful, applicants can then switch to an Innovator Visa after two years.

As an added bonus, Start-up Visa holders can work in another job while working for their business. This is useful for graduates as they are often still establishing themselves financially after studying.

The UK start-up scene

As with many countries, the UK’s capital city is the hub of the British start-up scene.

In a recent report by Startup Genome, London was even named as one of the best ecosystems in the world for technology start-ups. This is due to access to global talent, funding options and travel connections with other leading cities.

London isn’t the only British city attracting start-ups though.

Manchester now has more start-ups than anywhere else in the North West of England. Why? Because the northern city has a lower cost of living and more than 90,000 students in Greater Manchester. That means there is plenty of post-grad talent available for starting a business.

As you can see, the decision on where to base your business depends on the cost of living and whether you want to be in the north or south of the country.

But the first step is to get a business idea endorsed and the Start-up Visa application submitted. Then you can start to build your UK start-up.


Article Created By Hayley Maguire

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