UK start-up visa

The start-up visa offers the opportunity for innovative people to come to the UK and develop their business idea in the UK.

If you have an idea that you believe is innovative, feasible, scalable, contact our team of immigration lawyers today for a confidential discussion on how we can help you achieve your goal

UK Startup Visa Overview

Please note: The Start-Up visa route will no longer accept new applications after 13 July 2023. Applications submitted before then must have approved body approval issued before 13 April 2023. If you wish to immigrate to the UK to start a business, you can apply for the Innovator visa (now known as the Founder Innovator visa) instead.

The Start-up Visa is designed to support talented overseas people to develop their business idea in the UK.

You do not need to be a graduate or have available funds to apply for this visa.

UK start-up visa requirements

  • There are a number of requirements for this route and it is important to ensure you meet them before submitting an application.
  • In addition to the eligibility criteria already outlined, the approval requirement is a main feature of this visa.
  • This is the current list of approving bodies and one of them must approve your business idea before it can be considered part of your visa application.
  • According to the Home Office, organizations have the ability to set their own criteria in relation to what constitutes a genuine and original business idea that meets new or existing market needs.
  • If your idea is approved, the approving body will issue a letter which can then be submitted with your visa application. The organization will contact you after six, 12 and 24 months to review your progress against your business goals.

The requirements according to which the certification bodies will evaluate your business idea are:

  • The company is innovative, viable and scalable with the aim of integrating into the UK as a tax-paying business
  • This is a new business idea (which may or may not already exist/be registered) that the applicant has started (or joined as an “instrumental member” of the founding team) before it has started trading
  • The business can fall into any industry without restrictions, but you must have the right knowledge, experience and market awareness to develop the business.

It is possible to continue working with another business outside of the main idea, however the promoting body must be convinced that you will have an adequate amount of time to develop the business.

Who can apply for this visa?

The Start-Up Visa is a popular visa category and has a high eligibility threshold. This means you should be prepared to present extensive evidence to prove your eligibility.

According to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), people eligible to apply include the following categories:

  • You are at least 18 years old
  • This is your first time setting up a UK based business (exceptions are those on the previous Level 1 Graduate Entrepreneur track)
  • You have received approval from an eligible UK approval body who has assessed your business idea against the three criteria of being innovative, viable and scalable
  • You can demonstrate that you intend to spend the majority of your time working in your UK business if your visa application is approved
  • Your approval has been stamped within the last three months from the date of your application
  • You have the ability and experience to undertake a business venture related to your intended business idea
  • You can provide proof of your English language skills (up to level B2 on the CEFR scale)
  • You can demonstrate that you have the necessary funds to support yourself while living in the UK
  • You may be considered if you are:
  • Working alone as the sole founder of the company
  • Work together as part of a team of entrepreneurs (where each individual meets the visa requirements)
  • Depending on the circumstances, visa applicants may need additional evidence to demonstrate to the Home Office that they are eligible to make a visa application.

We recommend that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney to help you prepare the strongest application.

do you extend Start-up visa?

It is not possible to extend the Start-up visa as it is issued only once. However, it may be possible to upgrade to the Innovator Visa category.

You can move to this category if you meet the eligibility requirements:

  • Meet the required level of English language proficiency
  • Meets age requirements
  • Meet financial maintenance requirements
  • Have at least £50,000 to invest in the business (unless the business has already been established)
  • You must be able to demonstrate to the Home Office that you have held at least £1,270 in your bank account for at least 28 consecutive days before applying for or switching to this visa.
  • You may be able to create a partnership of Innovator candidates if you meet certain criteria.

Start-up visa rejected

If your application for a Start-up visa is refused, you may be able to request an administrative review of the decision, but it is not normally possible to overturn the refusal of a Start-up visa.

Below are the recommended steps to take if your startup visa is rejected (please note that you should always consult a qualified attorney for your individual case):

  • Before submitting your application, you should take care to follow the application instructions exactly to maximize your chances of a successful outcome
  • When you receive the rejection letter, identify the next course of action (administrative review
  • Submit your administrative review request as soon as possible (you have 14 or 28 days to do so, depending on whether you applied from within or outside the UK)
  • Pay the application fee for an administrative review (£80) and submit your application online
  • Wait for a decision to be issued
  • Reasons why a Start-up Visa may be rejected
  • Not providing the evidence required to meet immigration law requirements

Your application meets the grounds for refusal (e.g. admission to the UK would be against the public good, disqualifying criminal record, breach of immigration rules, misleading information on the application, etc.)

Start-up visas can be complex and we recommend working with a dedicated immigration consultant to maximize your chances of a successful application and avoiding receiving a refusal.

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 authorized body – this can be either from a UK higher education institution or a business organization that 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.

Apply for a Start-up visa as part of a team

You don’t need to be the sole founder of your business and could be a member of a start-up team. This means that you can share the same idea and business plan as another member of the Start-up team. However, each applicant must receive their own individual approval from an approved approval body.

Startup Visa Approval Letter

If your request to be approved by a Start-up Visa Approving Body is approved, you will be issued a Start-up Visa Approval Letter. This letter must be submitted as part of the Start-up Visa application. Immigration regulations contain strict requirements in terms of information that must be included in a Start-up Visa approval letter. Consulting with an immigration lawyer will ensure that your approval letter meets the requirements of the rules.

The validity period of the startup visa

Your initial visa will be valid for 2 years, unless you have previously been granted leave as a Level 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, in which case you will be granted leave for a period which will take you up to the maximum limit of 2 years.

Extend a Start-up Visa and apply for ILR

It is not possible to extend a Start-up visa and Start-up visa holders are not entitled to accommodation. However, at the end of the 2 years you will be able to apply for a further permit to remain in the Innovator category to continue developing your business. The Innovators category may lead to liquidation after a further 3 years.

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