How to Get Start Up Visa Endorsement


From 13 April 2023, the Start up route will only be available to those who already hold a valid start-up endorsement. Those with endorsement have until 13 July 2023 to apply for their visa under this route.

Individuals looking to start a business in the UK should now look at the new Innovator Founder route.

Existing Start up visa-holders may be able to switch to the innovator founder route if they qualify. We can advise if you have any questions about your visa options to start a business in the UK.

This guide was written before the Start up route closed.


What is start up endorsement?

Securing start up visa endorsement is the first step in the visa application process for foreign nationals coming to the UK to set up a business for the first time.

Under the route, applicants must demonstrate their business idea meets the eligibility requirements by securing endorsement from an authorised endorsing body.

Endorsement is a mandatory prerequisite for making an application to the Home Office for leave to enter or remain in the UK under the Start Up scheme.

If successful in securing endorsement, the body will provide an endorsement letter detailing the proposed idea for use in the Home Office application.

Importantly, the applicant must make their Home Office visa application within three months of the date of the letter of endorsement.


Start Up Visa Endorsement Criteria

When determining whether to endorse a start up visa applicant, endorsing bodies are required to evaluate against the assessment criteria as per the Home Office guidance. Accordingly, proposed business ideas should satisfy the following:

The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

The applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

There is evidence of structured planning and of the potential for job creation and growth into national markets.


Additional criteria apply to the start up route:

First time entrepreneurs
The endorsing body has to confirm that the applicant has not previously established a business in the UK, unless their last grant of leave was under Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur). Individuals who have previously set up a business, they will need to apply under the Innovator route.

Given the significance of this requirement to eligibility, we would expect further clarification and guidance from the Home Office as to what constitutes a ‘business’ for these purposes, to ensure consistency and fairness in decision-making across all bodies.

Investment funds
Interestingly, the guidelines do not specify a requirement or minimum threshold for investment funds into the venture.

In practice, however, we expect some form of investment will need to be shown to evidence the viability and scalability of the enterprise.

Permitted activities
Applicants granted this visa must intend to spend the majority of their working time in the UK developing their business venture(s), but will not be restricted from undertaking other work outside of the business.

Team applications
Group applications are permitted, meaning the applicant does not need to be the sole founder of the proposed business.


Which endorsing body?

The Government has identified a list endorsing bodies authorised to issue start up visa endorsement. This list is likely to evolve as bodies withdraw from and become added to the scheme, as such applicants should ensure they are working to the most up to date list of authorised bodies.

For start up visa endorsement, approved bodies include both higher education institutions (HEIs) and business accelerator groups.

In light of the Home Office guidance for endorsing bodies, we expect considerable variation to emerge as bodies develop and implement their own approach to application processing – from drafting the documentation, terms of engagement, appeals process to setting fees and timescales.

Critically, variation is also emerging in respect of who the bodies will accept endorsement applications from. The guidelines specifically state that bodies may elect to restrict applications to businesses they are working or engaged with through investment-related activity. In doing so, this will preclude ‘open’ applications from ‘independent’ applicants.

As such, a critical factor in securing start up visa endorsement will be selecting the appropriate endorsement body (or bodies) to make the application to.


Home Office criteria

In addition to meeting the start up visa endorsement criteria, applicants will also have to evidence to the Home Office their genuine intention and capability to undertake the proposed business activity. This will take into account information such as the applicant’s education, work history and information held by other government departments such as HMRC.

The applicant will also have to confirm any funds relied on are genuinely available for use as described in the application and that they intend to act within the restrictions of the visa and in line with UK immigration rules

Applicants may also be invited to attend a visa interview, where the caseworker can ask specific questions relating to the application.


Ongoing contact with endorser

In addition to the initial application processing, the Home Office has also charged endorsing bodies with ensuring start up visa holders comply with the conditions of the route for the duration of their period of UK leave.

This requires bodies to maintain contact with those they have endorsed under the scheme and should they identify non-compliance with the visa conditions, take positive steps to notify the Home Office and withdraw their endorsement.


Need assistance?

Before making an application under the start up route take professional legal advice to ensure you have selected the most appropriate immigration option, and for guidance on making a successful application for start up visa endorsement and meeting the Home Office requirements.

Recognised by the Legal 500 UK for our expertise in working with entrepreneurs and investors, DavidsonMorris provides advice from the initial stages of the application process, advising on eligibility and suitability of the relevant route and visa options, through to detailed support with compiling your documentation and guidance on presentations and interviews.

If you have any questions relating to your start up visa application, please contact us.


Start up visa endorsement FAQs

How do I get a startup visa?

You will need to secure endorsement from an endorsement body before you can apply to the Home Office for the start up visa.

What is visa endorsement?

The start up route requires applicants to first apply to an authorised endorsing body for endorsement before the visa application can be made.

Last updated: 18 March 2023 


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Contact DavidsonMorris
Get in touch with DavidsonMorris for general enquiries, feedback and requests for information.
Sign up to our award winning newsletters!
We're trusted