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.
Start Up visa endorsing bodies
The application process for the UK’s new start up visa is in two stages. First, applicants must apply to and secure endorsement from a Home Office-approved endorsing body. Only then can you progress to the next stage, submitting a visa application to the Home Office for leave to remain or enter under the
The route’s predecessor, the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa, also saw applicants require endorsement, this however was limited to their university. The start up visa, being open to a broader range of applicants – both non-graduates as well as graduates unlike the Graduate Entrepreneur scheme – allows endorsement from a larger pool of authorised bodies.
Who are the start up visa endorsing bodies?
An organisation can only issue an endorsement if it is on the Home Office list. The current list of start up visa endorsing bodies, with brief, introductory information (as at May 2019) is as follows:
Higher education institutions (HEIs):
- Anglia Ruskin University Applications are welcome from ARU students. We regret non-ARU students cannot be considered.
- Arts University Bournemouth Endorsing business in the creative arts industries.
- Aston University For those who have completed a course of study at Aston University in the last 5 years and have had a business idea accepted by BSEEN.
- Bangor University Bangor University only endorses Bangor Graduates on this visa and they must have graduated within 12 months preceding the application.
- Bath Spa University
- Birmingham City University
- Bournemouth University Supporting BU international alumni start-ups and innovators across the UK, and exceptional UK HEI international graduates looking to start businesses in Wessex.
- BPP University Limited
- Brunel University London Brunel University will only endorse its graduates in the Start-up route. We will not endorse external candidates or in the Innovator route.
- Cardiff Metropolitan University Our International Entrepreneurs Programme runs intensively for 6 months from the Centre for Entrepreneurship incubator and includes workshops, mentoring, office space and general support. Cardiff Metropolitan University is currently endorsing its own students and graduates only.
- Cardiff University
- City, University of London
- Contemporary Dance Trust
- Coventry University Open to Coventry University graduates only.
- Cranfield University Supporting entrepreneurs every step of their journey. We accept applications form students and alumni of Cranfield.
- De Montfort University
- Durham University Providing opportunities for Start-up Visa endorsement to eligible graduating students and graduates of Durham University.
- Edinburgh Napier University
- Falmouth University School of Entrepreneurship Creating a unique environment to build sustainable businesses with highgrowth potential in one of the UK’s leading creative tech hubs.
- Florida State University International Programs Association UK
- Girne American University Canterbury
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- Goldsmiths University of London
- Guildhall School of Music & Drama Guildhall Creative Entrepreneurs is an incubator to help people in the performing arts launch and advance their own enterprises.
- Heriot-Watt University
- Imperial College London
- Keele University
- King’s College London The Entrepreneurship Institute at King’s College London will support Start-up visas that meet UKVI criteria from current and former King’s students.
- Kingston University
- Lancaster University
- Leeds Arts University
- Leeds Beckett University
- Liverpool John Moores University
- London Business School We accept applications from students and alumni, as well as co-founders working with LBS students or alumni.
- London Metropolitan University
- London School of Economics and Political Sciences For LSE students – with the exception of non-LSE applicants who are key members of an LSE team only.
- London South Bank University LSBU can only endorse applicants who have graduated from LSBU within the last 2 years and have not started a business in the UK before.
- Loughborough University Endorsing body for Loughborough University graduates. Contact the Loughborough Enterprise Network for further information.
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- Middlesex University
- Newcastle University Newcastle University will only endorse graduates from Newcastle University. We will consider applications from graduating students and recent graduates (up to 3 years).
- Northern School of Contemporary Dance
- Norwich University of the Arts
- Nottingham Trent University Only open to students and recent graduates (within the immediate 2 years preceding date of application)
- Regent’s University London
- Roehampton University
- Royal Academy of Music
- Royal Agricultural University
- Royal College of Art
- Royal Holloway and Bedford New College
- Sheffield Hallam University
- SOAS, University of London
- Solent University
- Swansea University
- Teesside University
- The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
- The Robert Gordon University
- The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Central will only accept endorsement applications from our current students and our alumni (within two years of completing studies).
- The University of Buckingham
- The University of Edinburgh The University of Edinburgh endorses Start-up applicants who have a close demonstrable relationship with our institution (students and alumni).
- The University of Northampton
- The University of Salford
- The University of West London
- University College London
- University for the Creative Arts
- University of Aberdeen
- University of Bath
- University of Birmingham
- University of Bradford
- University of Brighton
- University of Bristol
- University of Cambridge
- University of Central Lancashire
- University of Chester
- University of Dundee
- University of East Anglia
- University of East London
- University of Essex
- University of Exeter
- University of Glasgow
- University of Greenwich Endorsements allocated via the annual Enterprise Challenge, run by the university’s i3 Centre. Open to graduates of the university only.
- University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation
- University of Huddersfield
- University of Hull
- University of Kent
- University of Leeds
- University of Leicester
- University of Lincoln
- University of Liverpool The University of Liverpool will only endorse students who graduate from the University of Liverpool within the same academic year.
- University of Manchester
- University of Northumbria at Newcastle
- University of Nottingham
- University of Oxford
- University of Plymouth
- University of Portsmouth To apply for endorsement applicants must be students or graduates (up to 5 years) from the University of Portsmouth.
- University of Reading
- University of Sheffield Endorsement only available to those who have or will have graduated from the University of Sheffield.
- University of South Wales
- University of Southampton
- University of St Andrews
- University of Stirling
- University of Strathclyde
- University of Sunderland The University of Sunderland’s Enterprise Place offers Start Up support, 1-1 business advice, structured workshops and networking opportunities.
- University of Surrey External start-ups must meet SETsquared Surrey incubator criteria and adhere to the incubator membership for the endorsement duration.
- University of Sussex
- University of the Arts London UAL offers endorsement exclusively to UAL graduates within 2 years of graduating. The scheme is delivered by Careers & Employability.
- University of the West of England Launch Space provides physical incubator space and enterprise support for graduate start-up businesses at UWE.
- University of the West of Scotland
- University of Ulster
- University of Wales Trinity Saint David – Carmarthen Campus
- University of Warwick
- University of Westminster
- University of Wolverhampton
- University of York
- York St John University
Business endorsing bodies:
- The Bakery The Bakery endorses bona-fide entrepreneurs who qualify for our corporate innovation programmes.
- Bethnal Green Ventures BGV is an early stage investor in tech for good companies who only endorse start-up entrepreneurs accepted onto their support programme – visit their site for more information.
- Capital enterprise Capital Enterprise will only be endorsing founders within our community. Check back as this may change with time.
- CyLon CyLon is interested in hearing from emerging cyber security companies or entrepreneurs planning on setting up an innovative cyber start-up.
- Deep Science Ventures Apply if you are a scientist or engineer determined to start a deep science company. Please apply through our “current opportunities” page!
- Ignite We only endorse applicants who are successful in applying for one of our accelerator programmes.
- Invest Northern Ireland Invest NI endorses entities for Start-up/Innovator Visas via participation on its Accelerator Program or requests from Client companies only.
- Level39 Level39 only endorses those involved in FinTech, cyber security, smart cities, retail tech and other globally ambitious tech business.
- MDR LAB MDR LAB is an accelerator for tech start-ups in the legal space. We only endorse migrants accepted onto our 10-week May-July programme.
- MedCity MedCity supports collaboration, investment, entrepreneurship and industry within the life sciences across Greater South-East of England.
- NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator
- Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator
- Scottish EDGE Scottish EDGE can endorse winners of its bi-annual funding competition for innovative, high-growth potential Scottish businesses. Approx. 6% of applicants win.
- Seedcamp We invest early in world-class founders attacking large, global markets and solving real problems using technology. More information in our FAQs.
- SeedHaus Note – We do not accept unsolicited applications for endorsements.
- SET squared Bristol SETsquared Bristol incubator will only endorse technology start-ups meeting entry criteria to our incubator and looking to establish an office in Bristol.
- Tech Nation Tech Nation focuses on entrepreneurs of product-led digital technology businesses and commences work as an endorsing body in September 2019.
- Techstars Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars runs two accelerator programs in London: Techstars London and Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars.
- TechX Unique tech accelerator & incubator for global start-ups looking to transform the Energy Sector – offers unparalleled funding and support.
- The Royal Society of Edinburgh We only provide endorsement to our awardees who have received an RSE Enterprise Fellowship. Unfortunately we cannot support any individual who does not fall under this category.
- Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator
What do the endorsing bodies do?
Endorsing bodies are appointed to assess start up visa applications against the Home Office criteria. They are given general guidelines for processing applications but each body has the discretion to develop their own approach to the process.
Bodies specify their own eligibility requirements and conditions that must be met for an endorsement application to be made. For example, some HEIs only accept applications from recently graduated alumni, and some business endorsers will only consider endorsing ventures they are already involved with through their investment activities.
It will be for applicants to identify which endorsing body (or bodies) they may be eligible for. Factors such as timing will determine your options, since many HEIs are placing a time limit on when their students or alumni can apply to them for endorsement.
Importantly, the Home Office is clear that applicants are only to contact an endorsing body in the event they are applying for an endorsement from them, and that endorsing bodies will not answer hypothetical or speculative enquiries. Their role is to be seen as adjudicator and not adviser.
What does this mean for start up visa applicants?
The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa remained open to new applications until 5th July, providing some degree of ‘hand over’ period as the endorsing bodies develop their approach and prepare to open to new applications.
Much of the detail for applicants is still emerging as the new route beds in; how each endorsing body is processing applications? What information is expected from applicants and in what form? The likely timescales for decision making? The associated costs?
We will keep you updated as information becomes available.
Do you have a question about the start up route?
Before making an application under the start up route, take professional legal advice to ensure you have selected the most appropriate immigration options, and for guidance on current Home Office requirements for applications.
DavidsonMorris specialise in business visa applications. We work with applicants from across the world seeking to enter or remain in the UK by establishing, investing in or taking over a business here.
We provide advice from the initial stages of the Home Office application process, advising on eligibility and suitability of the relevant route and visa options for any dependants, through to detailed support with compiling your supporting evidence and business plan, completing the application form and guidance on visa interviews.
If you have any questions relating to your application or the start up visa endorsing bodies, please contact us.