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Start Up Visa Requirements

The UK Start Up visa is open to non-EEA nationals looking to set up their first business in the UK. The application process is designed to assess both the applicant and their business idea against set criteria and the specific Start Up visa requirements.

UK Start Up Visa: General Requirements 

You will have to meet a number of general requirements. You must be a national of a non-EEA country and over 18 years of age. You also have to satisfy the English Language Requirement to Level B2 CEFR and show minimum maintenance funds of £945 for a consecutive period of at least 90 days. This level increases where dependants are applying.

In addition, under you must show you are eligible under the UK Immigration Rules general grounds, eg you are of good character and have not previously previously breached UK immigration rules.

Applications will usually be made from outside the UK. However, it may be possible to switch to the UK Start Up Visa from within the UK, provided you have valid leave under one of the following categories:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 2
  • Tier 4 (General) (providing the applicant meets specific criteria)
  • Visitor carrying out permissible activities as a prospective entrepreneur, such as attending meetings to secure investment for the venture.

Applications can be made as an individual or as part of a team.

Securing Endorsement

The first stage of the process requires you to apply to an authorised body for endorsement of your application. The list of approved endorsing bodies includes 24 business endorsers from across industries and qualifying higher education institutions throughout the UK:

  • The Bakery
  • Seed Camp
  • Invest Northern Ireland
  • Zinc
  • Deep Science Ventures
  • Wayra
  • Ignite
  • Bethnal Green Ventures
  • Codebase
  • Capital Enterprise
  • Cylon
  • TechX
  • Seed Haus’
  • Med City
  • Scottish Edge
  • Royal Society Edinburgh
  • Tech Nation
  • NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator
  • Set Squared Bristol
  • Set Squared Exeter
  • Set Squared Southampton
  • Set Squared Surrey

The endorsing body will assess each application against the UK Start Up visa requirements:

  • Viability – you have, or are developing, the skills, knowledge and experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
  • Innovation – your business idea meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
  • Scalability – you must show the enterprise will bring wider economic advantage such as job creation and growth into international markets.
  • First-time entrepreneur – you will need to confirm you have not previously established a business in the UK, unless you are applying to switch from the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category.

You will need to develop and submit a business plan addressing each of the criteria.

To ensure your business proposal is comprehensive, other factors may also need to be addressed. For example, visa holders are not prohibited from undertaking work outside their business venture(s) but you must show you intend to spend the majority of your time under the visa on developing the enterprise. It is also worth noting that, while the criteria do not include a minimum investment threshold, it is likely that any new enterprise will require some level of capital to deliver against the criteria for scalability and viability.

Beyond the initial endorsement, the rules will require you to maintain regular contact with this organisation, specifically at the 6, 12 and 24 month stage of the visa period to ensure continued compliance with the requirements of the route.

Making your Home Office Visa Application

If you are successful in being endorsed, you have 3 months from the date of endorsement to make the Home Office application for your visa. You cannot proceed with the Home Office visa application unless you have an endorsement letter in support of your application.

Following the rigorous assessment of the endorsement stage, the Home Office stage remains more than a formality. Additional requirements will need to be proven to pass this second stage.

First, you will need to show your genuine intention and capability to carry out the work as stated in your proposal and application. This will mean consideration of your education, qualifications and relevant experience. You will have to confirm that the maintenance funds relied on are genuinely available for use as stated in your application, and you will also be asked to confirm your intention to operate within the visa conditions and your immigration history will be examined.

You may also be asked to attend a visa interview. As this is a new route, it is not yet clear how likely this will be or on what basis the Home Office will select applicants for interview.

If you are granted a Start Up Visa

If your application is approved, you will be granted leave for 2 years. There is no scope to extend the visa or to apply to settle directly from the Start Up visa. To remain in the UK, visa holders will need to explore options to switch to a different visa category, the most obvious being the Innovator route. This will require planning to ensure applications are submitted in good time to allow for application to be processed, to avoid overstaying or having to leave the UK.

Do you have a question about the UK Start Up Visa requirements? We can help!

If you are considering your visa options to set up a new business venture in the UK, we can help with all aspects of the Start-Up route, including advice on meeting the requirements at the endorsement and visa stages, and developing a comprehensive business plan and supporting documentation.

At DavidsonMorris, we are extremely passionate about the contribution of foreign talent in shaping and growing the UK economy. We work with ambitious and aspiring entrepreneurs every day, providing advice and support throughout the endorsement and visa application process.

Please contact us for guidance on making an application for the Start Up visa.


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