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A Guide to Endorsements in UK Visa Applications

As part of a recent immigration policy push to encourage exceptionally talented individuals and innovative or high growth businesses to establish themselves in the UK, certain immigration or sponsorship categories have been introduced which include a requirement to obtain an endorsement. 

This post will explain what endorsements are in UK visa applications, when an endorsement is required for a UK visa application, and how a UK visa application endorsement can be acquired.

What are endorsements in UK visa applications?

Endorsements are official letters issued by organisations which are currently approved by the Home Office as ‘endorsing bodies’. This status enables these endorsing bodies to assess individuals or businesses in connection with applications made under certain categories. They offer industry or field-specific expertise which allows more effective and expert assessment of individuals or businesses than the Home Office is able to offer in house.

When are endorsements required for a UK visa application?

Endorsements are required in three categories of UK immigration application at the present time:

  1. Global Talent visa and permission applications;
  2. Innovator Founder visa and permission applications;
  3. Scale-Up sponsor licence applications.

You can find broader information about these three categories here: Global Talent, Innovator Founder, Scale-Up Licences.

Some migrants will also hold legacy endorsements under the Start-up and Innovator routes which closed on 13 April 2023. 

How are UK visa application endorsements acquired?

Global Talent 

The Global Talent route is for exceptionally talented or exceptionally promising individuals in the fields set out below. Applicants in each field require an endorsement from an approved endorsing body which has the relevant expertise in that field. 

Applications in this category involve a two stage process. First, an endorsement application is necessary, made by submitting an online application form available on the respective endorsing bodies’ websites. 

The requirements for endorsement are different in each field, but they will generally all require three letters of recommendation from individuals or organisations with significant authority in the field and direct experience of the applicant’s work, as well as up to ten additional pieces of evidence which speak to the applicant’s exceptional talent or promise. The requirements as to the form and content of these pieces of evidence are strict and detailed. 

Second, once the endorsement letter is received, the applicant can go on to make an immigration application. 

Where endorsement is refused, there is a review process whereby unsuccessful applicants can ask the Home Office to confirm that the correct procedures were followed in the decision making process. Requests must be submitted within 28 days of the refusal. 

Innovator Founder

The Innovator Founder visa provides a route for people seeking to establish a business in the UK based on an innovative, viable and scalable business idea. Under this route, applicants first need to seek endorsement of their business idea from one of four endorsing bodies. Once granted, they can go on to make a visa application. The endorsing bodies are as follows:

The first three of these endorsing bodies will require a detailed business plan or pitch deck, submitted using the online application form available on their respective websites. Additional documents such as video pitches, CVs and financial documents may also be required. 

GEP is a government programme which only accepts applications from “founders that have already been invited to participate on their programme”, through the Department of Business and Trade.

Processing times vary from two weeks to six weeks, depending on the endorsing body you select. Although the bodies purport to apply the same criteria for assessing the innovation, scalability and viability of the business idea, it is likely that there is some variety in the approach taken to assessment.

When compared to the former Start-up and Innovator visas which the Innovator Founder route replaces, the new endorsing bodies have been clear that the threshold for meeting the innovation criteria in an endorsement application is now markedly higher. Applicants will need to have innovation at the heart of their business idea, and it will need to meet new or existing market needs and/or create a competitive advantage.

Each endorsing body has its own process for seeking reconsideration where an endorsement is refused.


The Scale-Up worker route enables highly skilled migrants to come to the UK to work for sponsoring businesses which have undergone a period of rapid growth. It is more flexible for workers than the Skilled Worker route. 

Businesses who wish to sponsor workers on this route can apply for a sponsor licence on one of two ‘pathways’. The standard pathway does not require an endorsement. It is available to businesses where they have an annualised growth of at least 20% for the three year period before application based on either employment (i.e. staff count) or  turnover, and where the business had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three year period.

If this criteria cannot be met, businesses may still be able to sponsor on the ‘endorsing body pathway’.  This pathway requires an endorsement application made to one of the following endorsing bodies:

As with the Innovator Founder endorsement applications, the GEP is only open to those already participating in the Department of Business and Trade’s government programme.

To secure endorsement, businesses must meet the following requirements:

  • They need a minimum of 10 employees who pay income tax and national insurance through a PAYE scheme operated by the business;
  • They must be registered for VAT;
  • They must be solvent and trading in the UK;
  • They must have an HMRC footprint of less than four years;
  • They must be able to demonstrate a potential growth rate consistent with the requirements of the Scale-Up route and be reasonably expected to meet the Home Office definition of a qualifying Scale-Up sponsor under the standard pathway within the next four years;
  • They must have sufficient finance to offer appropriate salaries to individuals working in roles that meet the skill level of this route;
  • They must have a UK-registered corporate bank account.

It is also necessary to meet at least three of the five following criteria:

  • More than 20% growth in turnover or employment per year over a two year period;
  • Participation in a relevant Government programme or receipt of relevant Government funding;
  • A minimum of £1 million in equity finance in a single round in the 12 months immediately before the date of application to the endorsing body;
  • The business has global offices or operations and be generating a minimum threshold of 10% of turnover from exports
  • High expenditure on research, development of innovation;

Applications are made on the endorsing bodies’ respective websites.

Endorsement applications across these categories are diverse and specialised, but they all share a common need for careful preparation in the light of detailed legal and policy requirements.

Contact our Business Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with an endorsement application for a UK visa application, contact our business immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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