UK START-UP VISA
The UK Start-up visa is for non-EEA nationals who are new entrepreneurs and want to establish a business in the UK for the first time. You do not need to be a graduate or have secured any initial funding. However, you will need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which has been approved by an endorsing body.
Start-up visas are one-off visas, valid for 2 years and the category does not lead directly to settlement in the UK. However, UK Start-up visa holders may extend their stay in the Innovator visa category and qualify for ILR three years later. UK Start-up visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the UK.
Who is the UK Start-up visa suitable for?
The UK Start-up visa category is suitable for early-stage, but high potential, entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business in the UK for the first time.
Generally, UK Start-up visa applicants will not already have started setting up their business in the UK. However, where they have, the new business should not yet have started trading. The only exceptions to this are if the applicant has already been granted leave under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, or under the Tier 4 doctorate extension scheme.
If you are an experienced businessperson seeking to establish a business in the UK then the Innovator visa may be more appropriate. If you wish to join an already trading business then the Tier 2 General Skilled Worker visa may be more appropriate. If you wish to invest in an already trading business then you may wish to consider the Tier 1 Investor visa route. If you are a senior employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK then you may like to consider the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.
Requirements for a UK Start-up visa
In order to qualify for a UK Start-up visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:
- You are at least 18 years old;
- You have not previously established a business in the UK (unless you previously held leave as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur);
- You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that has assessed your business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and is satisfied that you will spend the majority of your working time in the UK on developing your business venture;
- Your endorsement letter was issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Start-up visa application;
- You genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application;
- You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2 (equivalent to IELTS 5.5 in reading, writing, listening and speaking);
- You have at least £945 available to support yourself (and £630 for each dependant) without relying on public funds.
The exact requirements that you will need to satisfy may vary depending on the circumstances of your case. We recommend speaking to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.
Investment funds requirement for a UK Start-up visa
UK Start-up visa applicants do not need any funds to invest in their business. However, the requirement to have a ‘viable’ and ‘scalable’ business idea means that, in practice, you may need to have funds available to invest. Some endorsing bodies require a certain level of funding as a condition of endorsement.
Endorsement criteria for a UK Start-up visa
In order for your business proposal to be endorsed, an approved endorsing body will need to be satisfied that your business idea meets all of the following criteria:
- Innovation: You have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
- Viability: You have, or are actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business;
- Scalability: Your business plan has potential for job creation and growth into national markets.
The endorsing body will also need to be satisfied that you will spend the majority of your working time in the UK on developing business ventures.
List of approved UK Start-up visa endorsing bodies
The Home Office has published a list of endorsing bodies for Start-up visa applications. This list of endorsing bodies contains the names of all currently approved UK Start-up visa endorsing bodies, as well as links to their websites and, where available, details of their application process and endorsement criteria.
Obtaining a UK Start-up visa endorsement
Our immigration barristers assist entrepreneurs from around the world to prepare successful UK Start-up visa applications. We can also assist applicants to secure UK Start-up visa endorsement. Richmond Chambers is a trusted introducer to several endorsing bodies, ensuring eligible clients direct contact with investment panel members as well as transparent and timely decision-making.
- A Guide to the UK Start-up Visa
- Requirements for the new Innovator & Start-Up Visas
- How to switch from a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur to a Start-up Visa
Switching into the UK Start-up visa category
Applications for UK Start-up visas can be made from outside the UK, but it is also possible to switch into the UK Start-up visa category from within the UK if you were last granted leave to remain as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur (if not yet been granted 2 years’ leave in the category), Tier 2 General or Tier 2 ICT Skilled Worker, Tier 4 General Student or Prospective Entrepreneur.
Joining an existing business as a UK Start-up visa holder
The UK Start-up visa category is for people seeking to establish a new business in the UK for the first time. If you are looking to join an existing business then the UK Start-up visa category is not an appropriate immigration route.
Applying for a UK Start-up visa as part of a team
You do not need to be the sole founder of your business and may be a member of a Start-up team. This means that you may share the same business idea and plan as another Start-up team member. However, each applicant must receive their own individual endorsement from an approved endorsing body.
UK Start-up visa endorsement letter
If your application to be endorsed by a UK Start-up visa endorsing body is approved, you will be issued with a UK Start-up visa endorsement letter. This letter must be submitted as part of your Start-up visa application. The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the information that must be included in a Start-up visa endorsement letter. Advice from an immigration lawyer will ensure that your endorsement letter satisfies the requirements of the rules.
UK Start-up visa validity period
Your initial UK Start-up visa will be valid for 2 years, unless you were previously granted leave as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, in which case you will be granted leave for a period that will take you to the maximum 2-year limit.
Extending a UK Start-up visa and applying for ILR
It is not possible to extend a UK Start-up visa and UK Start-up visa holders are not eligible for settlement. However, at the end of 2 years you will be able to apply for further leave to remain in the Innovator category in order to continue developing your business. The Innovator category can lead to settlement after a further 3 years.
What else do I need to know about the UK Start-up visa?
As a UK Start-up visa holder you will not be required to spend any particular amount of time in the UK and you will be permitted to undertake employment other than working for the business or businesses that you have established.
However, you will need to stay in contact with your endorsing body with checkpoints at 6 and 12 months. The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you are continuing to work on your business venture and have demonstrated reasonable progress in relation to either your original or a new business idea. Your endorsement may be withdrawn and your leave curtailed if this is not the case. You will also need to abide by various other conditions of stay.
Your partner and any children under the age of 18 may accompany or join you as your dependant(s).
Applying for a UK Start-up visa? How our immigration barristers can help
Richmond Chambers is widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading immigration practices for Start-up businesses. Our immigration barristers were awarded ‘Business Immigration Chambers of the Year in England’ at the 2018 Corporate Intl Magazine Global Awards, ‘UK Business Immigration Barrister of the Year’ at the ACQ5 Law Awards 2018 and ‘Business Immigration Set of the Year’ at the Global Law Experts Awards 2017. The work of our immigration barristers on behalf of startups has also been recognised through membership of the Investment Migration Council and the Department of International Trade’s Investor Support Network.
Our team of immigration barristers has experience in assisting all types of start-up businesses. Once your business idea has been endorsed by an approved endorsing body, our barristers will guide you through the complex Home Office rules and policies to ensure a successful Start-up visa application.
We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to startups as part of a professional and friendly service.