Personal Immigration

START-UP VISA

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.

What is the UK Start-up visa?

The UK Start-up visa is for individuals seeking to establish a business in the UK for the first time.  Applicants must have a business idea and this business idea must have been assessed by a Home Office approved Start-up visa endorsing body as being innovative, viable and scalable.   Start-up visas are valid for 2 years and the category does not lead directly to settlement in the UK.  However, Start-up visa holders may extend their stay in the Innovator category and qualify for ILR three years later.

What are the requirements for a Start-up visa?

In order to qualify for a 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.

To discuss your UK Start-up visa application with one of our business immigration barristers, contact our Start-up visa lawyers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

What are the 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.

Is there a list of approved Start-up visa endorsing bodies?

We have published an up-to-date list of endorsing bodies for Start-up visa applications.  This list is based on information provided by the Home Office, which is updated periodically.  Our list of endorsing bodies contains the names of all currently approved Start-up visa endorsing bodies, as well as links to their websites and, where available, details of their application process and endorsement criteria.

Can Richmond Chambers help me to obtain a Start-up visa endorsement?

Our immigration barristers assist entrepreneurs from around the world to prepare successful Start-up visa applications. However, we do not assist applicants to secure Start-up visa endorsement.  If you have not yet secured an endorsement from an approved Start-up visa endorsing body, you should first review our list of Home Office approved endorsing bodies and contact an endorsing body directly.

For an outline of some of the issues that you may encounter when seeking a Start-up visa endorsement, see our post ‘The Problem With Start-up and Innovator Visa Endorsing Bodies’. For information on alternatives to the Start-up visa, see our post ‘Alternatives to the Start-up and Innovator visas’.

What is a Start-up visa endorsement letter?

If your application to be endorsed by a Start-up visa endorsing body is approved, you will be issued with a 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.

Can I switch into the Start-up visa category?

Applications for Start-up visas can be made from outside the UK, but it is also possible to switch into the 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.

What is the investment funds requirement for a Start-up visa?

There is no investment funds requirement for a Start-up visa.  However, the Home Office will want to be satisfied that you genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, business activity in the UK.

Can I join an existing business as a Start-up visa holder?

The 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 Start-up visa category is not an appropriate immigration route.

Can I apply for a 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.

How long is a Start-up visa valid for?

Your initial 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.

Can I extend a Start-up visa or apply for ILR?

It is not possible to extend a Start-up visa and 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 Start-up visa?

As a 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).

How our immigration barristers can help your Start-up visa application

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.

We can also assist with

  • Drafting a Start-up visa compliant business plan

    As part of your Start-up visa application, you may wish to include a detailed, genuine and original business plan.  Our immigration barristers can assist you to identify a suitably qualified professional business plan writer, instruct the business plan writer on your behalf and then liaise with the plan writer to ensure that your Start-up visa business plan satisfies the requirements of the Immigration Rules.

  • Credibility assessment interview preparation for Start-up visa applicants

    Even if you have obtained an endorsement, you will still need to satisfy the Home Office that you genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in your application.  As part is its credibility assessment, the Home Office may invite you to attend an interview.

    Our Credibility Assessment Interview Preparation sessions include:

    • Advice as to potential interview questions;
    • One-to-one interview practice with an immigration barrister;
    • Constructive feedback on all aspects of your performance;
    • Advice and tips on further preparation and how to improve on any weak areas;
    • Time for you to ask questions and/or address any other concerns that you have about your credibility assessment interview.
  • Applications for extension of stay as an Innovator

    After you have completed 2 years as a Start-up visa holder, 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 in the UK after a further 3 years.

    In order to qualify for further leave to remain as an Innovator in order to continue pursuing the same business venture as in your initial application you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:

    • You are at least 18 years old;
    • You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
    • Your endorsement letter was issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Innovator 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.
  • Applications for settlement as an Innovator

    In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as an Innovator you will need to satisfy UK Visas & Immigration that:

    • You have been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body that is satisfied that you have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in your previous endorsement, you are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of your business, your business is active, trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, you have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and you will spend your entire working time in the UK on developing your business ventures;
    • You satisfy at least two of the following:
      • At least £50,000 has been invested into the business and actively spent furthering your business plan;
      • The business has created the equivalent of at least 5 full-time jobs for resident workers, which have an average salary of at least £25,000 a year;
      • The business has created the equivalent of at least 10 full-time jobs for resident workers with no average salary requirement;
      • The number of customers has at least doubled within the most recent 3 years and is currently higher than the mean number of customers for other UK businesses offering comparable main products or services;
      • The business has engaged in significant research and development activity and has applied for intellectual property protection in the UK;
      • The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £1 million in the last full year covered by its accounts;
      • The business has generated a minimum annual gross revenue of £500,000 in the last full year covered by its accounts, with at least £100,000 from exporting overseas.
    • You have spent not more than 180 days outside the UK in any rolling 12 month period during the 3 years prior to the date of application;
    • You have sufficient knowledge of the English language and Life in the UK.
  • Fresh applications, Administrative reviews and Judicial reviews for Start-up visa applicants

    If your application for entry clearance or leave to remain or settlement as a Start-up has been refused, our immigration barristers can advise on the merits of making a fresh application or challenging the decision.

    If the decision-maker failed to apply the Immigration Rules or Home Office policy correctly, we can bring Administrative Review proceedings to challenge the decision.

    If the decision to refuse your application was unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally improper, our immigration barristers can apply for Judicial Review and provide representation at Judicial Review hearings.

WHAT CAN WE HELP YOU WITH?

To discuss your UK Start-up visa application with one of our immigration barristers, contact our Start-up visa team on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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