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January 21, 2021

Start-up Visa: Can I set up a ‘traditional’ business?

There are many types of businesses suitable for a Start-up Visa however you must consider the process endeavours to identify those ventures that are credible and innovative. The idea behind the visa is to assist people with particularly innovative concepts to access support and opportunities within the UK and help it become a fully realised business.

Preference is given to concepts that are considered “boundary-pushing”, although you may still be able to obtain an endorsement within a more traditional business sector, but you will need to show there is something innovative about the business.

The endorsement criteria for a Start-up Visa business proposal are:

  • Innovation – does your business plan meet “new/existing market needs and/or create a competitive advantage,”?
  • Viability – Is your business plan “realistic and achievable” based on the resources available to you? You will need to demonstrate you have (or are actively developing) the required “skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness” to successfully run the business.
  • Scalability – you will need to show evidence of structured planning and potential for employment creation and can grow into national markets.


An endorsing body will consider traditional business sectors, however, as mentioned above, they are actively looking for innovation, so be prepared to answer questions similar to those highlighted in the table below. Paying particular attention to those areas where you believe you have innovated and distinguished your business idea from others’ within the same traditional business sector.


Is the business offering something more than merely competing with similar local traders and businesses?
Evidence of market research
Is the business likely to gain sufficient interest and traction?
Is there a need for your proposed business in the UK market that is not already being fulfilled?
Do you have realistic and sustainable product goals?
Does it have growth potential?
Does the idea bring something new to the UK market? It should involve more than marketing existing products or services from your home country.
What is the long-term plan for the business?
Could your business be scaled up and become part of the UK market?


An endorsing body includes organisations and higher-education institutions who are experts at identifying, investing, and developing businesses within their sector. The primary requirement for an endorsing body is that they must demonstrate a proven record of supporting UK entrepreneurs and have a UK (or devolved) government department that can vouch for its suitability.


You should show that you are bringing something new to the UK market within your business plan and not simply competing with existing business and traders. Simply providing a more cost-efficient product with a similar or slightly more superior model or proving an enhanced customer service from what is already available, is not likely to be sufficiently innovative to successfully obtain a Start-up Visa.


Applicants hoping to achieve endorsement in a more traditional business sector should remember, they are facing a tremendous level of competition not only from other non-EU/EEA nationals but also from UK and EU/EEA citizens. Anyone who can prove a difference, an innovation or novel, patentable idea and distinguish themselves from their competition within a well-written business plan, will have given themselves the best opportunity for success.



Mann’s Solutions is an international immigration law firm with offices in London, Hong Kong, and Moscow. We are specialised in offering UK Visas and Immigration by Investment services to high net worth individuals. Our immigration lawyers are regulated by OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner) and IMC (Investment Migration Council).

For further information or to discuss your personal circumstances in a private consultation with our immigration advisers in London Office, please contact us at or call +44 207 993 63 46.