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February 4, 2020

Start-up Visa: Option for University Graduates to set up a business in the UK

The Start-up Visa category was created mostly to replace the previous Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. It is designed for early-stage, high potential entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in Britain for the first time.  Different from the Innovator visa, you do not need to invest funds initially. However, you must not have previously set up a business in the UK.

The fairly new rules describe the Start-up visa as “an expanded version of the Graduate Entrepreneur scheme.” The immigration route is aimed at recent graduates and alumni who have successfully completed a UK degree programme and want to develop their ideas and entrepreneurial skills by creating an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK.

Higher education endorsing bodies are authorised by the Home Office to provide endorsement letters to their recent graduates and/or alumni selected by their own methods of screening. Their application process assesses the business idea and ensures that it meets the Home Office criteria, which are that it is a genuine and credible business that meets the entrepreneurial principles of innovation, viability and scalability as well as demonstrating why the business needs to be established in the UK and how the business will contribute to the UK economy.

There is no standard criteria to assess if a business idea is eligible for a Start-up visa because each business is different. Though endorsing bodies are committed to supporting creative enterprises, where cutting edge business ideas that demonstrate ingenuity, a flair for innovation and a clear understanding of the impact they would like to make and the sector they would work in can easily be endorsed.

Successful applicants are granted a visa for 2 years, but continued sponsorship will be based on the progress made throughout this period. Below is a list of examples of previous business ideas sponsored by some of the relevant bodies:

  • An app that aims to help people get a second chance when they have a missed connection following a real-life exchange which may be romantically, socially or professionally;
  • A company that manufactures, distributes and retails online equipment and clothing designed specifically for women working in technical positions across a variety of creative industries;
  • A production company that specialises in online branded video content for innovative institutions, small businesses and causes;
  • A fashion label that offers creative, fashionable jeans for petite-sized women with a sense of modern sustainability;
  • A digital platform encouraging elevated connectivity, publicity and discovery for students;
  • A supply chain consultancy company for fashion brands connecting start-up fashion brands and manufacturing/textile mills, teaching how to source, reuse and produce eco-friendly textiles;
  • A sonic events company that produces culture centred programmes with the objective of giving those attending powerful and lasting experiences

A combination of academic knowledge and cutting-edge business idea make the perfect candidate’s background for a Start-up visa. In addition, you will need to demonstrate that they are at least 18 years old, meet English language requirements at B2 level, and provide evidence of personal savings to support themselves during their time in the UK.

As mentioned above, the initial leave is granted for two years on a Start-up Visa and allows applicants to bring family members, including a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18. The applicant will spend the majority of their time in the UK developing the business, though work outside the business is also allowed.

There is no option to extend the Start-up Visa after two years, but it can be switched to the Innovator Visa to extend the stay in the UK and develop the business. The Innovator Visa is valid for three years, with the option to extend when it is due to expire.

If you are graduating or have just received a bachelor’s degree from one of the Higher Education endorsing bodies and have an innovative business idea, contact our experienced legal team and book an appointment to discuss your case.


You can request 15 minutes free consultation from our immigration lawyers; it will be conducted over the phone only.

Mann’s Solutions is international immigration law firm with offices in London, Hong Kong, Istanbul and St Petersburg and has expertise in offering UK Visas and Immigration by Investment services to high net worth individuals. Our immigration lawyers regulated by OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner).

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