IMPORTANT NOTE: The Start-up visa UK will be closed to new applications from 13 July 2023. Currently, this visa route is only available to those who hold a valid Start-up endorsement issued before 13 April 2023.

The UK Start-up visa is an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to establish their innovative business ventures in the United Kingdom. Introduced as part of the Points-Based Immigration System, the Start-up visa aims to attract talented individuals with promising business ideas and provide them with the necessary support to flourish in the UK market. This article will guide you through the key aspects of the Start-up visa, including eligibility requirements, endorsement criteria, and the Start-up visa application process.

Who is the Start-up visa suitable for?

The Start-up visa is suitable for individuals who have an innovative business idea and the ambition to transform it into a successful business in the UK. It is particularly targeted at early-stage entrepreneurs who may not have prior business experience but possess the drive and potential to make a significant impact in their chosen industry.

The UK Start-up visa was introduced in 2019 as a replacement for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa. It was designed to create a simpler and more accessible route for international entrepreneurs with strong business ideas. The visa aims to support the development of innovative startups by providing a favorable environment and granting access to valuable resources, thus enhancing the UK’s standing as a global hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Requirements for a Start-Up Visa

To be eligible for a Start-up visa, you must meet certain requirements:

  • Endorsement: You must receive an endorsement from an approved endorsing body in the UK. These endorsing bodies assess the viability, scalability, and innovation of the business idea.
  • English Language Proficiency: You must demonstrate proficiency in the English language to a minimum level of CEFR Level B2 or an equivalent standard.
  • Maintenance Funds: You must provide evidence of having enough personal funds to support yourself without relying on public funds.
  • Genuine Business Idea: The business idea proposed must be genuine, innovative, and have the potential for growth and success in the UK market.

While there isn’t a specific list of business types that guarantee success, the following are some sectors that have seen success in obtaining the UK Start-up visa:

  • Technology and software: Businesses focusing on software development, mobile applications, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, e-commerce platforms, fintech, and other innovative technology solutions have a good chance of obtaining the visa.
  • Biotechnology and life sciences: Start-ups involved in biotech research, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, genetics, and related fields are well-regarded, as the UK has a strong life sciences sector.
  • Sustainable energy and environmental solutions: Businesses focusing on renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste management, sustainable agriculture, and environmental technologies are encouraged, as the UK promotes sustainability and clean energy initiatives.
  • Creative industries: Start-ups in the creative sectors, including digital media, film production, animation, gaming, design, advertising, and fashion, have been successful in obtaining the visa due to the UK’s vibrant creative industry ecosystem.
  • FinTech and financial services: The UK is known for its robust financial sector, making it a favorable environment for FinTech start-ups offering innovative financial solutions, such as mobile banking, payment platforms, blockchain technology, and insurtech.
  • Education technology: Businesses leveraging technology to enhance learning, provide online education, skill development, or e-learning platforms can find success, as the UK has a renowned education system.

Remember that while these sectors have shown success, your business idea should be unique, viable, and have the potential for growth in order to meet the criteria for the

Investment Funds Requirement for a Start-Up Visa

Unlike other visa categories, the Start-up visa does not require a specific minimum investment amount. However, you are expected to have access to sufficient funds to support your living costs and the development of your business idea in the UK. These funds can come from various sources, such as personal savings.

You’ll need to show either:

  • You have £1,270
  • Your endorsing body confirms you have been awarded funds to at least the same amount.

Endorsement Criteria For a UK Start-up Visa

The endorsing bodies assess Start-up visa applicants based on the following criteria:

  • Innovation: The business idea must be original, innovative, and demonstrate potential for growth and scalability.
  • Viability: The business idea should have a realistic chance of success, taking into consideration existing market conditions, competition, and customer demands.
  • Entrepreneurial skills: You must have, or be actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience, and market awareness to run the business successfully. Your qualifications and experience should align with your business idea, showing your capability to execute and develop the business venture.

List of Approved Start-Up Visa Endorsing Bodies

There are several endorsing bodies approved by the UK Home Office to provide endorsements for the Start-up Visa. These organizations come from various sectors, including UK universities and other higher education institutions, business accelerators, and government-backed initiatives.

The list of endorsing bodies can be found on the UK Government website.

Obtaining a Start-Up Visa Endorsement

To obtain a Start-up visa endorsement, you must approach an approved endorsing body and present your UK start-up visa business ideas and business plan for evaluation. The endorsing body will assess the viability and innovation of the idea, as well as the applicant’s entrepreneurial skills. If successful, the endorsing body will issue an endorsement letter, which is a crucial component of the Start-up visa application.

It means that you must work on presenting the best comprehensive business plan before approaching an endorsing body or business organization. A good business plan is a comprehensive roadmap that outlines your business goals, strategies, and potential challenges. It should include an executive summary, company description, market analysis, product/service details, marketing and sales strategy, operations and management information, financial projections, risk assessment, and implementation plan.

Tailored to your audience, the plan should be well-organized, visually appealing, and written in clear language. It should demonstrate a strong understanding of your target market, competition, and industry trends, while showcasing your unique value proposition and potential for profitability.

Switching Into the Start-Up Visa Category

Applicants who are already in the UK under a different visa category may be eligible to switch to the Start-up Visa. The switching route allows individuals to transition into the Start-up visa category without having to leave the country.

Joining an Existing Business as a Start-Up Visa Holder

While this visa primarily encourages individuals to establish their own business in the UK, it is also possible for visa holders to join an existing business as a team member, provided that the business meets the necessary endorsement criteria.

Applying for a Start-Up Visa as Part of a Team

This visa route recognizes the value of collaborative entrepreneurship. Therefore, individuals can apply for the visa as part of a start-up team, where each member has a unique role and contributes to the business’s overall success.

Start-Up Visa Endorsement Letter

The endorsement letter issued by an approved endorsing body plays a crucial role in the Start-up visa application. It confirms that the applicant’s business idea has been assessed and deemed innovative, viable, and scalable.

The endorsement letter includes an introduction, applicant information about the visa applicant and their skills and expertise, and about the business idea or concept, its viability, innovation potential, growth, job creation, endorsement, and contact information. It begins with a salutation and provides detailed information about the applicant, their proposed business idea, and its unique aspects. The letter emphasizes the applicant’s qualifications and expertise, discussing the potential success of the start-up. It also highlights the projected growth and job creation that the business can contribute to the UK economy. The letter concludes with a strong endorsement from the endorsing organization and includes their contact details for further verification.

Start-Up Visa Validity Period

Start-up visa holders are granted a maximum initial stay of two years in the UK. However, it is important to note that this visa does not automatically lead to settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK.

Extending a Start-Up Visa and Applying for ILR

At the end of the initial two-year period, Start-up visa holders have the option to extend their stay for an additional two years. This extension allows individuals to further develop their business and progress towards their long-term goals. Successful applicants may become eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the future.

Why work with Global Citizen Solutions for your UK visa application?

If you are an entrepreneur planning to invest in the UK, don’t hesitate to contact us and book a complimentary 30-minute call with one of our experts. We can guide you through all the available UK visa options, such as the Innovator Founder visa UK, currently one of the most popular visas for those interested in opening a start-up in the UK.

Global Citizen Solutions is a boutique investment migration consultancy firm focused on finding the right residency or citizenship by investment program for individuals wishing to secure their future and become global citizens. With offices in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil, our multilingual team guides individuals and families from start to finish, providing expert advice considering freedom, mobility, taxation, and security.

  • We have helped hundreds of clients from 35+ countries in all the top residency by investment and citizenship by investment programs. With an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the area, we provide our clients with solid guidance. We have a team of immigration lawyers, and immigration advisers specialized in UK immigration.
  • Our team has never had a case rejected. Our 100% approval rate sets us apart from our competitors and provides reassurance that you can expect a successful application.
  • Our transparent pricing covers all the processes from opening your bank account, document certification, and legal due diligence, to investment and submission. As there is one fee for the entire process, you can be confident that you will not face any hidden costs later.
  • All data is stored within a GDPR-compliant database on a secure SSL-encrypted server. You can be safe knowing that your personal data is treated with the utmost security.
  • Global Citizen Solutions provides an all-encompassing solution. Our support can continue even after you receive your passport. We offer additional services such as company incorporation, Trusts, and Foundations formation.
  • The BeGlobal Onboarding System® allows you to access the status of your application every step of the way, something that sets us apart from our competitors.

If you want to know more about UK visas and British citizenship, have a look at these articles:

Frequently Asked Questions About the Start-Up Visa UK

Who is eligible for the Start-up visa in the UK?

To be eligible for the UK Start-up visa, individuals must meet specific criteria. This includes obtaining an endorsement from an approved endorsing body, demonstrating English language proficiency, having sufficient funds to support themselves, presenting a genuine and innovative business idea, and being at least 18 years old. Unlike the Innovator Visa, prior business experience is not required.

Is the UK Start-up visa closed?

The government has announced that they will be making changes to the Innovator visa category, which will make the start-up route unnecessary and obsolete. Therefore, they will be closing this category to new applicants.

From April 2023, this route was only available to those who already had a valid Start-up endorsement issued before 13 April 2023, and new applications will only be accepted until 13 July 2023.

To find out about alternative UK visas, contact our immigration consultants at Global Citizen Solutions.

What is the success rate of the UK Start-up visa?

In 2021, 507 visas for start-ups were granted, with only 9 percent of the applications being rejected. It means that the UK Start-up visa success rate was 91 percent in that year. 

What happens after the end of Start-up visas?

From July 2023, aspiring UK entrepreneurs who want to start a business in the UK and believe they have a competitive advantage in the national markets should apply for the Innovator visa. For this visa, you must demonstrate access to at least £50,000 in investment funds to support your start-up business venture.