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Start-up Visa

**** This route is now closed to new applicants. Please refer to the Innovator Founder Visa page ****


The Start-up visa replaced the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa.  It is aimed at early-stage entrepreneurs with high potential, who are establishing a business in the UK for the first time. The business may already have been established but should not yet have commenced trading (with exceptions for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category and the doctorate extension scheme.

Applicants do not need any funds to invest in their business at this stage.

If successful, an applicant is given a one-off, 2-year visa, during which they should spend the majority of their time developing their business, however, they can also take work outside their business to support themselves unlike in the Innovator visa category.

At the end of their 2 years, they can switch into the Innovator category (see link) to extend their stay and continue to develop their business in the UK.

Successful applicants can bring their dependent family members to the UK, i.e. spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner and children under 18.

Prospective Start up visa applicants must be endorsed by an approved body, known as an endorsing body. The endorsing body will assess whether the business idea is innovative, ie. different to anything else on the market, whether the plan is viable and with potential for growth.

It is not possible to join an existing business under this route.

RLegal will guide you through the complex evidential requirements and assist you from start to finish with your endorsement and visa applications. We have over 20 years experience of lodging successful applications in this and its predecessor categories. We will take the worry out of the process and give you peace of mind.

For more information, please contact us on +44 (0) 20 7038 3980 where you can talk to one of our team, email us at or complete our online form.

Alternatively click on the links below for frequently asked questions.


Endorsing bodies will assess the Start up visa applicant’s business plan against the following criteria:

  1. Innovation. Does the applicant have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage? Is the business offering something more than just competing with similar local providers? Is there a need for the business in the UK market which is presently unfulfilled? Critically, is the applicant’s start up business idea bringing something new to the pre-existing UK or global business marketplace? A business idea which essentially revolves around marketing existing products or services to their home country is unlikely to gain endorsement.
  2. Viability. Is the applicant’s business plan realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources? Does the applicant have, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business? Has the applicant undertaken and provided evidence of market research? Does the applicant have realistic and sustainable product goals? Has the applicant considered the long-term plan for the business?
  3. Scalability. Is there evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets? Is the business likely to gain sufficient traction? Does the business demonstrate a potential for growth? Would this business successfully scale to be a part of the national market?

Applicants who can satisfy an endorsing body that their business proposal meets this requirements can be issued with an endorsement letter which will be the basis of their immigration application.

To qualify for a start-up visa applicants must prove they can read, write, speak and understand English to level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. You can satisfy this requirement in a number of ways:

  1. passing an approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) in all 4 disciplines; or
  2. having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18; or
  3. holding a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English (if the degree was obtained outside the UK, applicants must also produce confirmation from Ecctis (previously known as UK NARIC) that the qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor or master’s degree or a PhD.

Applicants from countries considered to be majority English language speaking countries are not required to prove their competence in English. These countries are:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

There is a basic maintenance requirement that each applicant must satisfy. Applicants must have held at least £1,270 in their bank account for 28 consecutive days before they apply for a Start up visa unless they have already been present in the UK for at least 12 months prior to the date of application.

Applications are submitted via the Home Office’s online application form. Once the online form has been submitted, applicants are given access to a dedicated portal service where scans of their supporting evidence can be securely uploaded. The Home Office can request sight of any original documents but this is uncommon.

 Applications from outside the UK typically take around 3 weeks subject to the volume of applications and current staffing levels at the Home Office.

 Applications can be made by individuals holding lawful permission in the UK unless the applicant holds one of the following:

  • a visit visa
  • a short-term student visa
  • a Parent of a Child Student visa
  • a seasonal worker visa
  • a domestic worker in a private household visa
  • immigration bail
  • leave outside the rules, such as on compassionate grounds 

Applications within the UK typically take 48 hours and 8 weeks.

Home Office fees per applicant:

  •  Inside the UK:  £584
  •  Outside the UK: £435


Immigration Health Surcharge           £624 per annum, per applicant

Start-up visa holders can be accompanied to the UK by their partner and dependant children

 Dependants are defined as:

 husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner if you have lived together for 2 years

  • children under 18, including if they were born in the UK during your stay
  • children over 18 if they are currently in the UK with a visa as your dependant

 Evidence of your relationship must be provided to support any dependants’ applications.

Start-up visa holders are only permitted to remain in this category for 2 years after which they will be expected to switch into the Innovator category. For information about how to satisfy the requirements of the Innovator visa category, please click here.

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