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Home Office Guidance For The Start-Up Visa

The Start-Up Visa is a newly introduced visa route that is a key part of the recent Home Office overhaul of the UK's immigration system. Intended to help inexperienced entrepreneurs to make their first tentative steps into the business world, the Start-Up Visa is an ideal way to test your big business idea. If you are looking for guidance on the newly introduced Home Office visa route, this guide is here to help. By the end of this guide, you should be sure whether the Start-Up Visa is the ideal visa route for you, and how to go about getting your big idea off of the ground.

What Is The Start-Up Visa?

The Start-Up Visa has been introduced as a way for inexperienced entrepreneurs to take their first steps towards business success. Previously, there was an option for inexperienced entrepreneurs to come to the UK (on a Tier 1 Investor Visa) but they needed at least £200,000 of seed capital to get started.  This, clearly, was somewhat prohibitive for the vast majority of entrepreneurs, hence the creation of a new way to harness the ideas of inexperienced entrepreneurs who have little or no start-up capital.

So what's the downside of the new visa route?

Well, you now need to gain an endorsement from an approved body to progress to the application stage. This, while perhaps somewhat onerous, is likely to lead to significantly better business outcomes down the road. One of the biggest grievances with the Tier 1 Investor Visa route was the way in which businesses were assessed (by a UKVI official). The newly designed endorsement scheme means businesses are now assessed by those with industry experience, ensuring well-thought-out, innovative businesses stand a far better chance of success than they may have previously. The process also ensures that businesses which are unlikely to work do not make it to the application stage.

What Is The Eligibility Criteria For The Start-Up Visa?

To apply for a Start-Up Visa, you will need to not only gain an endorsement from an eligible body, but you also need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Be able to speak English to level B2 CEFR - you can prove this in one of the following ways - Be from a majority English speaking country, have a degree that was taught in English, met this requirement previously (for instance if you are switching from another route) or pass an exam proving your competence
  • Have maintenance funds of at least £945 (unless the endorsement body is certifying the maintenance portion)

As long as you have gained your endorsement and fit these eligibility criteria, you will be able to make an application online. Once you have made your application, you will then need to wait for it to be processed (which takes 8-12 weeks on average).

What Businesses Are Suited To The Start-Up Visa?

Many businesses are suitable to be used for the Start-Up Visa, but you must bear in mind the process looks for businesses which are both innovative and credible. The reasoning behind the visa is it will help those with incredibly innovative ideas to gain access to help and support in the UK to make their vision a realistic business. For this reason, preference is giving to boundary-pushing ideas. You may be able to still get an endorsement for a more traditional sector, but there will need to be something innovative about the business if you are to gain an endorsement.

Due to the requirement for the business to be innovative, the visa is weighted towards the tech sector. Because of this, the vast majority of Start-Up Visa endorsing bodies are geared towards tech companies (at least many of the business-minded ones), this does not mean businesses in other sectors cannot do well (or indeed gain an endorsement), it just means those companies with innovative tech ideas are more likely to find an endorsing body which will be friendly to their cause. There’s also some very niche endorsing bodies in both the engineering and health sectors that can endorse businesses in those very specific niches. For almost any innovative idea there is an endorsing body prepared to help.

How Does The Endorsement Process Work?

Each individual process is going to be slightly different depending on the type of endorsement body being used. There are two different types of endorsing bodies: either a business-minded endorsing body or a higher educational institution. For many recent graduates, the option to use a higher education institution may well be beneficial due to their recent history with the specific institution. If you are coming from outside of the UK or you're not a graduate, you'll have to use one of the business-minded endorsing bodies. Many of the business-minded bodies give amazing access to funding and connections, which can be very effective for launching a business.

There is no preference when it comes to endorsing bodies in the eyes of UK Visas and Immigration - all endorsing bodies are weighted equally, though it makes sense for those who have recently graduated from an educational institution in the UK to use that route due to the network of connections they already have. In many cases, the business idea may have actually been struck upon as part of a course, and therefore the endorser will already be familiar with not only the applicant but also the business idea.

Getting More Help With The Start-Up Visa

If you need more help with the UK Start-Up visa then please get in touch. Our experienced team can help you you to gain an endorsement and also go through the application process to give you the best chance for success in your attempt at moving to the UK.

So, don’t hesitate and get in touch with one of our solicitors to get your application underway.

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