The UK Start-up visa enables entry-level overseas entrepreneurs to come to the UK to establish an innovative start-up business without the need for investment funds. Contact our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or complete our enquiry form to discuss your start-up visa.
The Start-up visa enables overseas entrepreneurs with entry-level business experience to come to the UK to establish an innovative business. Because this is aimed at those who are developing their business experience, including recent graduates, there is no requirement to have investment funds to secure a Start-up visa. Applicants must prepare a detailed business plan to show their innovative business idea and have this endorsed by an approved endorsing body in the UK.
This scheme was introduced in anticipation of Brexit (the UK left the EU at the end of 2020) as a means of encouraging new entrepreneurial ideas and businesses to keep the UK at the forefront of innovation and re-establish the country as a global powerhouse.
It is important to note that the Start-up visa does not provide a direct route to permanent settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain - ILR) in the UK, but it is possible to switch to another visa type while here, which will allow you to gain ILR.
Entrepreneurs with investment funds of at least £50,000 and robust business experience should consider the Innovator visa (this route also provides a direct route to permanent settlement).
Holders of a Start-up visa can remain for up to 2 years, at which point they can apply to switch to a different visa type (such as the Innovator visa) while still in the UK.
Launched in March 2019, the Start-up visa replaced the old Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.
In order to make a successful application for a UK Start-up visa, applicants need to show they (these are explained in more depth below):
To gain endorsement (as explained below) for a Start-up visa, you will need to carefully prepare a comprehensive business plan for your new Start-up business idea.
The business plan will need to show that your idea is innovative, viable and scalable. The Home Office rules for this visa state that a business plan will meet these three requirements if it:
Applicants for a Start-up visa must not have established any business in the UK in the past. The only exception to this rule is where this commenced trading during the applicant’s last period of permission for a Start-up visa, Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or as a student on the doctorate extension scheme.
To make a successful Start-up visa application, you will need to show you meet the English Language requirements. This means you:
New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the USA.
You will also need to show that you have enough money to support yourself in the UK (you will need to show you have £1,270 in your bank account 28 days before applying to satisfy this requirement). You will also need to show evidence of an additional £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for your first child, and £200 for each additional child.
Crucial to making a successful application for a Start-up visa is that you must gain endorsement of your idea for a new innovative business in the UK from an approved endorsing body (we have published a full list of the approved endorsing bodies). The endorsing body you need to approach for endorsement will depend on the type of business you intend to establish in the UK.
For example, Britbots looks at applications in the field of automation, robotics and related artificial intelligence, and Fashion Angel endorses businesses in the field of fashion and textiles.
When deciding whether to grant endorsement, the endorsing body will consider:
Endorsement is required before you can apply and ensures that only businesses that are likely to be successful are allowed to progress onto the next phase - the application.
When you speak to your endorsing body, they will explain their endorsement process to you and provide the necessary resources to allow you to apply.
If your application for endorsement is successful, you will receive a “Letter of Endorsement”, which you can then use to process your Start-up visa application.
It is important to note that you will not only make contact with your endorsing body before applying for a visa, this process will be continuous while you hold a Start-up visa. Endorsing bodies are required to maintain regular ‘check-points’ with those who have been endorsed; these may be meetings that are held face to face, by phone, or video calls.
As the guidance tells endorsing bodies, “It is important for applicants to know that they continue to have the support of their endorsing bodies. You can make allowances for the current situation when considering their progress against their business plans, and, where possible, discuss future contingencies” 1.
The application stages for a Start-up visa are as follows:
Applications are typically processed within 3 weeks if submitted outside the UK or 8 weeks if switching to this visa in the UK. This may take longer if more evidence is needed or you are asked to attend an interview.
The Start-up visa does not provide a direct pathway to permanent settlement (also referred to as Indefinite Leave to Remain or ILR). As explained above, in relation to extending the visa, there are options available that will allow you to gain ILR at a later stage. Most Start-up visa holders will use this route as a ‘spring-board’ to then apply for another visa which will give them a direct route to ILR. There are a range of options available which will allow you to do this, including the following:
To discuss your options regarding gaining ILR as quickly as possible in the UK and then citizenship after a further year, speak to the team at Reiss Edwards, who will be able to explain all of your options and recommend the best pathway given your circumstances and plans.
2 GOV.UK: Endorsing bodies: start-up visa
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