What is the Start-up Visa?
Opened in March 2019, the Start-Up Visa route allows new entrepreneurs to set up their businesses in the UK, and replaces the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa. Applicants do not need to hold a specific degree or have secured any initial funding. However, they must present an innovative, viable and scalable business idea, which needs to be supported by an endorsing body.
This visa category offers leave for 2 years, after which applicants may progress into the Innovator Visa before they eventually become eligible for British naturalisation.
What are the Start Up Visa eligibility criteria?
To qualify for a Start Up Visa, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Not have previously established a business in the UK;
- Be competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2;
- Have at least £945 available to support yourself in the UK without relying on public funds;
- Intend to undertake, an be capable of undertaking, any business activity in the UK as stated in your application;
- Have a business idea which has been approved by an approved UK endorsing body.
Who will assess the business idea?
Each business plan must show innovation, viability and scalability, and must be assessed by an independent body.
The Home Office provides a list of authorised bodies that can issue endorsement for Startup visa applicants. This includes businesses, universities and higher education institutions.
If your application is successful, you will need to stay in contact with your endorsing body with checkpoints at 6 and 12 months. If your supporting organisation is not satisfied with the progress and developing of your business idea, your endorsement may be withdrawn and your leave curtailed.
How to prepare your Business Proposal
When preparing your business plan, you must ensure that your idea meets the following requirements:
- Innovation. Your business plan must be original and genuine, meet new or existing market needs and/or create a competitive advantage.
- Viability. You must have, or be actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run your new business.
- Scalability. You must present valid evidence of structured planning, and of the potential for job creation and growth into national markets.
The Home Office will need to review proof that you meet the credibility requirement, meaning that you must:
- Genuinely intend to undertake your business activity. The Home Office will refer to your work, education and immigration history, and any declaration made on your application.
- Not intend to work in breach of immigration law.
- Have any money claimed in your application available for the purposes described in your application.
Making a Start Up Visa application from inside the UK
If you are already in the UK under one of the following different visa categories, you may be able to switch your immigration status:
- Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
- Tier 2
- Tier 4 (General)
- UK Visitor Visa provided that you entered the UK for undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur.
Start-Up Visa General Grounds for Refusal
According to the General Grounds of Refusals set out in the Immigration Rules, your application can be rejected if you have any convictions or if you have previously breached UK immigration.
What happens if your Start Up Visa application is approved?
Successful applicants will be granted permission to live in the UK for two years. At the end of this period, you will then be expected to move into the Innovator category or leave the UK. To remain in the UK, you must hold a valid endorsement, and meet more stringent eligibility criteria.
Can I apply for a Start Up Visa as a part of a team?
Yes, you do not need to be the sole founder of your business, and you can be a member of a Start-up team. You and your team must share the same business idea and plan. Nevertheless, each applicant must receive their own individual endorsement from an approved body.
Can I join an existing business as a Start Up Visa holder?
The idea behind this visa is to welcome ambitious entrepreneurs in the UK to establish their business for the first time. This means that the IL Start-up Vias is not the appropriate immigration route for those who wish to join an existing visa.
Can a Start-Up Visa holder settle in the UK?
After five years of continuous residence in the UK, you can settle in this country by applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, the Start Up Visa UK is only valid for 2 years. At the end of this period, you can exclusively remain in the country if you get an Innovator Visa to continue developing your business. Under this immigration category, and after a further 3 years spent in the UK, you will be able to apply for settlement status.