UK Visas for Entrepreneurs (Start Up)

If you are an Entrepreneur with an idea for an innovative new business, the new (March 2019) ‘Start Up’ visa may be for you.

The old Tier1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas were difficult for the Home Office to assess, as the skills needed to assess a business plan and the associated financial forecasts are rare.  With the Start Up visa (and the Innovator visa), the Home Office outsource the assessment of your business idea to

EITHER:  A university 

OR: A commercial organisation that ‘supports’ start ups.  A list can be found at: 

If you are currently studying at a UK university, they may endorse your start up application.  The other option, of a commercial organisation to endorse you, can work quite well if you have a technology idea that requires funding.  Unfortunately, if you don’t need funding (either because the business does not require much seed cash, or because you can afford to fund it yourself), it will be very difficult to get an endorsement.  The endorsing bodies tend to limit themselves to businesses that they are already working with, and as the organisations tend to be seed funding or incubator businesses, that means selling a slice of your new business to them, often at a very cheap price.  Arguably the start up and innovator visas represent a public subsidy to the UK’s Venture Capital sector, because they give VCs & incubators additional bargaining power when negotiating with an entrepreneur.

You must show that your business idea is:

  • New: you can’t join an existing business that is already trading
  • Innovative: not the same as any existing products/services available in the market
  • Viable
  • Scalable (ie it has the scope to grow)
  • Your first UK business (you should not have set up any prior business in the UK)

If successful, you will get a visa for 2 years.  After which the visa cannot be extended, so you will need to qualify under another criteria (such as ‘innovator’) to stay longer.

As a Start Up visa holder, as well as working for your business, you can work in another job (as long as it is not as a doctor/dentist in training or a professional sportsperson/coach). 

As well as the difficult bit of getting endorsed, to make a successful start up visa application, you will need to: 

  • Meet the English Language requirement (a CEFR Level B2 test, or a suitable degree taught in English, or be from an English Speaking country, or have already proven your english language qualifications as part of an earlier successful application ) 
  • Prove you have enough savings to support yourself by showing you have £945 in your bank account and have held at least this much for the last 90 days (If you have dependent family members accompanying you, the sum required increases by £630 for each family member) 
  • Be at least 18 years old

If you have a business idea, and would like to arrange a consultation, please contact us and we will pass your details on to appropriate advisors.  The consultation is likely to cost £250/hr, and, unless you have already lined up the necessary endorsement, as you may have to go into the details of your business plan, you may need more than an hour.