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Start-up visa - Overview

What is the Start-up visa?

This visa is for entrepreneurs who want to start up a business in the UK for the first time and is aimed at those who have an innovative business idea.

How do I apply for a Start-up visa?

The visa application has two stages:

Stage 1: you must have your business or business idea endorsed; and

Stage 2: you must then make your visa application.

Do I need a job offer to be eligible for this visa?

Unlike other visas, you do not need a job offer to be eligible for this visa. The intention of this visa is that you will start your own company in the UK and work for that business.

Can I be employed whilst holding the Start-up visa?

Yes, you can be employed by your own start-up company and can also work for other businesses at the same time.

How much does it cost to apply for the Start-up visa?

The application fee varies depending on whether you are applying from outside the UK or inside the UK.  The current application fees are:

Outside the UK: £363 (or £308 if you are from Turkey or Macedonia);

Inside the UK: £493 (or £438 if you are from Turkey or Macedonia).

You will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge for the duration of your visa and a fee to enrol your biometric information.

Can I bring my family to the UK with me?

If you obtain the Start-up visa and you are outside the UK, you can bring your family members (known as “dependants”) with you, specifically your:

  • spouse or partner;
  • children under the age of 18; and
  • children over 18 who are already in the UK.

An extra fee is payable per dependant to add them to your Stage 2 visa application (see below).  This is £363 per dependant if applying from outside the UK or £493 per dependant if applying from within the UK plus the Immigration Health Surcharge.

If you are already in the UK with your dependants and you switch to the Start-up visa, they will be able to remain with you.  Whether or not they need to apply for new visas will depend on the circumstances and it is recommended that you contact our immigration specialists to discuss this further.

How long can I have the Start-up visa for?

The visa allows you to stay in the UK for a maximum of 2 years.  It cannot be extended beyond 2 years but you may be eligible to switch into another visa type at this time such as the Innovator visa.

What are the differences between the Start-up visa and the Innovator visa?

The Start-up visa focuses on those individuals with no business experience who want to establish and develop a new business in the UK.

The Innovator visa is for more experienced businesspeople who are looking to set up a business in the UK and have a minimum of £50,000 to invest in the business.

There are other differences, including how long each visa is valid for, if they can be extended and whether they lead to indefinite leave to remain . If you are unsure of which visa to apply for, please contact our immigration specialists to discuss further.

Does the Start-up visa lead to settlement/ILR in the UK?

You cannot apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) on a Start-up visa. However, you may apply to switch to an Innovator visa which does lead to ILR.

Start-up visa - Stage 1 Endorsement

How do I get endorsed for the Start-up visa?

Before you apply for the visa, your business or business idea must be endorsed by an authorised body (see below).

To obtain an endorsement, you need to show that your business proposal is:

  • new
  • innovative
  • viable

When considering this, the endorsing body will take into account factors such as whether your business idea is original and if you have the necessary skills and knowledge to run the business.

For more information about the services we can offer in helping you obtain endorsement, please contact our immigration specialists.

 

What is an endorsing body?

An endorsing body for the Start-up visa is either:

  • a UK higher education institution; or
  • a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs.

The UKVI provides a list of authorised endorsing bodies that can issue endorsements in respect of Start-up visas here.

How do I apply for endorsement?

You will need to directly contact an endorsement body. Details of approved bodies and how they can be contacted can be found here.

Please contact our immigration specialists if you are unsure of which endorsing body you should apply to and we can consider your business idea and the most appropriate endorsing body

What happens once I have been endorsed?

If the above criteria is met and you successfully secure endorsement, the endorsing body will provide an endorsement letter which details your business plan for the visa application.

You must then make your visa application within three months of the date of the letter granting your endorsement.  Please see below for details of how we can help with your stage 2 visa application.

Start-up visa - Stage 2 Visa Application

How do I make my Start-up visa application?

You make your Start-up visa application online by submitting the Home Office form here.  Please see below if you are applying from inside the UK.

Am I eligible to apply for a Start-up visa?

To make a Start-up visa application, you will need to:

  • have a valid endorsement letter from a Home Office approved endorsing body
  • be at least 18 years old
  • meet the English language requirement
  • be able to show that you have £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply to support yourself while you are in the UK

Can I switch to the Start-up visa from my current visa?

Yes, you can switch to a Start-up visa if you meet the visa eligibility criteria, are already in the UK and hold one of the following visas:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa
  • Tier 2 (ICT) or Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Tier 4 (General) student visa
  • Standard Visitor visa

If you are switching from a Standard Visitor visa, you will need to obtain a supporting letter from an endorsing body to evidence that you are looking for funding.

If you are switching from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, you will not need to prove that your business is a new idea with potential for growth.

To apply to switch to the Start-up visa, you should apply online using the Home Office form here.

How long will it take to decide my Start-up visa application?

The Home Office advises that you should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK and within 8 weeks when you apply from within the UK.
If you require a quicker decision on your application you may be able to pay for a premium service.

Do I need to prove my knowledge of my English as part of my Start-up visa application?

Unless you have already evidenced that your knowledge of English is level B2 or above in a previous successful application, you may need to show your knowledge of English. This can be done if you have:

  • passed an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening; or
  • an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by the UK National Recognition Information Centre as being equal to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.

The Home Office provides a list of countries here which are exempt from the English language requirement.

If you are unsure which test you should take, please contact our immigration specialists

What supporting documents do I need to provide with my Start-up visa application?

You will need to provide all of the following documents with your application:

  • a valid endorsement letter from an approved endorsement body;
  • a current passport or valid travel document;
  • evidence to show that you meet the maintenance requirement;
  • evidence to show that you meet the English language requirement.

You may also need to provide additional documents depending on your individual circumstances, such as whether you will be applying alone or with your dependants. In some cases, you must also provide a negative tuberculosis test result depending on where you are applying from.

If you would like to know more information about supporting documents, please contact our immigration specialists.

Innovator visa - Overview

What is the Innovator visa?

The Innovator visa is for entrepreneurs but aimed at more experienced business people who have a minimum of £50,000 to invest in their business idea.

How do I apply for the Innovator visa?

The visa application has two stages:

Stage 1: you must have your business or business idea endorsed; and

Stage 2: you must then make your visa application.

How much do I have to invest to apply for the Innovator visa?

You must have a minimum of £50,000 which is available to invest in your business.

The investment funds can either be yours personally or can be sourced elsewhere such as from a third-party individual, the endorsing body or a UK organisation employing more than 10 people.

You will not be required to invest any funds if:

  • your business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa; or
  • you’ve changed your business and already agreed it with your endorsing body.

If you are unsure whether you have to invest £50,000 in the business, please contact our immigration specialists.

If you are applying with a team member (see below), investment funds cannot be shared between you. Each team member who is applying for the Innovator visa has to have access to at least £50,000 to invest in the business.

Can I work for another business whilst holding the Innovator visa?

No, you cannot work for other businesses whilst on the Innovator visa, you are only permitted to work within your own business that has been endorsed.

I am a co-founder of a business, can I apply for the Innovator visa with my co-founder?

Yes, you do not need to be the sole founder of your business or business idea to apply for an Innovator visa (or a Start-up visa).  If your business/business idea has been set up by more than one person, you can be a member of what is known as an “entrepreneurial team”.  This means that the business idea is shared by the team members and you each need to apply to be endorsed separately.

Can I apply for an Innovator visa by joining an existing business?

You can only apply for the Innovator visa if you have received endorsement for a new business idea or have previously received endorsement for an existing business for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), Start-up or Innovator visa.

If you are applying for endorsement based on a new business idea, you must be a founder of the business.

You are not able to apply for the Innovator visa to join an existing business in the UK which is already trading.

How much does it cost to apply for the Innovator visa?

The application fee varies depending on whether you are applying from outside the UK or inside the UK.  The current application fees are:

Outside the UK: £1,021 (or £966 if you are from Turkey or Macedonia)

Inside the UK: £1,277 (or £1,222 if you are from Turkey or Macedonia)

You will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge for the duration of your visa and a fee to enrol your biometric information.

Can I bring my family to the UK with me?

If you obtain the Innovator visa and are outside the UK, you can bring your family members (known as “dependants” with you), specifically your:

  • spouse or partner;
  • children under the age of 18;
  • children over 18 who are already in the UK as your dependant.

An extra fee is payable per dependant to add them to your Stage 2 visa application.  This is £1,021 per dependant if applying from outside the UK or £1,277 per dependant if applying from within the UK.  This is in addition to the Immigration Health Surcharge.

If you are already in the UK with your dependants and you switch to the Innovator visa, they will be able to remain with you.

Whether or not they need to apply for new visas will depend on the circumstances and it is recommended that you contact our immigration specialists to discuss this further.

How long can I have the Innovator visa for?

You can apply for this visa for an initial period of three years.  You can then apply to extend the visa for another three years and there is no limit on the number of times you can apply to extend it.  This is a key advantage of the Innovator visa over the Start-up visa.

Does the Innovator visa lead to settlement/ILR in the UK?

Unlike the Start-up visa, you are able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after three years spent in the UK.

There are other eligibility requirements for ILR which you should be aware of. Please contact our immigration specialists for further information to ensure that you are eligible for ILR whilst holding your Innovator visa.

 

Innovator visa - Stage 1 Endorsement

How do I get endorsed for the Innovator visa?

Before you apply for the visa, your business or business idea must be endorsed by an authorised body (see below).  To obtain an endorsement, you need to show that your business proposal is:

  • new
  • innovative
  • viable

These are the same criteria for endorsement as for the Start-up visa and when considering this, the endorsing body will take into account factors such as whether your business idea is original and has potential for growth.

For more information about the services we can offer in helping you obtain endorsement, please contact our immigration specialists.

How do I apply for endorsement?

You will need to directly contact an endorsement body. Details of approved bodies and how they can be contacted can be found here.

Please contact our immigration specialists if you are unsure of which endorsing body you should apply to and we can consider your business idea and the most appropriate endorsing body

What happens once I have been endorsed?

If the above criteria is met and you successfully secure endorsement, the endorsing body will provide an endorsement letter which details your business plan for the visa application.

You must then make your visa application within three months of the date of the letter granting your endorsement.  Please see below for details of how we can help with your stage 2 visa application.

Innovator visa - Stage 2 Visa Application

How do I make my Innovator visa application?

You make your Innovator visa application online by submitting the Home Office form here.  Please see below if you are applying from inside the UK.

Am I eligible to apply for an Innovator visa?

To make an Innovator visa application, you will need to:

  • have a valid endorsement letter from a Home Office approved endorsing body
  • are able to show that you have £50,000 in investment funds
  • be at least 18 years old
  • meet the English language requirement
  • be able to show that you have £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply to support yourself while you are in the UK

Can I switch to an Innovator visa from my current visa?

Yes, you can switch to an Innovator visa if you meet the visa eligibility criteria, are already in the UK and hold one of the following visas:

  • Start-up visa
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa
  • Tier 2 (ICT) or Tier 2 (General) visa
  • Standard Visitor visa

You cannot switch into this visa if you have any visa type which is not listed above, including a Tier 4 Student visa.

If you are switching from a Standard Visitor visa, you will need to obtain a supporting letter from an endorsing body to evidence that you are looking for funding.

To apply to switch to the Innovator visa, you should apply online using the Home Office form here.

How long will it take to decide my Innovator visa application?

The Home Office advises that you should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK and within 8 weeks when you apply from within the UK.

If you require a quicker decision on your application you may be able to pay for a premium service.

Do I need to prove my knowledge of my English as part of my Innovator visa application?

Unless you have already evidenced that your knowledge of English is level B2 or above in a previous successful application, you may need to show your knowledge of English. This can be done if you have:

  • passed an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening; or
  • an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by the UK National Recognition Information Centre as being equal to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.

The Home Office provides a list of countries here which are exempt from the English knowledge requirement.

If you are unsure which test you should take, please contact our immigration specialists.

What supporting documents do I need to provide with my Innovator visa application?

You will need to provide all of the following documents with your application:

  • a valid endorsement letter from an approved endorsement body
  • evidence of the available investment funds
  • a current passport or valid travel document
  • evidence to show that you meet the maintenance requirement
  • evidence to show that you meet the English language requirement

You may also need to provide additional documents depending on your individual circumstances, such as whether you will be applying alone or with your dependants. In some cases, you must also provide a negative tuberculosis test result depending on where you are applying from.

If you would like to know more information about supporting documents, please contact our immigration specialists.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa

Is the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa scheme still open to new applicants?

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa route closed on 29 March 2019 so the scheme is no longer accepting new applications.  This means that you can no longer apply for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, unless you are switching from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa as discussed below.

The visa was replaced with the Innovator visa which is discussed above.

Can I extend my Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa?

If you already have a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa, you will only be able to extend the visa if you can show that:

  • you registered as a director or as self-employed no more than 6 months after the date your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa was granted;
  • you have been self-employed, a member of a partnership or working as a director of a business 3 months before you apply for the extension;
  • you have created at least 2 full time jobs in the business that have existed for at least 12 months;
  • you can continue to support yourself financially; and
  • you have invested at least £200,000 or £50,000 (depending on the amount of funds your initial application was based on) in cash in a business or businesses in the UK.

If you meet the above eligibility criteria, you will be able to extend your visa for a further 2 years.

If you have family members on your current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa, they should be included on the application to extend the visa, even if they turned 18 during your time in the UK.

Can I switch to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa from my current visa?

You may be able to switch your visa to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa if you are already living in the UK and:

  • you currently hold a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa; or
  • you switched to a Start-up visa from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa for your second year.

In order to switch to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa you must be able to show that you have access to at least £50,000 in funds and a viable business plan.

You will be able to stay for 3 years if your application to switch is successful.

To apply to switch to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa, you should apply online using the Home Office form here. The cost of the visa application fee is currently £1,277. It will typically take 8 weeks for a decision to be made on your application to switch.

Can I apply for settlement/ILR in the UK if I already have a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa?

Yes, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) on the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa.

The standard route to settlement allows you to apply after holding the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa for 5 years and requires you to have hired at least 2 employees who are settled in the UK.

You are able to apply for ILR after only 3 years if your business’ turnover has exceeded £5 million or if you have hired at least 10 employees who are settled in the UK.

There are other eligibility requirements for ILR, including passing the Life in the UK Test and meeting certain English language requirements, which you will need to know about to apply. So that you are able to meet the requirements for ILR whilst holding your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa, please contact our immigration specialists for further information.

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa

Is the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa scheme still open to new applicants?

The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa closed on 6 July 2019 so the scheme is no longer accepting new applications.

The visa was replaced with the Start-up visa which is discussed above.

Can I switch to a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa from my current visa?

No, it is no longer possible to switch to a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.  Instead, please consider its replacement, the Start-up visa, which is discussed above.

Can I extend my Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa?

No, it is no longer possible to extend your Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.

Can I switch from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa?

Yes, please see above question (Can I switch to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa from my current visa?)

Can I apply for settlement ILR in the UK if I already have a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa?

No, the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa does not lead to ILR.  You may be eligible for ILR through other routes including long residency.  Please see the ILR section of the Hub for further guidance .

Disclaimer

Given the fast pace of change, we would stress that this information is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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