The Start-up visa is a new immigration category available to budding entrepreneurs wishing to relocate or remain living in the UK. This route is only for applicants who have a new business idea; applicants are not permitted to apply if intending to join an existing company. This article looks at the new route in more detail, and explains the 5 steps for securing your visa.
1. Apply for endorsement first
Applicants cannot apply for Start-up visas based on their own experience alone; they must be supported by an authorised body that is either:
- A UK higher education institution (universities and similar); or
- A business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs.
You can view a list of the current endorsing bodies here.
The bodies will endorse an applicant if they meet their individual criteria. This will include consideration of the applicant’s business plan, and of their acumen and experience/qualifications as an entrepreneur. Universities will assess existing students who have developed a business idea and apply for support to remain in the UK and explore it further. Applicants should note that business organisations are likely to endorse only those applicants with whom they already have a connection.
2. Have the correct fees ready to pay
To apply in this category from outside the UK, the application fee is £363 per person (including any dependant partner or child under 18). Applications to switch to the category in the UK are higher, at £493 per person.
Each applicant and dependant is also required to pay the healthcare surcharge, currently calculated at £400 per person per year, for each year of status being sought. Start-up visas are limited to a maximum 2 years, so the surcharge should be £800 per person.
3. Meet the English language requirement
Applicants in this category are required to have a qualification in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) to at least level B2 of the CEFR. Many applicants are anticipated to be Tier 4 students who have secured endorsement from their sponsoring university, and those applicants will be permitted to rely on their UK degree qualification.
4. Have sufficient personal savings
Each applicant must show that they have maintained personal savings of £945 for a minimum 90-day period before their application is submitted. Note that any applicant sponsoring their partner or child requires more; each dependant must have access to an additional £630 for the same 90-day period.
5. Apply online
Applications in this category can only be made online. They may be submitted from overseas or in the UK, depending on the applicant’s personal circumstances. Those permitted to switch their immigration status to the Start-up route in-country are:
- Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneurs);
- Tier 2 migrants;
- Tier 4 (General) students; and
- Certain visitors (those who came to the UK specifically to source business funding, who are already in possession of Start-up endorsement).
Many of the steps to secure a Start-up visa are straightforward, but before you begin your application, you should make a plan for what happens next. Start-up applicants are granted a maximum 2 years’ status, with no ability to extend or settle in this category. A switch to an alternative category is therefore essential for future UK residence, so applicants should be careful to plan what long-term route works for them.