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Start-up visa: how a beginner entrepreneur can move to the UK

PUBLISHED: 11 September 2020

Start-up visa to the UK replaced a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa that for long had been an excellent opportunity to relocate to Great Britain for young businessmen with ambitious ideas.

In this article, we will talk about who can apply for a Start-up visa, which requirements they must comply with, which criteria a new business must meet, and other relevant matters related to this visa category.

Opportunities offered by a Start-up visa

The main thing is an access to a huge and constantly growing UK market that is regulated by corporate laws that are clear even to new entrants. The government supports start-ups and offers them tax benefits as well as simple banking options.

No investment is required to obtain a Start-up visa to the United Kingdom. You can start your business alone or as part of entrepreneur team. A significant bonus is the ability to bring the whole family with you.

Requirements for Start-up applicants

You can apply for a Start-up visa if you:

  • Are not EEA or Swiss citizen.
  • Plan to start a business in the UK.
  • Comply with all other qualification criteria.

You can also switch to a Start-up visa from other categories such Graduate Entrepreneur and a visitor visa for prospective entrepreneurs.

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Qualification criteria for a Start-up visa

Before you can submit your application, you must get an endorsement for your business, or business idea, from one of the approved organisations. The list of government approved endorsing bodies includes higher educational establishments and corporate bodies that strive to support UK entrepreneurs.

If your business meets three criteria below, an endorsing body will issue you an endorsement letter. If you have a partner or partners, they must each obtain an endorsement letter.

Other requirements to Start-up visa applicants:

  • You must be older than 18.
  • You must speak fluent English at least to Level B2 of the European classification. You must either pass an English test or provide proof of education received in English equal to bachelor’s or master’s degree, or higher.
  • You must be of good health and pass a tuberculosis test (not for all countries).
  • You have no criminal record.
  • You have enough money to support yourself and family during your stay in the UK without recourse to public funds. The main applicant must show funds of £1,270 that must have been on a bank account for at least 28 days before the date of application.

Criteria for business

For an endorsing body to issue a letter of support, they must evaluate your idea against three criteria:

  1. Innovativeness
    Your business plan must be either original or create a new demand or cover an existing demand in the UK market. A unique competitive feature can also count as innovation.
  2. Viability
    Your business plan must be based on the resources available to you. In other words, it must be realistic and achievable. Besides, you must already have or be learning necessary skills, knowledge and experience to develop the idea.
  3. Scalability
    You are expected to demonstrate the potential for growth and expansion of your business in a highly competitive environment that would translate into new jobs and new markets.

All endorsing bodies value their image and reputation so they must be sure that you will spend most of your time in the UK on growing and developing your business. And they make sure by conducting regular checks on you.

In 6- and 12-month time after obtaining a Start-up visa and moving to the UK, you will need to contact your endorsing body and report to them on your achievements and persuade them that they have made the right decision in supporting you. However, this might not be enough.

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New rules in Start-up visa

The Home Office can conduct their checks on the endorsing body that issued you a letter. They would ask them to provide additional information to:

  • Make their own assessment of how your business meets the above-mentioned criteria.
  • Check whether your endorsing body has been doing what they are supposed to do.

An endorsement is not indefinite; it can be revoked if you fail to report within prescribed time limits.

What to do if you lose your endorsement?

If your sponsor decides to revoke their endorsement after reviewing your report or they lose their authority to endorse, all you can do is find another endorsing body.

The same applies to an entrepreneur team; if at least one of you is revoked, all of you lose the endorsement.

Which family members can I bring to the UK?

A Start-up visa allows to bring the following dependants to the United Kingdom:

  1. Spouses or partners.
  2. Minor children.

Additional requirements for dependants

Family means responsibility, and you must show to the Home Office that you have enough money to maintain all family members.

Add to the £1,270 mentioned above another £315 for each dependant coming with you. Say, you want to move with a spouse and a child – you must have at least £1,900 on your bank account. The rules also state that the required amount must be on your bank account or on your relative’s bank account for at least 28 days before applying.

How long a Start-up visa is valid for and what it gives

A Start-up visa is only granted for 2 years and cannot be extended. If your idea has succeeded and you have achieved what you wanted, you can switch to another visa before your Start-up visa expires, for example Innovator visa or even Investor visa.

If you switch to the said visas, you will be able in a few years to apply for UK permanent residence, or settlement. Your family can apply with you. To do that, all adult applicants must pass an English test and Life in the UK test.

UK permanent residents have almost the same rights as British citizens. But if you want to become British yourself, you can apply for naturalisation a year after settlement.

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How we can help

For many years, qualified lawyers at Imperial & Legal have been helping foreign nationals to come to the UK. Our specialist have relevant experience and expertise to offer full business support to your start-up every step of the way, from drafting a business plan for a visa to switching to another visa and applying for settlement.

Experts at Imperial & Legal offer turn-key customised solutions to our clients to meet all their needs, both personal and business. We provide full business support and corporate services and help with relocation to the UK.

FAQ about UK Start-up Visa

How to get UK Start-up visa?

There are two ways to obtain the immigration status assured by the UK Start-up visa:

  1. To apply through a visa application centre outside the UK.
  2. To apply for the UK Start-up visa in the UK. In other words, to switch from another visa category. For example, to switch from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa route which was closed.

Both ways imply the applicant to meet the evaluation criteria imposed by the Home Office. The duration of the UK Start-up visa includes the period of time spent in the UK under another visa route. For example, if you managed to come to the UK under the Graduate Entrepreneur route and in a year’s time you switched to the UK Start-up visa, it will expire in a year, not in 2 years.


What visa routes can’t you switch to the UK Start-up visa from?

You can’t obtain the UK Start-up visa if you are staying in the UK under the following routes:

  • Tourist visa;
  • Short-term study visa;
  • Seasonal Worker visa;
  • Parent of a Tier 4 child visa;
  • Domestic Worker in a Private Household visa;
  • Immigration detention bail;
  • Refugee status.

In short, a residence permit under the UK Start-up visa route is not granted to those whose immigration status has an evident time limit.


What are the requirements of the Home Office that the applicant must meet?

As we have already said, the main requirement is that you must have a viable business idea for introducing an innovative product or service to the oversupplied British market. The idea must be endorsed by a body from the approved list available on the official website.

Other requirements to the UK Start-up visa applicants:

  • You must be at least 18 years old;
  • You have no criminal record, you are not under pending criminal proceedings;
  • You must speak fluent English, enough to run a business and communicate with the British on a wide range of subjects;
  • You must be of good health and have no dangerous infectious diseases;
  • You must have on your bank account enough money to support yourself and your family. Currently the main applicant must show funds of £1,270.
    The money must have been on a bank account for at least 28 days before the date of application. If you apply with a dependant, add to the sum mentioned above:
    £285 – for your spouse or partner;
    £315 – for one minor child;
    £200 – for any other child.
  • You must pay the immigration health surcharge (IHS) which is £624 a year per person in the family.

How long does it take to get a decision of the Home Office on the UK Start-up visa application?

If you have applied through one of numerous visa application centres outside the UK, you will get the decision within 3 weeks. If you have applied from within the UK, you will get your decision within 8 weeks. If you want to get a faster decision, you can choose a priority service when you apply. There will be additional cost for the service.

Add to the time mentioned above 3-4 weeks to prepare the necessary documents which you have to submit together with the UK Start-up visa application. A standard list of evidence that you must provide includes the following:

  • a valid passport or other document that shows your identity and nationality;
  • bank statements showing that you have enough money in savings to support yourself upon your arrival;
  • proof that you speak fluent English at least to Level B2 of the European classification;
  • tuberculosis test results (not for all countries);
  • an endorsement letter for your business idea from a government approved body. It confirms that you or your qualified legal experts have done great preparatory work and have skilfully presented your business idea to a representative of the approved body.

Obviously, all the evidence mentioned above must be translated into English. Provided that you approached reputable qualified immigration experts, any unexpected waste of time will be minimised, and you will obtain the UK Start-up visa in the shortest time possible.


What do I do if I lose my endorsement?

If your endorsement is withdrawn because of any infringement on your part, first of all, you must make them good as fast as possible. Since the entrepreneurs are not the only ones to be examined by the Home Office, another reason might be that your sponsor has lost the authority to endorse.

Whatever the reason is, if you don’t want to lose your UK Start-up visa, you need to urgently get a new endorsement from another endorsing body from the government approved list and re-apply. Approach our experts to speed up the process.

Be aware that visa duration is not paused if your endorsement letter is revoked. Your visa will expire in a two years’ time since the moment you enter the UK, including the time that you have to spend on getting a new endorsement. You will have to apply for another business visa route before your UK Start-up visa expires if your start-up proves to be successful.

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