What is the Start-up Visa?
The Start-up Visa has replaced the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. It is similar to the Innovator Visa in some ways, but with some key differences.
This visa has been designed for aspiring business people with a formal business plan. If granted, it lasts for two years but it cannot be extended. It may be possible to switch to another visa (including the Innovator Visa) but the Start-up Visa does not lead directly to settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain).
To be eligible, applicants must demonstrate that they are entrepreneurs who wish to set up and develop a new business in the United Kingdom. It is essential to procure an official endorsement from an approved endorsing body in order to be granted this visa.
This can be achieved by submitting a formal business plan to the relevant body and outlining how you intend to meet the objectives of your plan. You must show that your idea is unique, innovative, viable, scalable, and sustainable.
Who can apply for a Start-up Visa?
The Start-up Visa is for early-stage and high-potential entrepreneurs who can demonstrate the capacity to start a business in the UK.
The majority of Start-up Visa applicants will not have begun the process of setting up their business in the UK. If this is the case for your business, you should ensure that it has not yet started trading.
If you meet these initial requirements for the Start-up Visa, you should be able to provide evidence of the following:
- You are aged over 18 years old
- You have not previously established a business in the UK
- You are in receipt of an official endorsement from an approved UK endorsing body
- Your endorsement was not issued more than three months before the intended date of the visa application
- You are committed to and have the capacity to undertake the work activities as outlined in your application
- You meet the English language requirement (level B2 on the CEFR scale)
- You meet the financial maintenance requirement
Can you switch to a Start-up Visa?
It may be possible to switch to the Start-up Visa if the applicant is already in the UK on a valid visa.
Any dependents of the applicant must apply separately.
The applicant must meet the broader eligibility requirements of the visa category. However, there are some types of visa from which you cannot switch.
These include people who hold a:
- Visitor visa
- Short-term student visa
- Parent of a child student visa
- Seasonal worker visa
- Domestic worker in a private household visa
- People on immigration bail
- People with permission to stay outside normal immigration rules
If granted, you will be permitted to stay in the UK for up to two years.
English language and financial requirements
You must demonstrate a high level of English language abilities in order to be granted the Start-up Visa. This must be a minimum of level B2 on the CEFR scale.
Unless you have demonstrated your level of English in a previous visa application, or you are exempt from proving it (e.g., because you are a national of a majority English-speaking country), you must submit proof of your language as part of your application.
The following methods can be used to prove your level of English language skills:
- Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
- Holding a GCSE or equivalent qualification from a UK school (attended while under 18)
- Holding a degree-level qualification taught through English (if outside the UK, you must meet equivalent criteria. It is necessary to apply for confirmation through Ecctis)
Unlike the Innovator Visa, there is no financial requirement to invest funds into a business. However, it is likely that you will be required to demonstrate that you have the ability to scale and grow your business, which means that you may be required to demonstrate you have this capacity.
However, you must demonstrate that you hold sufficient savings in your bank account to support yourself.
For yourself, you should provide evidence that you have savings of £1,270, as well as £285 for a partner, and £315 for the first dependent child, and £200 for any child dependents after the first.
Some of the documents you will need in order to apply for your start-up visa include the following:
- Endorsement letter from an endorsing body
- Valid passport or travel document
- Official bank statements showing at least £1,270 worth of savings in your bank account (which must have been there for 28 consecutive days before applying)
- Evidence that you meet the English language requirement
- Clean tuberculosis test result (where relevant)
- Certified translations of official documents in a language other than English or Welsh
Based on your individual circumstances, you may be required to provide further documents as proof.
You will need a blank page in your passport (front and back) in order for the visa to be added to your document.
In order to apply for the Start-up Visa, you must provide evidence that a relevant endorsing body has approved your business plan.
The authorised body must be either a UK higher education institution or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs.
You must demonstrate to the endorsing body that your business idea meets the following definitions:
- Innovative: Your business idea is a new, unique idea that will fulfil new or existing market needs and has a competitive advantage
- Viable: You have the ability to run the business and have a range of business skills (including the relevant skills, knowledge, experience and market understanding)
- Scalable: Your business plan can grow to a significant scale and has the potential to create jobs
How to apply for a Start-up Visa
The visa application must be submitted online at the Gov.uk website. You will be asked to provide information confirming your identity and show how you meet the eligibility requirements.
You will also be asked to provide your biometric information (facial photographs and fingerprints). Depending on your location, this may take place at a visa application centre or alternatively, by using a smartphone app.
During your application, you will be told how you should proceed. If you are required to attend a visa application centre, the centre may require that they keep your passport and documents while your application is processing.
You will also be required to pay the appropriate fees and healthcare surcharges with your application.
What are the Start-up Visa fees and waiting times?
Depending on your location and circumstances, the cost of the Start-up Visa application will vary.
If you are applying for yourself from outside the UK, there is a fee of £363. If you are seeking to switch to this visa from inside the UK, you will pay £493.
If you are applying on behalf of your dependent partner or children, you will pay £363 per person, while switching to this visa will cost £493 per person.
The waiting time for this visa is approximately three weeks from the date of submission of your application (including documents and identity verification).
In the event that the Home Office requires further information on your application, your waiting time may be longer.
You might be able to pay for a faster decision on your application (this will depend on your location).
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The Start-up Visa has been designed for entrepreneurs who wish to establish a UK business for the first time. It is not a requirement to be an established businessperson in order to apply for this visa (this would be for those wishing to apply for the Innovator Visa).
It is a requirement that the applicant has a formal business plan and endorsement from an endorsing body in order to be eligible.
It is likely that the Home Office will provide information on why your visa application was refused. You can use this information to adapt your application and resubmit it so that it has more chance of success.
If you need support with your application or need support in giving yourself the best chances of success, contact Newcastle Immigration Lawyers for a discussion about your case.