This guidance relates to UK startup visa application requirements 2020 under Appendix W of the Immigration Rules. Please note, the UK startup visa is also erroneously known as UK business startup, start-up entrepreneur, Tier 1 start-up and London startup visa.

An Overview of UK Startup Visa

Apparently, the UK start-up visa is for those migrants who are looking to establish a business in the UK for the first time. Accordingly, applicant needs to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea, duly supported by an endorsing body. However, does not need to be a graduate or secure any initial funding. Moreover, a successful applicant may get up to 2-year leave, instead of 1-year under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route. Furthermore, after 2-years a migrant will have the option to switch to innovator visa.

Please note: in terms of the statement of changes, the UK start-up visa has commenced from March 29, 2019. And has replaced the Tier-1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa for fresh applications from July 6, 2019.

Application Fee

From Feb 20, 2020, the UK startup visa fees for entry clearance and leave to remain applications will be £363 and £493, respectively. Moreover, if eligible the main applicant can also avail a Council of Europe Social Charter (CESC) discount of £55.

Duration of Stay

The length of leave for initial applications under the UK start-up visa is 2 years. Moreover, the duration of extension is also 2 years, minus the time already granted in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Startup categories. Therefore, if a migrant has already spent the maximum 2-year time on the UK start-up visa, then any further application will be refused. However, an applicant can switch from start-up to innovator category of Appendix W. Therefore, a migrant on UK start-up visa cannot directly apply for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR aka settlement). However, a migrant has an option of switching to UK innovator visa.

Conditions of Stay

If a UK startup visa application is successful, then a migrant on UK startup visa can stay in the UK for up to 2 years subject to all of the following conditions:

  • no employment as a doctor or dentist in training
  • no employment as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach)
  • registration with the police, if this is required by Part 10 of the Immigration Rules
  • no recourse to public funds
  • a migrant can study in the UK, subject to the condition set out in Part 15 of the Immigration Rules
  • Entry clearance or leave to remain may be curtailed as set out in paragraph 323 in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules
  • entry clearance or leave to remain may be curtailed if an endorsing body withdraws its endorsement or loses its status as an endorsing body for the UK start-up visa

The UK Startup Visa Success and Refusal Rate

In 2019, 251 applications resolved and 234 UK startup visas granted. Moreover, 12 UK startup visa applications rejected. And 5 applications withdrawn and no application lapsed. Therefore, the UK startup visa success and refusal rate are 93.22% and 4.78%, respectively.

UK Startup Visa Application Requirements 2020

To qualify for the UK start-up visa an applicant needs to meet the general and specific requirements under Part W3 and W5 of Appendix W, Immigration Rules, respectively. If an applicant meets the following UK startup visa requirements, then gets a leave to enter or remain up to 2-years:

  1. Evidence provided with the application
  2. Min Age
  3. The immigration status of the applicant
  4. Restrictions for Tier 4 (General) Students
  5. Breach of Immigration Laws
  6. General Grounds for Refusal
  7. Credibility Assessment
  8. English Language requirement for UK Startup visa
  9. Maintenance Funds requirements for UK startup visa
  10. Endorsement from an Endorsing Body
  11. Endorsement Criteria for UK start-up visa
  12. UK Startup Visa requirements for the Endorsing Bodies

Evidence provided with the application

Certainly, the decision-maker may only consider documents received by the Home Office before the date the application is considered. However, the decision-maker may ask for missing documents. And can also solicit additional information. Therefore, the decision-maker can contact the applicant or his/her representative if specified evidence is missing or a document is in the wrong format, or a document does not contain all of the specified information. Accordingly, the applicant or his/her representative needs to furnish the requested documents at the specified address within 10 working days of the date of the request.

When a decision-maker may not ask for missing evidence?

However, if a decision-maker does not think that the submission of missing or correct documents will lead to a grant because the application will be refused for other reasons then he/she may not ask the applicant for the missing documents. Furthermore, if missing information is verifiable from other documents provided with the application or elsewhere, the decision-maker may grant the application despite the error or omission, if they are satisfied that the applicant meets all the other UK startup visa requirements.

Min Age

A start-up visa entry clearance or leave to remain applicant needs to be at least 18 years of age.

The immigration status of the applicant

For leave to remain application an applicant needs to provide information relating to immigration status in the UK. Accordingly, if an applicant’s last grant of leave was in the start-up category then he/she can apply for leave to remain application under the start-up visa route. Alternatively, an applicant can switch from eligible routes to start-up visa.

Eligible immigration routes for switching to UK startup visa

For UK start-up visa leave to remain applications, an applicant can switch from PBS Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, Tier 2, Tier 4 General and prospective entrepreneur. However, switching from Tier 4 General is subjected to restrictions as per paragraph W3.4 of Appendix W.

Restrictions for Tier 4 (General) Students

In terms of paragraph W3.4 of Appendix W, if the applicant’s last grant of leave was as a Tier 4 (General) Student, then an applicant needs to be sponsored by either the UK recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding, or an overseas higher education institution to undertake a short-term study abroad programme in the UK, or an Embedded College offering Pathway Courses, or an independent school.

If the applicant was sponsored for studies in the UK by a government or international scholarship agency, and the sponsorship is ongoing or ended less than 12 months before the date of application, then the start-up visa applicant needs to furnish an unconditional written consent by the sponsoring government or agency. Moreover, an applicant needs to provide a letter from each sponsoring organisation. Accordingly, the letter must be issued by an authorised official of that organisation and contain verifiable contact details.

Breach of Immigration Laws

The applicant must not be in the UK in breach of immigration laws. However, the decision-maker may disregard any current period of overstaying where any of the exceptions set out in paragraph 39E in Part 1 of the Immigration Rules apply.

General Grounds for Refusal

The applicant must not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal.

Credibility Assessment

For a successful start-up visa application, the applicant needs to satisfy that he/she genuinely intends to undertake and is capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in the application. Moreover, the applicant does not intend to work in the UK in breach of the conditions of stay in the UK for a start-up migrant.

Money is genuinely available for doing a start-up business

Furthermore, a start-up visa applicant needs to satisfy that any money, which the applicant is claiming, is genuinely available. And also the applicant intends to use it for the purposes described in the start-up visa application.

How the decision-maker assesses the UK startup visa application?

The decision-maker will take into account any endorsement of the applicant required under Appendix W. And also take into account any or all of the following factors:

  • the evidence the applicant has submitted and its credibility
  • the applicant’s previous educational, work and immigration history
  • declarations made to other government departments regarding the applicant’s previous employment and other activity in the UK
  • any other relevant information

Additional information from the applicant and endorsing body

The decision-maker may request additional information and evidence from the applicant or (where relevant) the applicant’s endorsing body. The requested documents must be received at the specified address within 20 working days of the date of the request.

The decision-maker may schedule an interview

The decision-maker may ask the applicant to attend an interview. If the applicant fails to attend the interview without providing a reasonable explanation, the decision-maker may decide the application based on the information and evidence the applicant has already provided.

Refusal of start-up application without credibility assessment

The decision-maker may not undertake credibility assessment if the application already falls for refusal on other grounds. However, the decision-maker reserves the right to carry out credibility assessment in any reconsideration of the decision.

English Language requirement for UK Startup visa

The start-up visa applicant is required to have a CEFR B2 level of English language ability. Accordingly, the applicant needs to provide one of the following evidence to prove the English language requirement:

  1. A national of a majority English speaking country
  2. A degree taught in English – applicant needs to provide UK NARIC certificate confirming the qualification meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a Bachelor’s degree in the UK
  3. Applicant passing a Secure English Language Test
  4. The applicant met the requirement in a previous successful application for:
    • Start-up, Innovator, Tier 1 General, Tier 1 Post-Study Work, Tier 2 Minister of Religion
    • Tier 1 Entrepreneur under the rules in place before 13 December 2012
    • Tier 4 General, supported by a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) assigned on or after 21 April 2011

Maintenance Funds requirements for UK startup visa

The applicant must have at least £945. The funds must have been held in the account for a consecutive 90 days, ending no earlier than 31 days before the date of application. The end date of the 90-day period will be taken as the date of the closing balance on the most recent document provided. Where documents from two or more accounts are submitted, this will be the end date for the account that most favours the applicant.

Spouse and children: maintenance funds requirement

If the main applicant and his/her partner or children are applying at the same time then there must be enough maintenance funds in total, as required for all the applications, otherwise, all the applications will be refused.

Maintenance funds exemption for the start-visa UK

If the applicant is applying for a start-up visa then may not need to provide evidence of maintenance funds if the letter from their endorsing body confirms they have been awarded funding of at least £945.

Endorsement from an Endorsing Body

Certainly, a start-up visa applicant for entry clearance or leave to remain application needs to have an endorsement by an endorsing body listed on the gov.uk website. Moreover, an applicant needs to provide an endorsement letter of the endorsing body with the following information:

  1. the name of the endorsing body with the endorsement reference number
  2. the date of issue, which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application
  3. the applicant’s name, date of birth, nationality and passport number
  4. confirmation that the applicant has not previously established a business in the UK (unless the applicant’s last grant of leave was under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category)
  5. a short description of the applicant’s business venture and the main products or services it will provide to its customers
  6. confirmation that the applicant’s business venture meets the endorsement criteria in paragraph W5.2 of Appendix W
  7. the name and contact details (telephone number, email and workplace address) of an individual at the endorsing body. Certainly, the contact person will be responsible for verifying the endorsement letter as per the request of the Home Office

Forming an entrepreneurial team for UK startup visa

A start-up visa applicant does not need to be the sole founder of the business. Therefore, can also be a member of an entrepreneurial team.

Start-up visa applicant can change the endorsing body

If an applicant’s last grant of leave was in Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up category, the endorsement does not need to be from the same endorsing body as the endorsement which led to that grant of leave.

Withdrawal of endorsement by an endorsing body

It is important that the endorsing body does not withdraw the endorsement during the decision-making process. If an endorsing body withdraws the endorsement then this will lead to the refusal of the UK start-up visa application.

Endorsement Criteria for UK start-up visa

The endorsement letter needs to confirm that the applicant’s business venture meets the innovation, viability and scalability criteria. Moreover, the endorsement letter needs to state that the endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of his/her working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

Innovation requirement for UK startup visa applications

Quite clearly, the innovation requirement for UK startup visa application means that the applicant has a genuine, original business plan. And the business plan meets the needs of new or existing market and/or creates a competitive advantage.

Viability requirement for UK startup visa

For the start-up visa, the viability requirement means that applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

Scalability Requirement for UK start-up visa

For the start-up visa, the scalability requirement means that there is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.

When an applicant does not require an endorsement letter?

The requirement relating to innovation, viability and scalability does not apply if the applicant’s last grant of leave was in Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur category and the endorsement is from the same endorsing body as the endorsement which led to that grant of leave. However, the endorsement letter needs to confirm that the applicant’s business venture is genuine and credible.

UK Startup Visa requirements for the Endorsing Bodies

To qualify as an endorsing body for the start-up visa, an organisation needs to meet all of the following requirements:

  1. The organisation should either be a UK higher education institution or have a proven track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs
  2. Ability to competently assess applicants’ business ventures against the endorsement criteria
  3. The endorsing body to stay in contact with applicants at 6, 12 and 24 months checkpoints. And also update the Home Office on an applicant’s progress. If necessary, then even withdraws the endorsement.
  4. No past or present involvement or connection with the abuse of the immigration system