Start-up visa UK: what you need to know? Best Expert Advice!

UK start-up visa application fee, requirements and guidanceIn terms of the statement of changes dated March 7, entry clearance and extension applications for start-up visa UK will commence from March 29, 2019. Accordingly, start-up visa is for those migrants who are looking to establish a business in the UK for the first time. However, a start-up applicant needs to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea, duly supported by an endorsing body. Certainly, a start-up migrant means a migrant who is granted leave in the start-up category under Appendix W of the Immigration Rules. Accordingly, a start-up migrant can stay in the UK for a maximum duration of 2 years. However, the migrant cannot directly apply for settlement in the UK but can switch to the innovator category of Appendix W of the Immigration Rules.

For case processing and representation contact specialist immigration solicitors.

Start-up visa to replace Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

Perhaps, the start-visa UK is not only a replacement but also an improvement of the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route, which will close for new applications on July 6, 2019. Therefore, after July 6, 2019, prospective applicants may only be able to apply for a start-up visa for setting up a business in the UK.

No need for graduation and funding for a start-up visa

Unlike its predecessor, an applicant applying for a start-up visa 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 start-up migrant will have the option to switch to innovator visa under Appendix W for further developing business in the UK.

Application Fee for Start-up visa from inside and outside the UK

From March 29, 2019, the UK visa fee for a start-up visa entry clearance and leave to remain applications will be £363 and £493, respectively. Moreover, the main applicant can also avail a Council of Europe Social Charter (CESC) discount of £55. Apparently, the application fee for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur entry clearance and leave to remain visa applications is also £363 and £493, respectively. Therefore, there is no difference in the application fee for the UK start-up visa and Tier-1 Graduate Entrepreneur.

A start-up migrant can stay in the UK for 2 years

The length of leave for initial applications under the start-up visa UK is 2 years. Moreover, the length of leave for an extension application under the start-up visa is also 2 years, minus the time already granted in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Startup categories. Therefore, the maximum time an applicant can spend in the UK under the start-up worker visa is 2 years. If an applicant has already been granted the maximum time in the start-up category, then any further application will be refused. However, an applicant can switch from start-up to innovator visa.

Can a start-up migrant apply for settlement (ILR) in the UK?

No. Apparently, the start-up visa UK does not directly lead to indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK. However, a start-up migrant has an option to switch onto UK innovator visa. Moreover, there are also transitional arrangements for Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas to switch onto the start-up and innovator visa.

Conditions of Grant for entry and leave to remain

If a start visa application is successful, then an applicant gets the leave 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 in the start-up category may be curtailed if an endorsing body withdraws its endorsement of a migrant or loses its status as an endorsing body for the start-up category.

Twelve Requirements for Start-up Visa under Appendix W

To qualify for the start-up visa UK 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 requirements, then the applicant gets the start-up visa for up to 2-years. However, if an applicant fails to meet the general and specific requirements then the start-up visa application is refused.

Checklist of UK start-up visa general and specific requirements

  1. Evidence provided with applications
  2. Min age of the applicant
  3. Immigration status in the UK
  4. Restrictions for Tier 4 (General) Students applying in the UK
  5. Breach of immigration laws
  6. General grounds for refusal
  7. Credibility assessment
  8. English language
  9. Maintenance funds
  10. Endorsement from an endorsing bodyspecific requirement for the start-up visa under Part W5 of Appendix W
  11. Start-up visa applicant needs to meet the endorsement criteria specific requirement for the start-up visa under Part W5 of Appendix W
  12. Endorsing bodies needs to meet the eligibility requirement – specific requirement for the start-up visa under Part W5 of Appendix W

1) Evidence provided with start-up 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.

An applicant to furnish missing evidence within 10 working days

The decision maker may contact the start-up visa 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 requirements of the Rules.

2) Minimum Age to apply for the start-up visa

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

3) The immigration status of the start-up applicant in the UK

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 start-up visa

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

4) Restrictions for Tier 4 (General) Students applying in the UK

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.

Written consent from the Government or Scholarship Agency

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.

5) Breach of immigration laws

The start-up visa 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.

6) General grounds for refusal

The start-up visa applicant must not fall for refusal under the general grounds.

7) Credibility assessment for the start-up visa UK

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 will assess the start-up 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.

8) English language requirement for the start-up visa UK

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

9) Maintenance funds for the start-up visa UK

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.

10) Endorsement from an endorsing body for a start-up visa UK

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 a start-up visa UK

A start-up visa applicant does not need to be the sole founder of the business. Therefore, may 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 start-up visa application.

11) Endorsement Criteria for the start-up visa UK

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 Start-up Visa

For the start-up visa, the innovation requirement means that the applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

Viability Requirement for Start-up 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 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.

Endorsement Letter for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

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.

12) Requirements for Start-up Visa UK 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

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