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The Start-up visa: FAQ

19 March 2019 James Ritchie Immigration

What is it?

A new visa route announced in June 2018, and presented in the immigration white paper published in December 2018. The Start-up is designed specifically for those with an innovative business idea and appropriate commercial experience. It is one amongst many new or reformed “specialist routes” recently proposed by the Government for who they deem “highly valuable migrants and workers”.

The Start-up visa is intended to:

“enable all business people, not just recent graduates, to apply for a visa following endorsement by a university or an approved business sponsor.”

Herein lies the distinction between the Start-up route and its soon-to-be predecessor, the Graduate Entrepreneur route, which was restricted purely to recent graduates.

It is part of the overhaul of the immigration system for entrepreneurs, to make way for the “Innovator route” for those with a greater business experience.

Am I eligible?

The initial Government press release provided scare details on what would be required by applicants, indicating only that they must have “acquired an endorsement from a university or approved business sponsor, including accelerators”.  

On 7 March 2019, the latest Statement of Changes was published and heralded the new Appendix W, effective from 30 March 2019. Part W5 of Appendix W provides further clarification on eligibility requirements. Subject to satisfying the general requirements found in Part W3, the applicant must:

  • have been endorsed in this category by an endorsing body;
  • must provide an endorsement letter issued by the endorsing body, abiding by specific requirements found in W5.1(b); and
  • the endorsement letter must confirm the applicant’s business venture meets all of the following:




The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

The applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.

How long can I stay?

The current Graduate Entrepreneur route, which the Start-up visa is set to replace, allows the successful applicant to remain in the UK for one year, with a further year possible provided you have the requisite endorsement. A total of two applications were required to obtain leave for two years. The Start-up category, unlike its predecessor, requires only one, in that it:

“offers leave for 2 years and does not lead directly to settlement in the UK, but applicants may progress into the Innovator category below”

If an applicant successfully switches from the Start-up category to the Innovator category, they may be granted 3 years. The Innovator category does not have a maximum time limit.

When can I apply?

The proposed launch date was spring 2019, when it officially replaces the existing Graduate Entrepreneur Route. The Statement of Changes points towards 30 March 2019, with final provisions taking effect from 1 August 2019. The Home Office have confirmed to a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association that the start date for both the Start-up and Innovator categories is in fact 29 March.

A more pressing concern for applicants is the question of whether endorsement bodies will be prepared in time for the commencement of the Start-up route. Presently, the sole endorsing body confirmed to be accepting endorsement applications will not be doing so until September 2019. This leaves a noticeable gap between the grand opening of the Start-up route and when applicants may actually apply.

Further questions?

If you are an individual looking to set up a Start-up in the UK and would like more information tailored to your situation, we offer consultations and a full application service to provide advice and assistance on the best course of action to take to secure your place in the UK, contact us for expert advice from our immigration solicitors.

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