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Start-Up visa

The Start-Up Visa is a new 2-year visa route (established in Spring 2019) which is for early-stage, but high potential, entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK for the first time.  

The Start Up visa are for people setting up a new business in the UK which is innovative, viable and scalable, with the ultimate aim that the business has the potential to become fully integrated and a contributing part of the UK economy.  

Who can apply?  

In order to apply for a Start-up visa, you need to meet the following criteria:  

  • Have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea (explanation below) 

• to be at least 18 years old  

• to be a national of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland  

• to have had your business / business idea assessed and endorsed by an approved endorsing body.  

• to demonstrate that you have held at least £945 in a bank account in your name for at least 90 consecutive days leading up to the date that you submit your visa application online.  

• to meet the UKVI's English language requirements 

  • Not have started a business in the UK before  

In addition, in order to apply for an endorsement with King’s College London, you also need to meet the following criteria:  

  1. Have, or be in the process of completing degree level study with King’s College London and have:   

• Undergraduate students: completed all exams and coursework  

• Postgraduate Master's & Postgraduate Taught students: completed all exams and submitted your dissertation  

• PhD students: submitted your PhD thesis 

  1. Be an equity-holding co-founder in the company you are applying with  

King’s College London does not accept any applications that do not meet the stated criteria. 

If the University endorses your application (see below for more detail). You must apply within three months of the date of issue of the endorsement letter.  If a visa application is unsuccessful it is possible to reuse an endorsement letter in a fresh application within its three-month validity.  

For example, if the endorsement letter is dated the 1st of June this endorsement letter will be valid for three months until 1st of September of the same year. (Valid for 3 Months) 

What is the 'Start-up' Visa? 

From 6 April 2019 Start-up visa replaced and expands the previous Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa scheme.  It is aimed at ‘early-stage but high potential entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK for the first time’. People who have previously established a business in the UK or spent 2 years in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or Start-up categories are not eligible.  

We require that you thoroughly read the Home Office information (especially the policy guidance) in advance of submitting an application. 

King’s College London Endorsement Process  

 There are two application windows per year, no applications will be accepted outside of these times:  

October 15th – November 15th 2019  

April 15th – May 15th 2020  

The endorsement process is designed for the Entrepreneurship Institute to determine if your business proposal is innovative, viable and scalable as per the government criteria for this visa route.  

Stage 1  

Complete the online application form here.

You can view the questions that are included on the application form here.

You may also supply a business plan to support your application that is no longer than 8 pages (size 12 font, single spaced) and email this in to Documents that exceed this limit will not be considered.  

PLEASE NOTE: we may share your application with third parties in the cases where technical expertise is required to assess the application.  

Stage 2  

If you are shortlisted from the application stage, you will be asked to attend a panel interview in which you will need to present your business idea and answer questions on your proposal.  

You will hear back from your interview within one week and the panel’s decision is final.  

Stage 3 

If you're successful, you'll be issued a copy of the KCL endorsement letter (valid for three months only), which will be part of your application for the Start-up visa to the Home Office. 

Innovative, Viable and Scalable? 

The Entrepreneurship Institute at King’s College London are responsible for assessing your business proposal against the government criteria to determine whether your business is innovative, viable and scalable. We have given explanations and examples of the types of questions we would expect you to be able to answer for each of the criteria below:  

Innovative – Does the application have a genuine, original business idea that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage?  

  • Your business idea solves a problem in a new and unique way? 

  • There a demonstrable need for the business in the UK market that is not already being fulfilled 

  • Your business differs from your competitors, your offer is better than others on the market 

  • There may be Intellectual Property in your idea that you can protect under a patent? 

Viable – Does the applicant have, or are they actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run the business successfully?  

  • You have completed customer research which proves there is a need for your product and that there are customers who are willing to pay for your product or service  

  • There is scientific evidence that your product or service will work (if applicable)  

  • Your team have the skills, knowledge and experience to make the company a success  

  • You have a clear strategy for getting your product or service to your potential customers (route to market)  

Scalable – Is there evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets?  

  • The market size is big enough to sustain the company and is likely to gain sufficient traction 

  • There are opportunities to expand the offer of the company  

  • The business/revenue model allows for growth  

What happens once I have my visa?  

If your application is successful, your visa will be granted for two years. During this time you will need to spend the majority of your working time developing your business.  

If you are successful in securing an endorsement with us, once you have your visa you will be allocated a business mentor from the Entrepreneurship Institute. You will need to meet your mentor quarterly to report on the progress of your business and they can also provide you with business advice. Monitoring begins from the date the visa recipient is awarded their visa.  Failure to make reasonable progress with your business development or maintain contact as required can lead to the University withdrawing its endorsement. 

The University is obliged to report the following to the Home Office: 

  • You fail to maintain contact as agreed 

  • There is evidence to suggest you are not complying with your conditions of stay 

  • You are no longer participating in the scheme 

A report can lead to your visa being curtailed. 

Transition from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur to Start Up Visa  

If you have been granted one year’s stay as a Graduate Entrepreneur it is possible to extend your visa for a second year under the Start-up category.  The maximum total time available under both categories is 2 years.  

You will need to have a second endorsement from the University and make another visa application.  The number of endorsements the University can make for a second year are not subject to an annual limit. Existing Graduate Entrepreneurs who do not fully meet the new Start-up criteria may still be endorsed if satisfactory progress has been made with business development.  

Visas after Start-up 

Individual advice on switching into any other work category at the end of Start-up falls outside of the University’s expertise.  For specific help with applications for any other work-related visa you may need to seek advice from a specialist immigration adviser. 

Can my dependants stay with me or come to the UK? 

Details of any dependent family who plan to remain with you in the UK or who you intend to bring to the UK must be included in your endorsement letter.  

If you are in the UK and your spouse or partner and children are with you as your dependants they can apply to stay with you.   

If your spouse or partner and children are overseas they can submit an application for permission to join you as your dependants.   

Candidates with dependants should seek individual advice about their endorsement, extra application procedures, additional maintenance requirements and application fees. 

Other members of my team are not King’s College London students or alumni, is this okay?   

Yes, other members of your founding team do not need to be affiliated to King’s College London. However, they are unable to apply for an endorsement with us. 

When can I apply?   

The application process for this visa, which is endorsed by King’s College London, is led by the King's Entrepreneurship Institute. There are two windows of application per year.  

The next application window dates:  

15 Oct to 15 Nov 2019 

15 April to 15 May 2020  

All applications will be reviewed after the application window has closed.  

Can you provide me with advice on my current visa status and switching to a Start Up Visa?  

The Entrepreneurship Institute is not able to provide any advice relating to your visa status or personal circumstances. The International Advice Team at King’s College will be able to discuss and advise on your individual circumstances.  

They have lots of information online and run drop in consultations which you can attend if you would like to talk to someone in person.  

You can find all their information here