Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

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. It replaced the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa scheme.  

The Start-Up Visa is 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.  

People who have previously established a business in the UK or spent 2 years on 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.

Who can apply? 

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

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

• Be at least 18 years old

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

• Have had your business/business idea assessed and endorsed by an approved endorsing body

• 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

• 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. 


King’s College London Endorsement Process

There are two application windows per year, and no applications will be accepted outside of these dates. The next application windows are as follows:  

October 15th – November 15th 2020  

April 15th – May 15th 2021  

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

Applications are currently closed. The application form will be available here when the next application window opens. 

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

You may also supply a business plan to support your application that is no longer than 6 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 present your business idea and answer questions on your proposal. We aim to notify all applicants whether they have been shortlisted within two weeks of the application window closing date. 

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

Stage 3 

Coronavirus update: we will be proceeding with our application and interview process as normal during this current visa window (15th April-15th May 2020). However, as visa centres are currently closed, we will not be issuing endorsement letters to successful candidates until visa centres re-open, given that endorsement letters have a 3-month expiry date.

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

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 June this endorsement letter will be valid for three months until 1st September of the same year (valid for 3 Months) 

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  

See below for answers to frequently asked questions about the Start-Up Visa. If your question isn't answered there, then email your query to



We accept applications twice a year, and the next two application window dates are: 15 October - 15 November 2020 and 15 April - 15 May 2021. All applications will be reviewed after the application window has closed. We will not accept any applications outside of these dates.

If you have completed degree-level study at King’s (as outlined above) and are now a staff member, then yes you can apply for a Start-Up visa endorsement.

Yes! Whether you graduated 5, 10 or 15 years ago (or more!), you can apply for endorsement for a Start-Up visa from King’s. We have no upper time-limit for alumni in which to apply.

We do not have a specific quota or percentage of applications we endorse from each application window; each application is considered on its own merits against the criteria stated above.

Unfortunately we cannot share details of past applications or contact details of people who we have previously endorsed; the Start-Up Visa is an individual assessment, and is determined by whether or not your business idea meets the government's innovation, viability and scalability criteria. We have previously hosted information sessions in the run-up to a visa window opening, where we talk through the application form and eligibility, as well as invite a former Start-Up Visa endorsee to talk through their experience, so keep an eye out for these events nearer the time.

This will depend on whether you have completed your studies at King's or not.

If you are a King's alumnus OR have completed your course's exams/coursework/dissertation requirements, then you should complete applications for both the King's20 and a Start-Up Visa endorsement. Please bear in mind that you might be endorsed for a Start-Up Visa, but not get a place on the King's20 Accelerator.

If you are still a student, i.e. haven't completed your course's exams/coursework/dissertation requirements yet, then only submit an application for the King's20, as our Start-Up Visa process requires that you have completed all the requirements of your degree. If you are accepted onto the King's20 programme, then we will automatically provide you with a Start-Up Visa endorsement letter once your degree is completed. If you are not offered a place on the King's20, then you are still able to apply for a Start-Up Visa endorsement in the next application window after you have graduated from King's.

The Start-Up visa is an individual application and assessment, and so each member of your team will need to submit their own application if they also require endorsement for a Start-Up visa. If you are all shortlisted for interview, then you will have separate interviews and cannot attend each other’s interview. There is no guarantee that every member of the team would be endorsed. See the question below if your other team members are not affiliated to King’s.

Yes this is fine, other members of your founding team do not need to be affiliated to King’s College London. However, they are unable to apply for endorsement with us if they also require a Start-Up visa.

Please limit your application to one business idea only; if you have multiple business ideas you’d like to submit, please do this in a separate application. We will consider each application on an individual basis against the stated criteria.

So long as you remain compliant with your current visa requirements, you may test out your business idea before making an application to ensure that your idea satisfies the innovation, viability and scalability requirements. This may include writing a business plan, negotiating contracts, initial research/testing, speaking to potential customers and incurring pre-trading costs with a view to deciding whether to start the business.


The three government criteria of a business idea being innovative, viable and scalable still have to be met, whatever stage the business idea is at. We will not endorse any business ideas that appear to be solely franchises or UK offices of an existing business, without having a compelling reason for the company to be based in the UK.

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. 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.

Yes; if you are invited to interview, you do not need to attend the interview in-person. We are happy to conduct interviews remotely via a video conference.

The Start-Up visa is an individual assessment and application, and as such, you cannot bring your co-founders to your interview with you. If your co-founders are also applying for a Start-Up visa with King’s and have been invited to interview, then your interviews will be conducted separately.

You are welcome to apply again for a Start-Up visa when the next application window opens. We will re-consider your application and review whether we think you have made sufficient progress and/or changes to your business idea to satisfy the criteria outlined above.

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.

You will be allocated a business mentor from the Entrepreneurship Institute and 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:

- if 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.

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.

Individual advice on switching into any other work category at the end of the Start-Up visa 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.

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.

International Student Support