The UK's Start-Up Visa – One Step Closer to Realising Your Dreams
The United Kingdom remains a destination with political stability and prudent entrepreneurial tax support for entrepreneurs worldwide, showing all the signs of an established and strong economy. And to stimulate growth and innovation in the UK, a new visa is introduced by the UK government to entice more non-European individuals to come and set up enterprises in the nation through relaxed eligibility criteria.
The START-UP Visa category aims for aspiring entrepreneurs with high potential to launch their business in the UK for the first time. This Start-Up route replaces the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa and is accessible to both graduates and non-graduates with no requirement for initial investment. While applicants do not need to have any initial funds to invest for eligibility, they must have an innovative, viable, and scalable business idea that can be or have been accepted by an endorsing body.
This Visa allows you to stay in the UK for 2 years to develop your business and permits you to work for an employer to support yourself financially if required. The start-up visa allows a successful applicant to bring their family members (spouses/companions and children below 18) to the United Kingdom. However, at the end of 2 years, applicants will apply for further leave to remain in the Innovator category to continue developing their business. Furthermore, this Visa cannot be extended, and visa holders are not eligible for settlement.
The Start-Up Visa category is very popular with high inception of eligibility, which includes:
An Endorsed Business Plan: The Start-up applications must be endorsed by a listed endorsing body. Every endorsing body will have a different process through which applicants must follow to obtain the endorsement. The endorsements are mainly selected based on innovation, viability and scalability.
Maintenance Funds: You need to show access to at least £945 in your bank account, maintained for a least 90 days before making the application.
Adequate Knowledge of English: You must show your knowledge of English is at least Level B2 on the CEFR scale. Several tests can prove this, including holding a degree taught in English.
*Start-Up Visa Applicants do not require any evidence for an investment fund for their business.
Start-Up Visa Validity
Start-up Visa is granted for 2 years with no opportunity to extend further. However, you can switch to the Innovator Visa Category to continue establishing your business in the UK.
As the business is already established and endorsed for a Start-up visa, you do not have to show any investment funds or evidence while switching to Innovator's category.
While the business is the same as before, you will need an endorsing letter from an endorsing body for the evidence of meeting business criteria.
In case of a new business idea, you will need investment funds of £50,000. (Check the Innovator Visa article)
ENDORSEMENT APPLICATION (ENDORSING BODIES):
The UK government appoints several organisations as endorsing bodies. These endorsing bodies will be responsible for issuing endorsements to the applicants by assessing their business venture, staying in touch with the applicant to monitor their progress and issuing further endorsements where relevant.
At this stage, you submit an endorsement application similar to a mini visa application to one of the endorsement bodies. You offer your passport, final business plan, evidence of funds, and proof of English proficiency. The Endorsing Body will usually take 3-5 working days to process the application, followed by an invite for a virtual interview.
Interviews are conducted virtually and usually last for 45-60 minutes. The discussion further assesses your business idea and your preparedness to start a business in the UK. If the endorsing body finds you eligible for the endorsement, they will provide you will a written offer letter to confirm what is agreed during the interview.
An offer will usually consist of a business support package or venture builder, which will incur a monthly fee paid to the Endorsing Body over the duration of the Visa. Also, a deposit has to be provided to the endorsing body as a confirmation of offer acceptance. As the offer is accepted, a draft of the Endorsement Letter is issued by the endorsing body to ensure the provided details. The final draft is later linked with the UK Home Office's system. Once the Official Endorsement Letter is received, applicants get 3 months to submit the Visa Application.
START-UP VISA APPLICATION (HOME OFFICE):
Having successfully secured an endorsement, you will submit your Start-Up Visa application to the Home Office. At this stage, you need to submit your documents such as passport, maintenance fund, English language proof, evidence of investment fund etc., in support of a Start-Up visa application. Once the Online application is processed after proving your identity and providing your documents, you will usually get a decision on your Visa within 3 weeks.
If the application is approved, applicants are expected to contact the endorsing bodies every 6 Months. This ensures the endorsing body that you are willing to continue on your business venture and make reasonable progress in your innovative, scalable and viable business idea. If you fail to do so, your endorsement may be withdrawn, resulting in curtailing your leave.
You should expect to pay the following costs to apply for the Start-Up Visa, depending on your circumstances:
The cost of applying for a Start-Up Visa from outside the UK is £363. To bring your dependents to the UK, you will need to pay the same amount for each person.
Switching to a Start-Up Visa in the United Kingdom costs £493, and the same amount is required for each of your dependents (partner and/or child).
Additional expenses may apply, such as an immigration healthcare surcharge, biometric information fees, and the cost of obtaining and translating documents for submission.
With millions of self-employed business owners, sole traders, and freelancers, the United Kingdom encourages and promotes entrepreneurship and welcomes ambitious and innovative minds. The nation dwells many start-ups and tech companies with its advanced, diverse economy and technologically savvy people. The mature start-up ecosystem and the easy availability of investment capital support the start-ups in expanding nationally and fuelling their global expansion. So, if you are willing to launch your business in the UK, be confident, be prepared, and be ready to thrive.