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UK Startup Visa. Eligibility Criteria


The UK Startup Visa is a type of visa that allows individuals to establish and run a business in the UK. It is designed to encourage entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas to come and set up their businesses in the UK. The visa has several eligibility criteria that applicants need to meet, especially for those in the IT industry.

In anticipation of Brexit (when the UK departed from the EU in 2020), a scheme was introduced to stimulate new entrepreneurial ideas and businesses in order to position the UK as a leading force in innovation and re-establish its position as a global IT hub. It should be noted that the Startup visa does not guarantee permanent settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain – ILR) in the UK, but it is possible to switch to another visa type that can lead to ILR (Innovator visa for example)

The Startup Visa is for people who want to set up a business in the UK for the first time. The Innovator Visa, on the other hand, is for more experienced business people who have already established a business overseas and want to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK. To be eligible for an Innovator visa, you must have at least £50,000 in investment funds, be endorsed by an approved endorsing body, and have a business plan that is innovative, viable, and scalable. You must also have sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependants while you are in the UK.

If you have been granted a Startup Visa and later decide that you meet the eligibility criteria for an Innovator Visa, you can switch from one visa to another after two years. “Innovators” can apply for an extension of their stay in the UK or for permanent residence after a period of three years.

This ecosystem of support can help entrepreneurs to overcome challenges and accelerate the growth of their businesses. Unlike other types of visas, the Startup visa allows entrepreneurs to work on their own businesses rather than being tied to an employer. This gives entrepreneurs the freedom to pursue their own ideas and vision for their business. Also, The Startup visa provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to connect with like-minded individuals and tap into the wealth of knowledge and expertise available in the UK startup ecosystem.

To be eligible for the UK Startup Visa, applicants must meet the following requirements:

General eligibility criteria:

  • Applicant must be at least 18 years old;
  • Applicant must meet English Language Requirements (IELTS minimum score of 5.5 in each modules or English degree);
  • Applicants must prove that they have enough personal savings to support themselves while in the UK
  • Applicant must have a Business Plan and Endorsement Letter.

Main Requirements. Endorsement from Endorsing body. Business Idea

The first and most important eligibility criterion for the UK Startup Visa is that applicants must have an endorsement from a UK endorsing body. The endorsing body is responsible for assessing the viability and credibility of the applicant’s business idea. The endorsing body must be approved by the UK government, and the list of endorsing bodies can be found on the UK government website.

Before contacting any endorsing body, make sure to verify that you meet the eligibility criteria

In the IT industry, applicants must have an innovative, scalable, and viable business idea that has the potential for growth and job creation.

The business idea must be original, and applicants must provide evidence to prove that they have the skills and expertise to execute the business plan successfully.

  • The applicant must have a genuine and original business plan that addresses new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
  • The business plan must be realistic and feasible, taking into account the applicant’s available resources.
  • The applicant must possess or be actively acquiring the skills, knowledge, experience, and market awareness necessary to successfully operate the business.
  • The applicant must demonstrate a systematic approach to planning and the potential for job creation and expansion into national markets

To be eligible, the applicant must possess an endorsement letter from an endorsing body that confirms their role in generating or making a significant contribution to the ideas in their business plan. Additionally, they must have a day-to-day role in carrying out the plan and must be either the sole founder or an instrumental member of the founding team.

Your business must be both unique and your first venture in Britain. Furthermore, to comply with the endorsement requirements, you must maintain contact with your endorsing body every 6, 12, and 24 months.

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Applying as a Startup Team

In case your startup has multiple founders, each individual must meet the requirements individually to apply for the startup visa. However, it is not necessary to be the sole founder of the startup, and you can be a part of a startup team that shares the same business idea and plan with other founders.

English Language Proficiency

To be eligible for the Start-up visa, applicants are required to demonstrate proficiency in English by achieving a certain score on a Secure English Language Test (SELT). This means that applicants must possess the ability to speak, read, write, and comprehend English at a level that corresponds to or exceeds B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. The test must be administered by an approved provider such as IELTS, SELT, or Consortium. Specifically, the IELTS requirement for the UK Startup Visa is a band score of a minimum 5.5 in each modules (listening, reading, writing, speaking), which is equivalent to CEFR Level B2.

Alternatively, applicants may also be exempt from the English language requirement if they are a national of a majority English-speaking country, or if they have completed a degree-level qualification taught in English.

It is important to note that meeting the English language requirement is crucial for the success of your application. If you do not meet the requirement, your application may be refused or delayed, so it’s important to make sure that you meet the necessary criteria before submitting your application.

Financial Requirements

If you’re applying for a Start-up visa in the UK, you will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient support funds to cover your living costs while you’re in the UK. This is a requirement of the visa, and it’s important to make sure that you have enough money to support yourself and any dependants.

Before submitting your application, it is necessary to have maintained a balance of at least £1270 in your bank account for a continuous period of 28 days, or if you have been in the UK for less than one year and are seeking to switch to this visa. Also, you need to demonstrate funds for the dependant partner: £285, for the first child: £315, and for any additional child: £200.

There are several ways to demonstrate that you have sufficient support funds. You can provide bank statements, evidence of savings, or a letter from a financial sponsor confirming that they will support you during your stay in the UK.

No Investment Requirement

While there is no official investment requirement for the UK startup visa, we highly recommend that applicants be financially prepared to invest up to £50,000 (the exact amount may vary depending on the nature of the business idea) in the development of their startup. This will not only demonstrate the applicant’s commitment to the business but also provide safety for the future. Additionally, applicants will be required to provide proof of their funding sources.

In summary, the UK Startup Visa is an excellent opportunity for IT entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas to start their businesses in the UK. Applicants must meet the above eligibility criteria, including obtaining an endorsement from a UK endorsing body, having sufficient funds, demonstrating their proficiency in the English language, and having a genuine intention to run a business in the UK.

Our blog contains a comprehensive review article providing an overview of the startup visa application stage in the UK. You can refer to this article for more information