The UK Start-up Visa allows entry-level foreign entrepreneurs to come to the UK to set up an innovative start-up business without the need for investment funds.
What is the Start-up visa and who is it aimed at?
The Start-up Visa allows foreign entrepreneurs with entry-level business experience to come to the UK to start an innovative business. As it is aimed at those who are developing their entrepreneurial experience, including recent graduates, it is not necessary to have investment funds to obtain a Start-up visa. Applicants must prepare a detailed business plan to showcase their innovative business idea and have it approved by an approved approving body in the UK.
Start-up visa requirements
To successfully submit an application for a UK Start-up Visa, applicants must demonstrate that they possess (these are explained in more depth below):
- are over 18 years old
- have a business plan for a new start-up business that is innovative, viable, and scalable
- possess (or develop) the entrepreneurial skills needed to launch a successful start-up in the UK
- have support for their business or business idea
- meet the English language proficiency requirements
- have sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK
To get approved (as explained below) for a Start-up visa, you will need to carefully prepare a comprehensive business plan for your new Start-up business idea.
The business plan will need to demonstrate that your idea is innovative, feasible and scalable. The Home Office rules for this visa state that a business plan will meet these three requirements if:
- it is genuine and original
- it’s for a real start-up
- meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage
- is realistic and achievable based on the applicant’s available resources
- demonstrates that the potential visa applicant has or is actively developing the skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness necessary to successfully operate the business; AND
- shows evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth in national markets.
Applicants for a Start-up Visa must not have established any business in the UK in the past. The only exception to this rule is when the business started during the applicant’s last authorization period for a Start-up, Level 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa or as a student in the Doctoral Extension program.
English language requirements
To successfully submit a Start-up Visa application, you will need to demonstrate that you meet the English language requirements. This means that:
- can read, write, speak and understand English at level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale and have evidence of an English language test to prove this, or;
- you have a degree taught in English, or;
- you are from an exempt country, including: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malta,
New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.
Sufficient support funds for a start-up
You will also need to demonstrate that you have enough money to support yourself in the UK (you will need to demonstrate that you have £1,270 in your bank account 28 days before applying to meet this requirement). You will also need to demonstrate the additional amount of £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for your first child and £200 for each additional child.
Business Approval for Start-up Visa
Choice of approval body
Critical to successfully submitting an application for a Start-up Visa is that you must obtain approval of your idea for an innovative new business in the UK from an approved approving body. The approving body you need to go to for approval will depend on the type of business you intend to set up in the UK.
Britbots, for example, deals with applications in the fields of automation, robotics and related artificial intelligence, while Fashion Angel supports companies in the fields of fashion and textiles.
Factors the approving body will consider
In deciding whether to grant approval, the approval body will consider:
- Is there a need for business in the UK?
- Does the applicant have or is developing the skills needed to make the proposed innovative activity a success?
- Does the company bring something new to existing markets?
- Has the applicant carried out sufficient market research?
- Are there realistic and sustainable product objectives?
- Is there a long-term plan for the business?
- Will the company gain sufficient “traction” in the market?
- Is there growth potential in the UK?
Approval is required before you can apply and ensures that only companies that are likely to be successful can move on to the next stage: applying.
When you speak to your approving body, they will explain their approval process and provide you with the necessary resources to enable you to apply.
Start-up Visa for Indefinite Stay (ILR)
The Start-up visa does not provide a direct route to permanent settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain or ILR). As explained above, in relation to visa extension, there are options available that will allow you to obtain ILR at a later stage. Most Start-up visa holders will use this route as a “stepping stone” to then apply for another visa which will give them a direct route to ILR. There are several options that will allow you to do this, including the following:
- Innovator Visa: This is a natural progression for Start-up Visa holders who have £50,000 in investment funds available and allows you to earn ILR after just three years.
- Skilled Worker Visa: This option is available to those who have obtained employment with another company (the employer must hold a sponsor license) and meet the minimum salary requirements. ILR can be earned after 5 years.
- Spouse visa: If you live with a partner or spouse who is British or has obtained permanent residency in the UK, you can apply for a spouse visa under the family visa route. ILR can be earned after 5 years.
- To discuss your options regarding obtaining ILR as quickly as possible in the UK and then citizenship after a further year, speak to the team at Reiss Edwards, who will be able to explain all your options and advise the route best based on your circumstances and plans.