Guide

Apply for a Start-up visa as an entrepreneur

Updated on 8 April 2021

If you want to start up your own business after you graduate, you will need a Start-up visa. You can see if you meet the eligibility requirements and how you can apply in this guide.

On this page

Start-up visas may be available for graduates who plan to start their own business in the UK. Before 2021, these visas used to be called "Tier 1 visas."

Eligibility 

In order to be eligible to make a visa application under the Start-up visa, you must meet a range of requirements from the University of Dundee and Home Office.

University of Dundee requirements mean you must:

  • be a graduate of the University of Dundee within the past two years (unless discussed with Centre for Entrepreneurship in advance).
  • have significantly engaged with the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Dundee during your degree, or over the six months after graduation.
  • have successfully completed the Enterprise Challenge programme as a minimum, or be able to evidence an equivalent programme.
  • have received an endorsement by a UK Higher Educational Institution (HEI).
  • been awarded a recognised bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD within the UK, for which you studied in the UK and with two years of your graduation date. This must have been awarded before your endorsement date (this will be stated on your endorsement letter).
  • have written permission to remain in the UK from your official financial sponsor if they are a government or an international scholarship agency and have paid all your course fees and living costs in the past 12 months.

Home Office requirements mean:

  • the business idea must make good use of graduates’ skills and add to the UK economy, rather than a routine business which will merely compete with other local traders.
  • you must be able to show you have held the required maintenance funds in your personal account for 90 consecutive days at the date your application. See the section below on ‘maintenance funds’ for details.

Your business idea

Your business idea must be able to clearly demonstrate that it addresses the following criteria:

Innovation

  • Being a genuine, original business idea and plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advance

Viability

  • That you/or your team have, or are actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, ability to raise required start-up funding, experience and market awareness to run the business successfully.

Scalability

  • Evidence that there is structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national and/or global markets.

Before you receive a letter of endorsement

You can

You can do the following, as it is not considered to be engaging in business activity:

  • Carry out preliminary activities, such as, writing a business plan or negotiate contracts
  • Incur pre-trading costs with a view to deciding whether to start the business

You cannot

  • Register with HM Revenue and Customs as self-employed
  • Work for a company in which you are the controlling shareholder
  • Work for a company in statutory roles, such as a director
  • Trade or establish a trading presence (including test marketing)
     

Get a letter of endorsement

The letter of endorsement must contain very specific information as required by the Home Office. The University of Dundee will ensure that the letter meets all of the necessary criteria. You can read detailed information about this in the guidance for Start-up and Innovator visa endorsing bodies.

The University of Dundee’s International Advice Service will arrange your letter of endorsement once:

  • the University of Dundee has agreed to endorse your business under the Start-up visa scheme
  • you have arranged an appointment with the International Advice Service to assist you with your visa application
  • you have confirmed that you have held the required amount of maintenance in your own bank account for 90 consecutive days, and that your bank statements meet the Start-up visa requirements.
  • you have signed a letter of agreement, agreeing to the terms and conditions of taking part in this scheme

The letter of endorsement is valid for three months from the date it is issued - if you try to apply after this date your application will be refused. You must provide the original letter with your application. Please check your letter of endorsement carefully to ensure that your personal details and business details are correct.

Procedure for obtaining the letter of endorsement

  1. If you believe you have a viable business idea you should first connect the Centre for Entrepreneurship via email to discuss the merits of the business – entrepreneurship@dundee.ac.uk
  2. During this initial meeting you should provide any details, prototypes, research that you have already produced to the members of staff at the Centre for Entrepreneurship. The University of Dundee has a limited number of sponsorship licenses so it is a competitive process. Additionally, you will be asked to provide evidence and/or answers to a number of questions, including but limited to those below.
  3. There are normally two Start-up visa panels a year. One in April/May and one in November/December. Applicants will be asked to pitch their business idea as well as submit a full business plan including financial projections (approximately 30 pages in length unless agreed upon) in advance.
  4. You will receive confirmation if your business pitch has been successful in five working days.
  5. The International Advice Service will be notified and steps will be taken to draft a letter of endorsement.
  6. While under endorsement from the university there will be contact points of a minimum of once every six months and conditions that must be met set out by the external panel.

It is possible to apply either in the UK or from overseas.

External panel outcomes and decision

Applicants will only be permitted to apply once, however, if the external panel felt that, in consultation with the Centre for Entrepreneurship, the applicant should be endorsed with conditions, then the applicant would either be conditionally endorsed with a requirement for further information to be provided or supported to prepare for a second panel.

For the benefit of any doubt, panel outcomes may include:

  • Endorsement
  • Conditional Endorsement
  • No endorsement

In the case of Conditional Endorsement, the applicant may be required to provide additional information to the external panel for a more in-depth review or formally agree to meet the conditions as directed by the external panel

Showing maintenance funds when you apply

You must evidence that you have personal savings of at least £1,270 if applying from within the UK or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK. It is not possible to use relatives or friends bank statements to evidence this money. All funds must be in your own name.

You must have maintained the required minimum balance for a consecutive period of 90 days. The closing balance of your account must be dated no more than 31 days before the date of your application.

Your application will be refused if your balance drops below the required maintenance amount at any point during the 90-day period. Please pay particular attention to this as this is a common reason for visa refusals.

The Home Office require the evidence of funds to be in a particular format. You should read the guidance for Start-up and Innovator visa endorsing bodies very carefully before making your application.

Visa length

A Start-up visa is valid for 24 months. You may be eligible to extend your first 12 month for a further 12 months (24 months in total) if you still meet the criteria following a review on how the business has progressed. There is a maximum of two years under the Tier 1 SUV.

The Start-up visa does not count towards your indefinite leave to remain, moreover, the Start-up visa represents a break in your accumulation of indefinite leave to remain.

Dependants

It is possible to have dependants with you under this Scheme. . They must be able to show they have sufficient money available for the time they will be in the UK. The amount of money you need to show per dependants varies depending on your circumstances. In addition to the £1,270 you must have to support yourself, you or your partner will need £285 for your partner, £315 for one child, and £200 for each additional child.

If applying outside of the UK each family member must complete a separate application and pay the visa fee.

Applying for a Start-up visa

When you apply you will need to provide the Home Office with the following documents:

  • A completed online Start-up visa application form
  • The application fee. This is currently (for each member of your family) £493 for applications made within the UK or £363 for applications made overseas.
  • A current passport or other valid travel identification.
  • 2 passport size colour photographs which meet the Home Office requirements.
  • An original letter of endorsement from the University of Dundee.
  • Evidence of finances showing you have held the required maintenance funds in your personal bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply. See the ‘maintenance funds’ section above and check the Home Office web pages for the most up-to-date requirements.
  • Proof that you meet the English language requirement, if applicable (if the University of Dundee is endorsing you and you were awarded your degree by University of Dundee, your endorsement letter is sufficient for this purpose).
  • If you received official financial sponsorship for all tuition and living expenses, you should provide written permission from your sponsor giving their consent to you staying in the UK under this Scheme.

If any documents are not written in English you will need to provide a certified translation.

Second Start-up visa panel

You will be required to attend a second panel, one year after the first panel. You must submit an updated full business plan including financial projections (approximately 30 pages in length unless agreed upon in advance), a 15-minute pitch, followed by questions and answers from the independent external panel of business experts. Additionally, you must meet the previous criteria from the Home Office, mentioned above, and the criteria below:

  • You must keep in regular contact with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and provide updates on the progress of the business when required, these will be set out based on the Tier 1 SUV panel’s recommendations.
  • You must respond to emails and other forms of correspondents in a timely manner.
Enquiries

International Advice Service

+44 (0)1382 385676

InternationalSupport@dundee.ac.uk