Start up visa

In June 2018 the Home Office announced that a new Start up visa category would be introduced in Spring 2019. On 7th March 2019 the Home Office published a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, which confirms that the new start up visa will be available to applicants as of 29th March 2019 and it will replace the Graduate Entrepreneur visa category. The Graduate Entrepreneur visa route will remain available until 5th July 2019.

Applicants who are already in the UK with certain visa categories can switch to Start up visa from inside the UK:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • Tier 2
  • Tier 4 (General) if certain requirements are met
  • a visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur.

Requirements for the start up visa:

Start up visa category is for people seeking to establish a business in the UK for the first time. The requirements for the start up visa are divided into General and Specific. Both General and Specific requirements must be met for the start up visa to be granted. Visa is granted for 2 years and it does not lead to Settlement in the UK but it can be switched to the Innovator category.

General requirements:

  • The applicant must be at least 18 years old;
  • The applicant must have B2 English language ability (approved English language test is required unless the applicant is a national of one of the majority English speaking countries listed in the immigration rules OR has a university degree from the UK or has a foreign university degree that was taught in English and is recognised as equivalent to UK degree by UK NARIC);
  • The applicant must pass the credibility assessment*;
  • The applicant must have £945 maintenance funds. NOTE: There is no requirement to provide evidence of maintenance funds if the letter from the endorsing body confirms that at least £945 funding has been awarded.
  • There are no general grounds of refusal (e.g. applicant’s criminal record, breach of immigration rules);
  • The applicant does not need to be the sole founder of the business and may be a member of an entrepreneurial team.

*Credibility assessment:

  • The Home Office must be satisfied that all of the following requirements are met:
    • The applicant genuinely intends to undertake, and is capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the UK stated in their application.
    • The applicant does not intend to work in the UK in breach of their conditions.
    • Any money which the applicant claims to be available is genuinely available as described, and the applicant intends to use it for the purposes described in the application.
    • The Home Office will take into account any endorsement of the applicant required under the rules, and may also take into account any or all of the following factors:
      • the evidence the applicant has submitted and its credibility
      • the applicant’s previous educational, work and immigration history
      • declarations made to other government departments regarding the applicant’s previous employment and other activity in the UK
      • any other relevant information.
    • The Home Office may request additional information and evidence from the applicant or the applicant’s endorsing body.
    • The Home Office may ask the applicant to attend an interview.

Specific requirements:

Endorsement:

All applicants in the start up visa category must first obtain an endorsement from an endorsing body. The list of endorsing bodies is due to be published on the gov.uk website.

The applicant’s business must meet the criteria of ‘innovation, viability and scalability’ AND the endorsing body must be ‘reasonably satisfied’ that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing their business.  The Home Office defines the Innovation, Viability and Scalability as follows:

  • Innovation: The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
  • Viability: The applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
  • Scalability: There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.

NOTE: The requirement of innovation, viability and scalability does not apply if the applicant’s previous leave was in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category, and the endorsement is from the same endorsing body.

Endorsing bodies:

An endorsing body can be either of the two:

  1. A UK higher education institution (certain conditions apply).
  2. An organisation that has a proven track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs, including resident workers OR it is a new organisation set up for this purpose by another body which has its own track record of this nature, AND the request to become an endorsing body is supported by a UK or devolved government department as being clearly linked to the department’s policy objectives.

Endorsing bodies have the following responsibilities:

  • To stay in contact with those they have endorsed at checkpoints 6, 12 and 24 months after their application is granted.
  • To inform the Home Office if, at these checkpoints, both of the following apply:

(1) The individual has not made reasonable progress with their original business venture

(2) The individual is not pursuing a new business venture that also meets the endorsement criteria set out in the immigration rules.

  • To inform the Home Office if an applicant misses any of these checkpoints without the endorsing body’s authorisation.
  • To withdraw its endorsement if either bullet point 2 or bullet point 3 above applies, unless it is aware of exceptional and compelling reasons not to withdraw its endorsement, and informs the Home Office of those reasons.
  • To inform the Home Office if it has any reason to believe that an individual it has endorsed breaches any of their conditions.
  • The organisation must not be connected to past or present abuse of the immigration system.

The note reflects legal position and is for general information purposes only and does not aim to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. We accept no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please do not hesitate to contact Carter Lemon Camerons immigration team. The specialist team at Carter Lemon Camerons Solicitors can assist you with all immigration and business-related matters. Our years of expertise in these areas mean that we can provide tailored solutions for you. For more details, please contact our immigration team at immigration@cartercamerons.com or +44 (0)20 7406 1000.