Start-up visa

The Start-up visa category is for non-UK nationals wishing to set up a business in the UK.

Primary page content

The Start-Up scheme has now closed.

It offers a one-off, 2-year visa, during which applicants will spend the majority of their time developing their businesses but can also take on other work outside of their businesses, to support themselves.

Applicants do not need any funds to invest in their business at this stage.

Key criteria

It is available to Goldsmiths graduates who can meet the following criteria:

  • Innovation - Applicants need to have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage
  • Viability - Applicants must have or be actively developing the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to run a business successfully
  • Scalability - There also needs to be evidence of structured planning and the potential for job creation and growth into national markets

A ‘genuine and original’ business idea would be one that is able to demonstrate a sound financial plan, a clear business development strategy and can detail how the development of the business in the UK will be supported.


This scheme is limited to 20 spaces per year, so sponsorship is a privilege, not a right.

Please be aware that if successful applicants do not meet the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) visa requirements, they might not be able to take part in the scheme.

You will only be eligible to apply if you have already graduated from a degree level course at Goldsmiths or will graduate in the current academic year.

We don't have standard criteria because each business is different but Goldsmiths is committed to supporting creative enterprises, so we are looking for well thought out cutting edge business ideas that demonstrate ingenuity, a flair for innovation, have a clear understanding of the impact they would like to make and the sector they would work in.

Successful applicants are granted a visa for 2 years, but continued sponsorship will be based on the progress made throughout this period, so Goldsmiths is also looking for businesses that have the potential to achieve success in a short amount of time.

To ensure that we are able to assess each application fairly on its own merit, we are not able to give business advice before you make your application. If you would like advice about your business plan before you submit your application, you may want to contact the careers service for some advice.

If you are successful with your application for the scheme we will mentor you during the process, but the hard work and innovation is down to you.

Below is a list of previous business ideas that we sponsored and as you can see they are all very different from each other.

  • An app that aims to help people get a second chance when they have a missed connection following a real-life exchange which may be romantically, socially or professionally
  • A company that manufactures, distributes and retails online equipment and clothing designed specifically for women working in technical positions across a variety of creative industries
  • A production company that specialises in online branded video content for innovative institutions, small businesses and causes
  • A fashion label that offers creative, fashionable jeans for petite-sized women with a sense of modern sustainability
  • A digital platform encouraging elevated connectivity, publicity and discovery for students
  • A supply chain consultancy company for fashion brands connecting start-up fashion brands and manufacturing/textile mills, teaching how to source, reuse and produce eco-friendly textiles
  • A sonic events company that produces culture centred programmes with the objective of giving those attending powerful and lasting experiences

General eligibility

Alongside the business requirements, you will also need to meet the visa requirements before we can endorse you to take part in this scheme. We recommend you read the visa requirements very carefully because we will not be able to endorse you if you are unable to make a valid visa application.

You must not have previously established any business in the UK which commenced trading, unless this business commenced trading during your last period of permission and that permission was for any of the following routes:

  1. (a) Start-up; or
  2. (b) Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur); or
  3. (c) Student on the doctorate extension scheme

You can stay in the UK for 2 years on a Start-up visa. Any time you’ve already spent in the UK on a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa counts as part of the 2 years.

Financial requirements

You need to have had at least £1270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before you apply, or if you’ve been in the UK for more than a year and applying to switch to this visa you do not need to show funds.

You must have control of the funds you are relying on.

The bank statement(s) or evidence you use to show the funds have been held for 28 days must be from the 31 days before you submit your application. The 28 days is calculated from the date of the last transaction in the last dated bank statement.

Your funds can be held in any form of personal or building society account including a:

  • current account
  • deposit account
  • savings account
  • pension savings
  • investment account

Cash must be in an account that allows you immediate access.

If your money is held in a foreign currency this will be converted into pound sterling (£) using the spot exchange rate on OANDA for the date of the application.

English language requirements

Goldsmiths graduates will meet the English language requirements if they have successfully completed their studies. We will confirm this if we endorse you.

Academic qualification

You will need to have a Goldsmiths bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD awarded to you before the date of your endorsement.

Students should apply to take part during the final part of their course but if you are not awarded your qualification you will not be able to take part in the scheme if, for example, you fail part of your course and need to re-take a module the following year, you will be unable to take part in the scheme and you would need to re-apply the following year.

TB certificate

Students applying for entry clearance on the Start-up route must (if paragraph A39 and Appendix T of these rules apply) provide a valid medical certificate confirming that they have undergone screening for active pulmonary tuberculosis and that this tuberculosis is not present in them.

Start-Up visa endorsements

If you have ever applied for a Student Visa, you will know about 'Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies' (CAS) statements. With the Start-Up visa route, you need something similar called a 'Letter of Endorsement'. This is issued by your sponsoring institution (Goldsmiths) and confirms that we are endorsing you to take part in the scheme.

The applicant will be provided with a letter from their endorsing body which includes all the following information:

  • the name of the endorsing body; and
  • the endorsement reference number; and
  • the name, telephone number, email and workplace address of a person at the endorsing body who will verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office if requested; and
  • the date of endorsement; and
  • the applicant’s name, date of birth, nationality and passport or other travel document number; and
  • a short description of the applicant’s business venture and the main products or services it will provide to its customers; and
  • confirmation that in the view of the endorsing body the applicant’s business is innovative, viable and scalable as set out at SU 5.1.; and
  • confirmation that the endorsing body is satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing their business venture; and
  • confirmation that the endorsing body is satisfied the applicant is either the sole founder of the business or an instrumental member of the founding team; and
  • confirmation the endorsing body is satisfied that the applicant has created and is relying on their own business plan.

You will only receive your Letter of Endorsement after your application has passed the business assessment and you have attended an immigration advisory appointment. If you are unable to meet the requirements of this visa route then, unfortunately, we will be unable to endorse you. Once issued, an endorsement must be used within 3 months.

There isn't a specific Start-up Visa business advice service available but the following general resources might be helpful:

  • Goldsmiths Careers Service offers all current students and recent graduates advice and guidance about finding employment during and after their studies. They often run workshops and events aimed at business development and entrepreneurship so keep an eye on their webpages for any upcoming sessions that might be of interest to you
  • GOV.UK has detailed advice on setting up a business

You might be able to apply to change (‘switch’) to a Start-up visa if you’re already in the UK on a different type of visa.

You should apply before your current visa expires.

You cannot switch to this visa if you have one of the following:

If you apply in the UK, you can work under the terms of your student immigration permission while your application is with the Home Office. If you are no longer studying, this period will be regarded as your holiday so you can work full-time, but you must not be self-employed, engaged in business activity, work as a doctor or dentist in training, take a permanent job or work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach or entertainer. When your application is granted, you can start to set up your business.

The point at which students Requiring a visa can start undertaking business activity depends on when they were last granted leave under the Student Visa:

  • Students Requiring a visa who had their last Student visa granted before 1 October 2019 may only engage in business activities once their Start-up visas have been granted.
  • Students Requiring a visa who had their last Student visa granted on or after 1 October 2019 may engage in business activities once they have applied to the Home Office for their Start-up visa.

In either case, listed above, students will not have been able to be self-employed or engage in a business activity when they apply to Goldsmiths for endorsement.

You are allowed to set up your business and, in addition to this, you can take employment. You are not allowed to work as a doctor or dentist in training or be employed as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach).

The Immigration Advice Service are unable to offer any financial assistance. Our role in the scheme is to offer you mentoring and you will be allocated a dedicated business mentor if you are successful; who will be able to offer advice during your time on the scheme.

You will need to consider the financial model of your business as part of your initial application and so it's important to think carefully about this. You will need to approach potential funders yourself.

For information about funding a new business, have a look at the following websites:

Start-Up visa general eligibility webpages
Help to decide whether you are eligible to apply, information about your dependents and how to apply.

Start-Up Policy Guidance
Making a visa application, understanding the visa requirements.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) webpages
General Start-Up information.