Start-up visa

The Start-up visa category is for non-EU, EEA or Swiss nationals wishing to set up a business in the UK.

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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 and 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 2020.

Application StatusDate
Applications close 13 February 2020
Shortlisted candidates notified and interviews held Week beginning 1 March 2020
Successful applicants notified Week beginning 30 March 2020

Business selection criteria

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

Immigration Requirements

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 have not previously established a business in the UK (unless you are currently sponsored under the Tier 1 GE category and in your first year). 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.

You can apply to switch to this visa if you meet the eligibility requirements and you’re already in the UK on one of the following visas:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • Any Tier 2 visa
  • Tier 4 (General) student visa

Financial requirements

If you are applying from inside or outside of the UK, you will need to show you have held £945 in cash funds, in your own name, for a full 90 days leading up to your application.

We will ask you to provide a bank statement if you are shortlisted so that we can check that this amount has been deposited in your account, and we will then need to see an up to date statement showing that the funds have been available for 90 days before you apply. You must be able to provide original statements from the bank if electronic they must be stamped by the bank on every page.

We advise that although the visa rules allow you to use more than one account to show proof of maintenance, it is easier to have funds in one place so that your application is as straightforward as possible. You should maintain these funds for the full 90 day period at the time of your application to the scheme in April and then hold the funds in that same account right through the process, right up until the point you are successfully granted your visa. You must be named on the account that you wish to use as evidence of meeting the financial requirements for your visa 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.

Start-Up visa endorsements

If you have ever applied for a Tier 4 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.

In order to be valid, a Letter of Endorsement must:

  1. Contain a unique endorsement reference number
  2. Include the date of issue and confirmation of its expiry date.
  3. Endorsements must be used within 3 months from the date they are issued
  4. Confirm your name, date of birth, nationality and current passport number
  5. Include details of any dependents already in the UK or any you intend to bring with you under this route
  6. Confirm your qualification title, award date and level
  7. Confirm the institutional details 
  8. Confirm that you meet the Innovation, Viability and Scalability requirements of the scheme 
  9. Confirm that you will spend the majority of your working time in the UK developing your business
  10. Confirm that you have not previously established a business in the UK (unless you have been sponsored under the Tier 1 GE category for a year)

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.

Business proposal advice

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

Applying for Start-up visa from inside the UK

It is possible to apply for a Start-up visa inside the UK if you have one of the following visas:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • Any Tier 2 visa
  • Tier 4 (General) student visa

Your visa must be valid, which means it must not have expired when you make your application. 

Read more about applying for a visa inside the UK on the

Registering or operating a business before your visa arrives

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 Tier 4 students can start undertaking business activity depends on when they were last granted leave under Tier 4:

  • Tier 4 students who had their last Tier 4 visa granted before 1 October 2019 may only engage in business activities once their Start-up visas have been granted.
  • Tier 4 students who had their last Tier 4 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).

Financial support

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:

UK Government advice

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.