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International Start-up visa

International students on a Photography course

International Start-up visa

The Start-up visa is for international students who have completed their degree course and wish to remain in the UK to develop a business. University of the Arts London (UAL) endorses and sponsors up to 30 graduates for Start-up visas each year. In order to be considered, you must have a viable, UK-based business idea and a plan to make it happen.

Who is eligible?

Any international graduate who has been awarded a PGDip, Bachelor, Masters or PhD degree from UAL can apply for a Start-up visa. Applications can be made up to 2 years after graduation.

  • Your business should have the potential to add to the UK economy.
  • You will be expected to demonstrate the entrepreneurial skills and commitment to develop the business.
  • If endorsed, you must be committed to spending the majority of your working time on developing the business idea.
  • If you are applying within the UK you must be switching into this visa category from the Tier 4 student visa or Student route visa. You must apply to switch prior to the expiry of your current visa.
  • You cannot previously have been granted immigration leave in the UK under Tier 1 (Post Study Work), the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme, International Graduates Scheme or Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme.
  • For your visa application, 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 less than a year and are applying to switch to this visa.

For full details of the requirements, read the Start-up Visa Eligibility guidance provided by the Home Office.

How long can I stay?

Visas are valid for 2 years. After completing your time on the Start-up visa, you may be eligible to switch to an Innovator visa. More information can be found in the Innovator guidelines.


  • You may only start your business once you obtain your Start-Up visa. This is because Tier 4 visa or Student route visa does not allow you to work on a self-employed basis.
  • There are no restrictions on working hours or working for another employer while you develop your business. However, spending the majority of your working time on your business idea is a condition of the visa.
  • You will be assigned a University contact who you will be required to meet once every quarter to discuss the progress of your business.
  • You must adhere to the conditions set by the University and UK Visas and Immigration.

How to apply

The next deadline to apply for a Start-up visa is 9.00am (GMT) 1 February 2022.

If you are planning to apply, please read through the following guidelines.

  1. Start-up Visa Guidelines 2022 (486kb PDF)
  2. Start-up Visa Application form 2022 (34kb Word)

Next steps

  • If your application meets the eligibility requirements, you will be invited to present your idea to the panel. This can be conducted via video conference.
  • If the panel approves endorsement, you will be required to demonstrate you meet the financial requirements for the visa application. 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 less than a year and are applying to switch to this visa.
  • The University will issue an endorsement letter to successful candidates. The endorsement letter is valid for 3 months in which time you must apply for the Start-up visa. A copy of this letter is also sent to the Home Office.
  • The decision of the panel is final. There is no appeal process
  • To apply for the visa, you will need to send the completed Start-up visa application form, the University-issued endorsement letter and the original financial evidence to the Home Office along with the application fee. An adviser from the Student Advice Centre will be able to help with your application.
  • Once you have received the outcome of your application, notify the Start-up visa programme manager. You will be required to provide a copy of your visa for our records.

Please note

  • Start-up visa endorsement is evaluated in a separate process to Creative Enterprise Awards but you may wish to apply to both.
  • If you are selected for both Start- up visa and Creative Enterprise Award but your visa is declined your Creative Enterprise Award will be withdrawn.
  • You do not need to have been awarded your degree before submitting an application. If your application is successful, visa endorsement will be conditional on you successfully completing your degree.
  • Foundation degrees, postgraduate certificates and diplomas are not acceptable qualifications for this scheme.

Start-up visa 2019 case studies (PDF 1.57MB)