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International Start-up visa

International students on a Photography course

How to apply

Applications for 2019 are now closed. The next round will open in February 2020.

What is the Start-up visa?

Then Start-up visa is for international students who have completed their degree course and wish to remain in the UK to develop a business.

UAL endorses and sponsors up to 20 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 Bachelor, Masters or PhD degree from UAL can apply for a Start-up visa through us. 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. 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 will be required to hold funds of £945 for a consecutive 90 day period before you apply (whether applying from inside or outside the UK).

For full details of the requirements, read the Start-up Visa Policy Guidance document provided by the Home Office.

How long can you stay?

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


  • You may only start your business once you have made the visa application. This is because a Tier 4 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.
  • Adhere to the conditions set by the University and UK Visas and Immigration (if you do not keep contact or breach the conditions of your leave, the University must report this to UKVI).

Selection criteria and panel

Endorsement by the University is subject to an application form, and then if successful, presentation before a selection panel. The panel assesses applications against the criteria listed below. Please also see our Guidance on applying to help you decide what to include in your application.

  1. To provide information on the product/ service
  2. To show there is a clear market for your proposed product or service
  3. To provide evidence on your competitive position
  4. To outline a credible business model
  5. To outline the finances for the business
  6. Set out a strong reason for business to be based in UK
  7. Explain the skills and experience of you/your team
  8. Evidence of potential for job creation and growth into national markets
  9. Demonstrate and present this in a clear way through your application

How to apply

Applications for 2019 are now closed. The next round will open in February

You can view the 2019 application form and guidelines here:

  • If your application meets the eligibility requirements, you will be invited to present your idea to the panel. If you are overseas, the interview will be conducted via video conference.
  • The decision of the panel is final. There is no appeal process.

Next steps

  • If the panel approves endorsement, you will be required to demonstrate you meet the financial requirements for the visa application. You will be required to hold funds of £945 for a consecutive 90 day period before you apply (whether applying from inside or outside the UK).
  • 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.
  • 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 bring in your visa for copying onto your record.

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.

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