Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

International Student Advice and Support

Visa Advice

Start-up Visa

This is a brief guide to Start-up visas for  students and graduates of Loughborough University.  For advice relating to your individual circumstances we recommend that you contact:

In general the University will only consider endorsing those who have successfully completed degree level study at Loughborough University (including who have obtained a Loughborough University validated degree from study elsewhere).  Exceptionally the University may only consider endorsing anyone else if alternative endorsement is not possible and a necessary business case has been made for a joint endorsement by a Loughborough graduate business partner applying under the Start-up category.

This guide does not cover endorsements that may be made by another organisation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/endorsing-bodies-start-up



What is ‘Start-up’?

From 6 April 2019 Start-up replaced and expanded the previous Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa scheme.  It is aimed at ‘early-stage but high potential entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK for the first time’.

People who have previously established a business in the UK* or spent 2 years in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) or Start-up categories are not eligible.  *There is an exception if your last visa permission was;

  • Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES), or
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), or
  • Start-up

and you started the business during that time. 

As part of the endorsement process the University will need to be satisfied that the applicant has a genuine and credible business idea that is innovative, viable and scalable. Loughborough Enterprise Network (LEN) will assess whether any proposed business meets the relevant criteria and check that these criteria continue to be met as the business develops.

UKVI provide an overview of the Start-up visa route and details are given in Appendix Start-up of the immigration rules.

Who can apply?

To be eligible for a Start-up visa you need to satisfy the following:

  • The University endorses your application. You must apply within three months of the date of issue of the endorsement letter.  If a visa application is unsuccessful it is possible to reuse an endorsement letter in a fresh application within its three month validity.
  • If you apply in the UK it is possible to switch into the Start-up route from most immigration categories provided you are not subject to immigration bail or do not hold any of the following types of immigration permission:
    • visitor
    • short-term student
    • parent of a child student
    • seasonal worker
    • domestic worker in a private household
    • permission outside the Immigration Rules

          If you are not eligible to switch in the UK you would have to return to where you normally reside outside the UK and make your visa application from there.

  • You must have held sufficient money prior to your application (if required)
  • If your studies were sponsored by a government or an international scholarship agency within the 12 months prior to your visa application you must have the written consent of your former sponsor.

How do I get the University to endorse my application?

There are three stages to the endorsement process:

1. You must submit any initial Expression of Interest in Start-up to Loughborough Enterprise Network (LEN) who will assess whether you have a genuine and credible business idea that meets the Start-up requirements.  The business proposal must also be one that LEN can support.  LEN publicise the dates when Expressions of Interest can be submitted, if you are selected you will be supported through the development of your business plan. You will eventually need to have a suitable business plan in place and demonstrate how you will be spending the majority of your working time developing your business venture.

The initial stages of developing your business idea and drawing up a business plan can take several months, therefore you are recommended to make use of the advice and guidance available from LEN as early as possible.  If your business proposal is judged as suitable you will need to agree a schedule of meetings with LEN so that your work and progress can be monitored.

2. The Student Advice and Support Service will check that you will meet the immigration requirements for your application to be successful.  You will need to plan ahead to make sure you will have the right documents, Student Advice will check your draft application and documents are correct before your application can be endorsed by the University

3. If your business plans and draft immigration application are satisfactory Student Advice will request an endorsement letter from the Academic Registry.  The Academic Registry will check your degree award and that there is no reason why the University should not endorse your application before issuing an endorsement letter

How much money do I need to apply?

If you are applying in the UK and have lived here with immigration permission for at least 12 months prior to your application you will automatically meet the financial requirement and no evidence should be required.

Otherwise if you have lived in the UK for less than 12 months or you are applying from overseas you will need to ensure that you have kept at least £1,270 throughout at least 28 days before you apply. The balance must never drop below the required amount.  The end date of the 28-day period will be taken as the date of the closing balance on the most recent financial evidence you provide, this must be no earlier than 31 days before the date of application.

UKVI provide guidance on meeting the financial requirement.

Knowledge of English Language

Certain nationalities will automatically meet this requirement. Otherwise, it is anticipated that most endorsees will have met the English language requirement in a previous visa application in order to obtain their Tier 4/Student visa. Successfully completing degree studies in the UK would also satisfy the English language requirement.

UKVI provide guidance on meeting the English language requirement.

When can I apply for Start-up visa permission?

You must have successfully completed your degree studies.  You must have satisfied the checks made on your business plans and ability to make a successful immigration application before an endorsement can be issued.  You must apply within 3 months of the endorsement.  Any application to stay in the UK should be made before your current immigration permission expires.

What conditions are attached to a Start-up visa?

If your application is successful, your visa will be granted for two years.  However, if you have previously held permission under Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up the maximum total visa time under both categories is two years and the time granted under Start-up will be reduced accordingly. During this time you will need to spend the majority of your working time developing your business in the UK.  You will agree a schedule of regular meetings with LEN to review progress, failure to make reasonable progress with your business development or maintain contact as required can lead to the University withdrawing its endorsement.

In addition to developing your business you are allowed to be employed in other work but you cannot be employed as a professional sportsperson (including as a sports coach).

You will not be allowed access to ‘public funds’ (which means most welfare benefits and certain public housing).  Students who are required to register with the police will have to continue to keep their registration up to date.

The University is obliged to report the following to the Home Office:

  • You fail to maintain contact as agreed
  • There is evidence to suggest you are not complying with your conditions of stay
  • You are no longer participating in the scheme

A report or the withdrawal of your endorsement can lead to your visa being curtailed.

Special arrangements due to Covid-19

Where restrictions to visa services or travel have made it not possible to use an endorsement within its normal validity period UKVI has confirmed it may still accept the endorsement, such applications may still be considered on a case by case basis.  Otherwise it may be possible to issue a fresh endorsement.

If you have permission in the Start-up route but have been unable to develop your business as planned due to the impact of Covid-19, provisions have been made to exceptionally allow a visa extension beyond the normal maximum period of 2 years for a further 12 months. This is only available on one occasion.  A new endorsement would be required relying on LEN being satisfied that reasonable progress had been made taking into account the impact of the pandemic.   You would then need to submit and pay for a further visa extension.  If this is relevant you should consult with LEN and seek advice in good time, you should also prepare your financial evidence at least 3 months before visa expiry.

When can I start running my business?

You will usually start any business after the visa permission is granted.

If you hold Tier 4 / Student permission it generally does not allow you to be self-employed or engage in business activity.  The immigration rules define self-employment as registering as self-employed with HMRC (as required for tax purposes) or being employed by a company in which you are a majority shareholder.

If you currently hold Tier 4 / Student permission and apply to switch to Start-up with an endorsement   issued by the University you are allowed to start running your business before the application is decided, a successful application would allow this to continue.

Doctorate Extension Scheme permission allows self-employment. 

Applying for Start-up after Graduate Entrepreneur

If you have been granted one year’s stay as a Graduate Entrepreneur it is possible to extend your visa for a second year under the Start-up category.  The maximum total time available under both categories is 2 years. You will need to have a second endorsement from the University and make another visa or visa extension application.  Existing Graduate Entrepreneurs who do not fully meet the new Start-up criteria may still be endorsed if satisfactory progress has been made with business development.

Student Advice will be able to advise and assist with checking your draft visa extension application before you can be endorsed again.

Visas after Start-up

Individual advice on switching into any other work category at the end of Start-up is outside of the University’s expertise.  For specific help with applications for any other work-related visa you may need to seek advice from a specialist immigration adviser.

Can my dependants stay with me or come to the UK?

If you are in the UK and your spouse or partner and children are with you as your dependants, they can apply to stay with you.

If your spouse or partner and children are overseas, they can submit an application for permission to join you as your dependants.

Candidates with dependants should seek individual advice about application procedures, additional maintenance requirements and application fees.

The Student Advice and Support Service is authorised to provide immigration advice and services by an order made under section 84(4)(d) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (Part V Exemption: Educational Institutions and Health Sector Bodies) Order 2001 (Statutory Instrument 2001 No. 1403)). Should you have a complaint about the service you can use the Student Advice and Support Service's complaints procedure or you can use the OISC Complaints Scheme.