Start-Up Visa

Are you a passionate entrepreneur with an innovative business idea that would be established in the UK?

This is a brief guide to Start-up visa as it applies to Loughborough University including students/graduates who have obtained a Loughborough University validated degree from study elsewhere.

Expression of Interest Deadlines:

The deadline for receipt of EOI's for the next intake is 15th January 2023.  If you'd like to be considered for the next intake please complete an EOI which you'll find at the bottom of this page and submit to

We'll be in touch to confirm outcomes in Spring 2023.  Stricly no applications will be reviewed until close of the next application round.

For advice relating to your individual circumstances, we recommend that you contact:

Student Advice and Support Service - for any immigration matter.

Start-Up Visa Business Support  – for any business-related matter.

The University will only consider endorsing those who have successfully completed degree level study at Loughborough University. 

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider endorsing a business partner of a Loughborough Graduate if an alternative endorsement is not possible and a compelling business case has been made for a joint endorsement under the Start-up category. Evidence may be required proving you are unable to obtain a Start-up Visa elsewhere.

This guide does not cover endorsements that may be made by other organisations:

What is the 'Start-up' Visa?

From 6 April 2019, the Start-Up Visa replaces and expands 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.

As part of the endorsement process, Loughborough University will need to be satisfied that you (as the applicant) have a genuine and credible business idea that is innovative, viable and scalable.

Loughborough Enterprise Network (LEN), the Start-Up Visa Business Support Team and the Start-Up Visa Advice Team will assess whether any proposed business meets the relevant criteria and check that these criteria continue to be met as the business develops, too.

We require that you thoroughly read the Home Office information (especially the policy guidance) in advance of submitting an expression of interest.

Who can apply?

To be eligible for a Start-Up Visa, you need to satisfy the following:

  • If you apply in the UK, you currently hold or were last granted immigration permission: 
    • As a Tier 4 migrant (including Doctorate Extension Scheme), or
    • Under Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), 
    • Under Tier 2 (General), or
    • As a visitor permitted entry to the UK for the purpose of prospective entrepreneur activities.
  • You must have held sufficient money prior to your application (see ‘How much money do I need?’ below).
  • If your studies were sponsored by a government or an international scholarship agency within the last 12 months, you must have the written consent of your former sponsor to stay in the UK on or for Start-Up Visa.
If the University endorses your application (see below for more detail), 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 re-use an endorsement letter in a fresh application within its three month validity. 
For example, if the endorsement letter is dated 1st June, it will be valid for three months until 1st September of the same year.

Loughborough University's Endorsement Process?

There are three stages to the endorsement process:

You must submit an Expression of Interest Form for the 'Start-Up Visa' (through the link below) to the 'Start-Up Visa' business support team 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 the Loughborough Enterprise Network (LEN) can support.

Loughborough Enterprise Network will not support businesses or ideas that are related to any of the following:

  • Alcohol;
  • Drugs (this includes any business or idea connected to tobacco or vaping);
  • Pornography;
  • Political or Religious agendas;
  • Gambling;
  • Illegal or Unregulated activity (such as cryptocurrencies).

LEN publicise the dates when Expressions of Interest can be submitted. If you are selected, you will be invited to a development session for your business plan.

You will 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. You may also be asked to provide additional supplemented materials to support your application.

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 on a schedule of meetings with the 'Start-Up Visa' business support team so that your work and progress can be monitored.

These meetings are compulsory and if they are not attended once every three months we are required to inform the Home Office. 

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 have the right documents. Student Advice will check your draft application and documents are correct before your application can be endorsed by the University.

If your business plans and draft immigration application are satisfactory, Student Advice will request an endorsement letter from Academic Registry. 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?

You will need to plan ahead to ensure that you have the required amount of funds in your account(s).

  • You must show you have held at least £945 in your account(s) throughout consecutive 90+ days prior to your visa application. 
  • The balance must never drop below the required amount. The end date of the 90-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.
  • You must provide evidence of your funds in the format required by the Start-Up Visa policy guidance.


When can I apply for Start-Up Visa?

You must have successfully completed your degree (Passed).

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 for your visa within 3 months of the endorsement letter date and any application to stay in the UK should be made before your current immigration permission expires.


What are the conditions attached to the Start-up visa?

If your application is successful, your visa will be granted for two years.

If you have previously held permission under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, the maximum total visa time granted is two years.

During this time, you will need to spend the majority of your working time developing your business.

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 doctor or dentist in training or 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 that you are not complying with your conditions of stay;
  • You are no longer participating in the scheme.

A report can lead to your visa being curtailed.


When can I start running my business?

While you hold Tier 4 or Tier 2 (General) permission, you are not allowed 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.

Engaging in business activity is explained in the Tier 4 policy guidance.

If you have Tier 4 permission and submit an in-time application to switch to the Start-Up Visa category, you can start self-employment before your application is decided. NOTE – check update Tier 4 policy covers this.

If you are switching from a visitor or Tier 2 (General) Visa, you cannot start self-employment until after your application has been granted.


Applying for the Start-Up Visa after the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa

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 Visa 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 application. The number of endorsements the University can make for a second year are not subject to an annual limit.

Existing Graduate Entrepreneurs who do not fully meet the new Start-Up Visa 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 extension application before you can be endorsed again.


Visas after Starting-Up

Individual advice on switching into any other work category at the end of your Start-Up Visa period falls 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?

Details of any dependent family who plan to remain with you in the UK, or who you intend to bring to the UK, must be included in your endorsement letter. 

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 their endorsement, extra application procedures, additional maintenance requirements and application fees.