For students

Start-up visa

We may be able to help if you have a business idea you would like to progress after graduation but need a visa to stay in the UK.

Start-up visa - coming to an end in April 2023

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have advised us that the Start-up scheme will be coming to an end on 13 April 2023. If you wish to make an application under this route, you will need to obtain a valid endorsement from Edinburgh Innovations prior to 13 April 2023. Please note the number of endorsements Edinburgh Innovations have available is limited


The Start-up visa is for early-stage, but high potential, entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK for the first time.

It offers a one-off, two-year visa, during which you will spend the majority of your time developing your business but can also take on other work outside of your business, to support yourself.

Successful applicants can bring their family members (spouses/partners/unmarried partners who have cohabited for at least 2 years/children under 18) to the UK. At the end of two years, you can switch to an Innovator visa to extend your stay and develop your business in the UK.


To apply, you must be endorsed by an authorised body.  The University of Edinburgh is an authorised body and the team at Edinburgh Innovations, who provide the student enterprise service, may be able to endorse your application for a Start-up visa.  

To be endorsed you must be able to demonstrate and evidence that you have a genuine and credible business that will meet the following criteria:

  • Innovation: There must be a genuine business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
  • Viability: Your business plan is realistic and achievable based on your available resources and you have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business;
  • Scalability: There must be evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets.


You may have already begun setting up your business, but should not yet have commenced trading. The only exceptions to this are if you have already been granted leave under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, or under the Tier 4 doctorate extension scheme. Please note that whilst you are on a Tier 4 student visa you should not work on a self-employed basis or engage in business activity. Examples of this include setting up a business or establishing a trading presence, working for a company where you hold a statutory role such as director, or being employed in a company where you hold shares of 10% or more. 

You must be fully engaged with the Student Enterprise Service at Edinburgh Innovations for a minimum of 3 months prior to application or be able to provide evidence that you have been developing your idea independently for at least 3 months.

You do not need any funds to invest in your business at this stage.  However, you may need to show you have funds to support yourself:

  • If you are applying for permission to stay (i.e. you are making your application from the UK) and have been living continuously in the UK with permission for 12 months or more on the date of application, you will meet the financial requirement and do not need to show funds.
  • If you are applying for entry clearance or have been in the UK for less than 12 months at the date of application, you must have funds of at least £1270. The funds must have been in place for a minimum of 28 consecutive days prior to the date of application

If you are considering a Graduate Route Visa, please note that the present rules would not allow someone who sets up a business and starts trading on the Graduate route to switch into the Start-up route.


Final deadline for submitting your application: 9am Monday 27th March 2023. 

Start-up visa application 


The University of Edinburgh's Student Immigration Service webpage is a great online resource.

Official Start-up visa Guidance and Information- British Government