Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Start-up visa


You will need the following to be eligible:

Before you apply you need to have your business or business idea assessed by an approved body.

You must also:
  • be at least 18 years old
  • meet the English language requirement
  • Meet the financial Requirements £945 in your bank/savings account for 90 consecutive days

Criteria for Endorsement

The Home Office criteria for getting an endorsement for your business is:

  1. Innovation – Is there a genuine business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage?
  2. Viability – Does the applicant have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business?
  3. Scalability – Is there evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets?

Stage 1: Endorsement

Royal College of Art (RCA) Endorsement


The Royal College of Art is an authorised UK HEI able to endorse a limited number of Start-up visas, which allows entrepreneurial graduates with world class innovative ideas to remain in the UK to develop their businesses following graduation. The Start-up category is for early-stage but high potential entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK for the first time.

Outstanding graduates who win a place in the InnovationRCA Incubator may be endorsed to stay in the UK to develop their businesses with this one-off, two-year visa.

To qualify for the Start-up Visa, candidates will need to apply to the InnovationRCA Start-up Programme.

How to apply for an RCA endorsement

The Royal College of Art, through the InnovationRCA incubator programme, is able to endorse up to 15 RCA students per year (subject to confirmation) for a Start-up Visa. To apply for the endorsement, you must participate in the annual selection process. There are some additional gateways for those applying via the Start-up visa route. 

Applications for the start-up programme will open on the 9 June 2020, and close on the 7 July 2020

If your application is successful you will receive the RCA's endorsement letter in time to submit your visa application before your Student Visa expires

Other Higher Education Endorsing Bodies

Recent graduates can also apply for endorsement from different  Higher Education Endorsing Bodies

Please Note. Just like the RCA other HEI's might only endorse their graduates please check before applying

Read the Higher education endorsing bodies list - you should only approach ones that are suitable for your business idea.

Business endorsing bodies

You can also apply for endorsement from business endorsing bodies. Before you contact an endorsing body, you should consider the content of the information and visit their website. You should only contact an endorsing body if you are applying for an endorsement from them.

Read the business endorsing bodies list. You should only approach ones that are suitable for your business idea.

Please note: An endorsement does not guarantee that you will be issued a start-up visa. This decision is made by the Home Office when you submit your visa application.

Stage 2: Start-Up Visa Application

When to apply

  • Applications must be submitted within three months of receiving the endorsement and prior to your Student Visa expiring.
  • If the application is submitted before your Student Visa expires, it is possible to remain in the UK under the conditions of the expired Student Visa until the new application is decided.
  • If your Student Visa expires before you have received an endorsement, you must return home and make your application from there.

How to apply

The full rules and eligibility for this scheme are contained in Appendix W of the immigration rules. The Home Office website has a guide to applying for the Startup scheme and they have published guidance for Home Office staff assessing applications.  

If you apply from within the UK must apply online.

Providing biometric information and supporting documents. 

When you apply, you’ll be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information (your fingerprints and a photo).

You’ll also need to submit your supporting documents. You can:

  • upload them into the online service
  • have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment

You must not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man until you get a decision. Your application will be withdrawn if you do.

If you are applying from outside the UK, you must complete this online application form 

You’ll need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre (to get a biometric residence permit) as part of your application. You’ll have to collect your biometric residence permit within 10 days of when you said you’d arrive in the UK (even if you actually arrive at a later date).


Required documentation

  • passport/ID card
  • a passport photograph
  • a printed copy of your endorsement letter
  • financial evidence

Financial Evidence: if you are applying from within the UK, you will need to demonstrate that you have held a minimum of £945 in a bank account in your name for a consecutive period of 90 days prior to applying.

If you are applying from outside the UK, you will need to show that you have held a minimum of £1,890 in a bank account in your name for 90 consecutive days prior to applying.

Evidence of Qualifications: If you are being endorsed by a different HEI to the one that you graduated from, you will need to submit the original certificate of qualification and evidence of English Language ability.


You can have your dependent(s) with you in the UK on a Start-up visa.

Read the guidance on dependant applications on the home office website.

Information on financial requirements and how to apply can be found on the Home Office website.

Length of leave

12 months, with the possibility of extending for a further 12 months if there is a further endorsement.


Applications made in the UK – £493

Applications made outside the UK – £363

Dependent fees

Application made in the UK – £493 (each dependent)

Application made outside the UK – £363 (each dependent)

For further information please contact Student Support.


For InnovationRCA enquires 

[email protected]

Student Support Office

+44 (0)20 7590 4140

[email protected]


Start-up Programme


Home Office