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Start-up visa

The Royal College of Art has secured 15 places on the Home Office's  Start-up visa, which allows entrepreneurial graduates with world-class innovative ideas to remain in the UK to develop their businesses following graduation.

Applying for the Start Up visa is a two stage process requiring the individual to receive an endorsement before being eligible to apply for the visa.


You will need the following to be eligible:

  • A UK-recognised Bachelor's degree, Master's degree or PhD awarded before your date of endorsement
  • Endorsement from a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs 
  • a new idea – you cannot join or invest in a business that is already trading
  • innovative – you must have an original business idea which is different from anything else on the market viable, with potential for growth
  • Evidence of finances showing you’ve had at least £945 in savings in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply
  • Permission to remain in the UK from your financial sponsor if they are a government or international scholarship agency and have paid your fees and living costs in the past 12 months

Stage 1: Endorsement

HEI – Royal College of Art (RCA) Endorsement

In order to apply for endorsement from the RCA you will need to win a place on the Innovation RCA Incubator Start-up programme. 

Application process:

  • Applications for the start-up programme will open on the 5th 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 Tier 4 visa expires

Recent graduates can also apply for endorsement from different HEI and businesses. 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 Tier 4 student visa expiring.
  • If the application is submitted before your Tier 4 visa expires, it is possible to remain in the UK under the conditions of the expired Tier 4 visa until the new application is decided.
  • If your Tier 4 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.


Student Support Office

+44 (0)20 7590 4140

[email protected]


Home Office