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Start-up category

The Start-up category was introduced on 29 March 2019 and replaces the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category. 

This is a category of immigration permission which allows you to work on your business in the UK. If you have a business idea which is innovative, viable and has potential to scale, you can apply to have your business idea assessed by an endorsing body. Endorsing bodies include leading business organisations and Higher Education Institutions. Queen Mary University of London is an endorsing body. If your business idea is accepted, and the endorsing body agrees to endorse you, they will issue you with an endorsement letter which will be needed as part of your application for immigration permission under the Start-up category. 

You must meet all of the below requirements to be eligible for the Start-up category

  • You must have an endorsement letter from an endorsing body
  • You must have held at least £945 in your bank account for at least 90 consecutive days before you apply
  • You must meet the English language requirement. You will meet this requirement if you have completed a degree level course or above at QMUL. You will also meet this requirement if you have already proved your level of English to be B2 or above as part of an earlier successful application, e.g. for a Tier 4 application.

Check the UK government website to see which documents you will need to provide with your application. 

You will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of your application. This will cost £400 per year of permission granted. 

You can apply for the Start-up category in the UK if you have current, valid immigration permission in one of the following categories:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • any Tier 2 visa
  • Tier 4 (General) student visa
  • Standard Visitor visa - if you came to the UK to get funding and had a supporting letter from an endorsing body

You must apply before your current immigration permission expires. 

You can spend up to two years in the UK under the Start-up category. You cannot extend this visa. Time spent with Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) immigration permission will count towards the two years.

After two years, you can check if you are eligible to apply for the Innovator route if you want to continue working on your business. 

Yes, Queen Mary University of London is an endorsing body. To apply for a Start-up Visa through Queen Mary, you must be a Queen Mary graduate.

See Queen Mary's Careers and Enterprise website for details about how to apply to be endorsed by Queen Mary. You will find the following information:

  • When to apply for endorsement
  • Application process and selection
  • Scoring criteria
  • How to apply for an endorsement
  • Monitoring and reporting under the Scheme
  • Funding your business. 


Tier 4 students who had their last Tier 4 visa granted before 1 October 2019 can only engage in business activities once their Start-up visas have been granted.

Tier 4 students who had their last Tier 4 visa granted on or after 1 October 2019 may engage in business activities once they have applied to the Home Office for their Start-up visa. 

If you apply to switch to the Start-up route within the UK, it will take approximately 8 weeks to receive your visa after you have attended your appointment. You must apply before your current Tier 4 visa expires and then your Tier 4 permission continues until you have received a decision on your application. 

Yes. Check the guidance on the UK government website

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