Start-up Visa

Are you an International student with an innovative idea you wish to start in the UK? If so, the Start-Up Visa scheme could be the route for you. The university offers free endorsement and two years support to successful University of Birmingham graduates. 

The Start-Up Visa applies to early stage and high potential graduates wishing to start a business. Current international University of Birmingham students in their final year of study and graduates of up to five years who have an innovative, scalable and viable idea are eligible for this scheme. The University operates the Start-up Visa scheme in conjunction with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and is run in collaboration between Careers Network and International Student Team (IST). 

At its discretion, the university will endorse applicants that successfully pass the University of Birmingham’s Start-up Visa application process. If granted, the visa holder may stay for two years, during which applicants will spend the majority of their time developing their businesses but can also take on other work outside of their businesses, to support themselves. 

Start-up visa

Key dates:

The deadline dates for applications occur twice a year (normally in June and December).

Application deadlines and interview dates:  

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 Who can apply

Before you apply please read the Home Office Start-up Visa information.

Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible to apply:

The candidate should be:

  • A current University of Birmingham student in their final year of study; or
  • A current University of Birmingham International student who is studying under the student route (replacing Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension Scheme) Visa holders; or
  • Former students that have graduated from the University of Birmingham within five years.
  • The person should be an early-stage entrepreneur and must not have previously established a business in the UK.
  • Applying in their own right and not on behalf of another applicant.

In order to be granted a Start-up Visa the applicant must be proposing a new business idea that meets the following requirements:

  • Innovation: The applicant must have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
  • Viability: The applicant must have, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
  • Scalability: There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.

Please refer to our policy and guidance document for more information and guidance:

Start-up Visa Policy document (Word - 800KB)

Please note, if you are unsuccessful in your first application, you can apply to the next round as long as it falls within 5 years of graduation. Students are permitted to a maximum of two applications.

 How can I apply?

Stage 1 - Visa requirements

The applicant is required to have their visa checked by the International Student Team (IST) who will confirm to Careers Network that the application meets essential immigration criteria for making a Start-up application.

Should the applicant not be able to provide documentation meeting the Home Office criteria, the application will not be considered for further processing.

Please note that University staff members are unable to provide guidance on the visa application process, we recommend that advice is sought from an independent immigration adviser.

Stage 2 - Application selection process

After the IST have confirmed that the applicant holds a relevant visa, there are two stages to the formal selection process.

An application form must be submitted electronically for short-listing by the relevant application deadline (see dates above). Please note if you require a visa endorsement and you're applying as part of a team then each individual must submit an application form.  We cannot accept a joint application form on behalf of the business. We endorse applicants as individuals.

The application will be considered confidentially by a panel of experts appointed by Careers Network. In order to qualify for an interview a 50% pass mark is required for each section.

Short-listed applicants will be formally invited to attend a panel interview.

Selection criteria

The following selection criteria will be applied to each application:

Innovation – the applicant must have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

  • They will be expected to give examples of their business' unique offering as opposed to merely competing with similar traders.
  • They should be able to provide example that their product is not already in the market; if so they need to justify the purpose of their product or service.
  • Ideally they need to show that their idea is contributing something new to the UK /global business market.

Viability – you must be actively developing the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

  • The candidate must provide evidence of their primary market research.
  • They should be able to demonstrate that they have realistic, sustainable product goals.
  • Their business plan should also include their long term goals for the business.

Scalability – the candidate must provide evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.

  • They should be able to explain how they intend the business to gain sufficient traction.
  • They should be able to demonstrate the potential for their business' growth.

Applicant potential:

  • The applicant could develop the idea into a business.
  • The applicant demonstrated evidence of personal qualities to succeed.

Stage 3 - Panel interviews, marking and progression

The Interview Panel will consist of a minimum of three assessors, including at least one member of the Careers Network team. Panel interviews will normally last between 30 and 40 minutes including time for the applicant to outline their business and questions from the Panel.  

Outcomes will normally be communicated to the applicant within two weeks after the last interview for that application round has taken place.

Following an interview, all candidates will be provided with written feedback on their own application.  

The decision of the panel is final and there is no appeal process.

Please refer to our policy and guidance document for more information and guidance - Start-up Policy guidance document (Word - 800KB).

Please note, the application deadline dates are currently subject to change due to the global pandemic. If you have any further queries please email benterprising@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

You can find a full list of the application questions here: Start-up Visa application questions (Word - 772KB)

 Endorsement conditions

  • You will spend a majority of your working time working on the business and to the best of your ability. 
  • You will submit a monthly report, using the online form, of your general activities. 
  • You will attend face-to-face meetings with the Careers Network team (or its nominated advisers) at pre-determined dates.
  • There will be a review at the end of the 1st year to determine sufficient progress has been made to continue into the second year.
  • The University operates a maximum of two warnings before the endorsement is withdrawn – warnings will occur if monthly reports or meetings are not adhered to or if sufficient progress or effort has not been achieved. 

Please refer to our policy and guidance document for more information and guidance - Start-up Policy guidance document (Word - 800KB)

Successful applicants will be granted permission to live in the UK in this category for two years; this is the maximum period of leave in this category. They will then be expected to move into the Innovator category.

 Visa requirements

There is no specific requirement for funds to be invested into the business but it would be unusual for a business that will be viable and scalable not to need any investment. The applicant would need to prove to the Home Office that they have held at least £945 for a consecutive period of at least 90 days. Where dependants are applying, the applicant must also demonstrate that the maintenance requirement for them is met.

Switching visas

Generally, an application to enter this category will need to be made from outside the UK. However, if an applicant already has valid leave to remain in any of the following categories, they can apply from inside the UK:

      • Tier 2
      • International students who are studying under the student route (replaces Tier 4 (General) (providing the applicant meets specific criteria)

General Grounds for Refusal

The application must not fall for refusal under the General Grounds of Refusal set out in the Immigration Rules. This means that if the applicant has, for example, convictions, previously breached UK immigration laws, etc. the application can be refused.

Please refer to the Home Office website for further clarification

Further queries

If you have any additional questions about the Start-up Visa, please email the team at benterprising@contacts.bham.ac.uk

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