SOAS University of London

Start-up VISA Scheme


The following infomation was correct for last year, we have left it up to show how the process works at SOAS. We will update the timeline in late September for 20/21. 

SOAS is an authorised endorsing body that allows students and alumni to apply for an endorsement letter, which is required in an application for a Start-up visa. A Start-up visa entitles awardees to stay in the UK for 2 years with the goal of setting up a business in the UK. There are no limitations on what type of business applicants can set up however they must demonstrate sufficient planning and addition to other requirements please see Government start-up visa page.

The Scheme is designed to enable non-European nationals that we identify as having developed innovative, viable and scalable business ideas, to extend their stay in the UK to establish one or more businesses. At this stage, we will only be offering endorsements to our current students or recent SOAS graduates.

Successful individuals will be sponsored by SOAS for 24 months. You can work outside the business in order to support yourself financially, however you will be expected to spend most of your time setting up and running the business.


  • Students who are currently in their final year of a UG or PG course at SOAS or recent graduates who have graduated from SOAS within the last 3 years or Post-Doctoral researchers currently employed by SOAS, on a Tier 2 visa and hold a UK degree.
  • Is a genuine and credible business idea (i.e. you have tested and validated the key assumptions and critical success factors for your business idea)
  • Meet the eligibility criteria as set by the Home Office


Schedule Date How to Apply Info
Meet with SOAS staff to discuss your application. Every Thursday between 10-12pm - you must book an appointment in advance. You can use this as an opportunity to meet with SOAS staff and learn about the scheme. Alternatively if you have decided to apply, chat through your business idea and approach for your application. Registration form will appear here. 
Make an appointment with the Student Advisor (Immigration and Finance) to confirm visa status/immigration requirements Anytime before starting your application. Contact the SOAS visa compliance manager to book an appointment. Completed applications will not be considered if you have not discussed your idea with the Knowledge Exchange team and confirmed your eligibility to apply with the Student Advisor (Immigration and Finance).
Applications open 23/09/2019 Your application is made via SOAS Enterprise Office, and requires you to submit the following documents for a new application:
  • A business plan (maximum 12 pages)
  • A financial forecast (template available)
  • A CV
  • A covering letter
After completing your proposal sent it to, subject: Name, Business Name – Start-up VISA Application.
Attend business plan workshop *optional 31/10/2019 16:00-17:00 This session will help you in writing your business plan and creating your financial forecast. email to let us know you are interested in attending this workshop.
Application closing date 17/01/2020 Applications must be submitted by 12pm on January 17th.
Shortlist of candidates released 24/01/2020 Successful and unsuccessful applications will be notified by email on this day.
Pitch training session *optional 18/02/2020 This free session which will help you prepare for your pitch. Registration form coming soon
Pitches 25/ 26/02/2020 Pitches will be held on one of these two days on campus, to a small panel of SOAS staff.
Sponsorships announced 04/03/2020 If successful you will be awarded with a sponsorship letter that you should take to the HMRC to use as part of your application for the Start-up VISA.

Useful Documents

How to write a financial plan

How to write a business plan

What to do next

Successful Applicants - If you have been awarded your endorsement letter via SOAS you must now apply for the start-up VISA. This can be done through the HMRC website.

After endorsement, participants are required to engage with student enterprise activities and attend one to one meetings after 6 and 12 months to make sure appropriate progress is being made, and that each participant gets the best support.

SOAS is required to inform UK Visas & Immigration if participants are no longer participating in the scheme.

Time spent on a Start-up visa will not count towards settlement in the UK. Time spent on an Innovator visa can lead to settlement in the UK if certain criteria are satisfied and appropriate sponsorship for the settlement visa can be obtained.