SOAS University of London

SOAS Student Enterprise

Start Up Visa

Start-up visas

We are pleased to be taking part in the Start-up visa scheme. The Start-up visa scheme replaces the previous Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme; those already holding a visa under the Tier 1 route will not be affected by these changes.

The new 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 SOAS graduates.

SOAS can endorse a number of people each year on the scheme and we have been very successful in allocating places to our students under the previous Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme. You can apply for the Start-up visa whilst you are in the UK with a valid Tier 4 visa, or you can apply from overseas. Please visit Gov.UK for the latest requirements and guidance on applying.

Successful individuals will be sponsored by SOAS for 24 months, after which, if certain criteria are met, you could apply for an extension of a further 36 months under the “Innovator” category.

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. After transitioning to an “Innovator” visa, you will be expected to focus all your attention on your own business and will not be able to take up any other employment.

Application Requirements:

  • You will need to prove that you have held £945 for a consecutive 90-day period in your bank account, prior to submitting your Start-up visa application if you are applying in the UK or £1,890 if you are applying from outside the UK
  • You can begin to work on your new business as soon as you have applied for your Start-up visa, whilst you are waiting for a decision
  • As well as starting your business, some work might be permitted on the Start-up scheme except employment as doctor or dentist in training or professional sportsperson (including coach)
  • If you have dependents, they can apply for a dependent visa to reside in the UK with you while you are on a Start-up visa
  • The business should have the potential to add to the UK economy whilst being innovative, viable and scalable
  • You will be expected to demonstrate the entrepreneurial skills and commitment to develop the business

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.

Please visit Gov.UK for the application form and guidance on applying.


Application and judging panel dates are TBC; please check this page for updates.

How to apply for an endorsement from SOAS:

Before starting this process, please refer to the Gov.UK website to ensure you are fully aware of all the requirements.

In order to submit a full application you must do the following:

  • Make an appointment with the Student Advisor (Immigration and Finance) to confirm visa status/immigration requirements
  • Book an appointment with a Student Enterprise representative by emailing to discuss your business idea. You can also get feedback on your application form before you submit it.

To submit your final application, please attach the following documents as separate attachments in a single email to The application documents that you are required to submit are as follows:

  • CV
  • Covering Letter
  • Business Plan (Max 12-sides of A4)
  • Financial Forecast (Download template which is available at the top of the page)

What happens next?

  • Your application will be considered by a panel and you will be notified if you get through to the next stage of application
  • If you are shortlisted, you will be required to present your idea to the panel. Presentations will take place on the dates specified above – a specific time slot will be allocated to you. You will be asked to give a 10 minute presentation, followed by Q&A. For those applying outside the UK, the presentation will be conducted via Skype.
  • Successful applicants will then be provided with an endorsement letter from SOAS and should contact our immigration advice team in Student Advice and Wellbeing for an appointment to check their form and supporting documents.
  • For those that are not shortlisted, or are unsuccessful at presentation feedback will be given if requested and you will be able to re-apply, subject to there being visa endorsements available. 

Completed applications will not be considered if you have not discussed your idea with the Student Enterprise team and confirmed your eligibility to apply with the Student Advisor (Immigration and Finance).

For business support and advice please visit the SOAS Enterprise section on MySOASStudent and the SOAS Careers Service website.

For more information about the requirements of the visa please visit Gov.UK