UK Work Visas to Start a Business in the UK

Currently, there are over 31 different types of UK Work Visas that we can subdivide into 5 main categories:

  1. UK Work Visas without a Job Offer
  2. UK Work Visas with an Overseas Employer
  3. Temporary UK Work Visas
  4. UK Work Visas to Start a Business in the UK
  5. Other Categories of UK Work Visas

In this series of articles, you’ll get an overview of all these visa types that will help you understand the purpose of each visa route and decide if this route is for you.

This article covers ten UK Work Visas for those who would like to start a business in the UK.

There are two UK immigration routes that allow entrepreneurs to enter the UK for the purposes of establishing a business.

  1. The Start Up
  2. The Innovator Founder

4.1 The Start-Up

UK Work Visas to Start a Business in the UK
UK Work Visas to Start a Business in the UK

From 13 April 2023, this route will only be available to those holding a valid Start-up endorsement issued before 13 April 2023. From 13 July 2023, the Start-up route will be closed to all new applications.

To meet the eligibility requirements for this route, the applicants need to provide an endorsement from a UK higher education institution or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs. The endorsement body needs to be registered and licensed by the Home Office.

To get an endorsement, the applicants will need to prove that their business idea is:

  • a new idea. In other words, the applicants cannot join a business that is already trading
  • This means that the applicant has an original business idea different from anything else on the market.
  • Viable, with the potential for growth and providing new employment opportunities for UK residents.

The English language requirement is higher than for the applicants in most other UK immigration routes. It is at the level of B2 in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening). That is unless the applicant is from a majority English-speaking country  or they previously met the English language requirement for their previous UK visa application.

Additionally, the applicants need to meet the financial requirements. They can achieve this by showing they had at least £1,270 in their bank account for at least 28 days. You will meet the financial requirement automatically if you are making further leave to remain application and were already in the UK for over 12 months.

Also, you may meet this requirement if your endorsing body confirms in this endorsement letter that you were awarded these funds.

There are certain funds (or evidence of funds) that the Home Office will not accept.

They include the following:

  • overdrafts
  • bitcoin savings
  • stocks and shares
  • pensions
  • bank accounts that are not regulated by the financial regulatory body in the country you’re applying from
  • bank accounts that do not use electronic record keeping


4.2 The Innovator Founder

UK Work Visas to Start a Business in the UK
UK Work Visas to Start a Business in the UK

The Innovator Founder route replaced the old Innovator route. The Innovator Founder route removed the £50,000 minimum funds requirement. The route provides more flexible provisions for those with a genuine proposal for an innovative business and sufficient funds to deliver it. The changes also relax existing restrictions on Innovator migrants engaging in employment outside the running of their business. Now the Innovator Founder visa holders can have secondary employment, provided this is in skilled roles (i.e., at least skilled to RQF Level 3).  RQF Level 3 is A-level equivalent.

You can apply for an Innovator Founder visa if you would like to set up and run an innovative business in the UK. As with the Start-up immigration category, your business should be innovative. In other words, it must be different from anything else on the market. You cannot join a business that is already trading.

Also, an approved body has endorsed your business or business idea.

Additionally, your new business needs to be viable and scalable. To prove that your business is viable, you will need to submit documentary evidence confirming that you have the necessary skill set to materialise your ideas and, ideally, have already successfully done this in the past in your country of origin.

The financial and the English language requirements are exactly the same as for the Start-up immigration category.

If your application is successful, you can remain in the UK for the initial 3 years with a possibility of applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain at a later point.

UK Work Visas to Start a Business in the UK