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  2. Start-up Visa
Business services

Start-up Visa

Are you an international student looking to launch a business in the UK after you graduate?

The Start-up Visa is aimed at recent graduates and alumni who have successfully completed a UK degree programme and want to develop their ideas and entrepreneurial skills by creating an innovative, viable and scalable business in the UK.


City, University of London is authorised to endorse selected recent City graduates for a Start-up Visa allowing them to start a business and remain in the UK. This Visa:

  1. The Start-up Visa at City is aimed at early-stage ventures from high potential entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the UK for the first time.
  2. The visa offers a one-off, 2-year visa, during which applicants will be able to develop and register their businesses in the UK.
  3. In order to be granted this visa recent graduates and alumni need to apply for an endorsement from City, University of London.

The application process assesses the business idea and ensures that it meets the Home Office criteria, that it is a genuine and credible business that meets the entrepreneurial principles of innovation, viability and scalability. The process also assesses how rigorous, realistic and achievable each business plan is and evaluates why the business needs to be established in the UK and how the business will contribute to the UK economy.

Who Can Apply?

To be eligible to apply, you must:

  • Meet the eligibility criteria as set by the Home Office.
  • Be a City, University of London student / recent graduate in their final year of a UG or PG course at City, University of London – completing their course within the current academic year – 2019/20 – that is graduating at the July 2020 or January 2021 ceremony or;
  • Be a City, University of London alumni of UG or PG course at City, University of London who completed their course in one the following academic years – 2018/19 (i.e. graduation in July 2019 or January 2020) or 2017/18 (i.e. graduation in July 2018 or January 2019).

Please note:

  • Students graduating in the next academic year (2020/21 or after) will need to apply for the subsequent allocation of Start-up Visa endorsements – further information will be available around in May-June next year and applications open around July-August next year.
  • Any students, recent graduates or alumni issued a Start-up Visa endorsement will be required to apply for the visa and start the visa application before the 31st of January 2021.
  • Any students, recent graduates or alumni that fail to apply for the visa in the time period above-mentioned will no longer be eligible for a new endorsement from the University and cannot reapply.
  • The University will offer visa endorsements to a maximum of two people per company.

Who Can’t Apply?

  • Students from other Higher Education institutions other than City, University of London.
  • Students that have previously applied and not been successful.
  • Students that have graduated in or before the 2016/17 academic year.

Our recommendations prior to you applying

If you are interested in applying it is recommended that you give your idea a test run, participate in the events organised by the CityVentures team (Startup Fest & Seminars, CitySpark, etc.). These events are designed to help you perfect your idea throughout the academic year and strengthen your application when the Start-up Visa application process is open.

For further information, join the CityStarters mailing list to stay up to date and read The Starters’ Manifesto e-book for all things entrepreneurial!

Additionally we would strongly recommend that you get in contact with a member of our team to talk through your business idea to see if we can help you develop it by booking a Startup Surgery.

Application process

Written application stage – please read before applying

We want you to demonstrate, in writing, that you have made as much progress as possible with your business idea (under your current visa). As such, we want you to demonstrate – with tangible examples – idea validation, value proposition, market research and segmentation, business plan, marketing and financial strategy, etc. If you are unsure about any of these terms please refer to the e-book mentioned above.

Previously successful applicants have shown examples of traction by identifying a clear product / service / market fit in which their business venture met early adopters, gathered feedback and gauged interest by getting that first wave of users to validate their idea.

Other examples of traction include completing an early stage marketing campaigns, (newsletters, events, signups), generating web traffic (active and registered users), coordinating surveys and events, creating an MVP or prototypes, engaging with potential customers and partnering with other services and products.

Your application should make clear how your business is:

  • Innovative – a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage;
  • Viable – you have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business described above;
  • Scalable – structured planning, potential for job creation and growth.

All applications will be reviewed by the CityVentures team and successful applicants will be invited to the next stage which will include a pitch and interview.

Pitch and interview stage

Shortlisted applications will be invited to pitch and discuss their business idea in front of a panel (panel includes a selection of academic staff and / or external associates with a background in entrepreneurship). The panel will also confirm the pitch and interview format – in person or online – with further details to be available to shortlisted applicants.

Subsequently, the panel will deliberate and determine the businesses to be endorsed by the university for 2020/21.

Please note:

  • Applications submitted after the deadline will not be accepted.
  • Decisions on each stage are final and cannot be appealed.
  • All successful endorsements from City, University of London will additionally need the approval and endorsement from the Home Office to receive the Start-up Visa.
  • Please read the full terms and conditions of the programme prior to applying.

Application Timeline



5th June

Written application stage opens – the application form is available here.

17th June, 2pm, UK time

Online info session ­– registration page here.

8th July, 10am, UK time

Online info session ­– registration page here.

15th July, midday,
UK time

Deadline – Written application stage closes.

16-17th July

Internal review.

17th July

Notification of outcomes, strongest applications progressed to the next stage.

21-23rd July

Pitch and interview stage.

24th July

Notification of outcomes, successful applications will be endorsed by the University; final year students will need to be awarded their degrees before they can be endorsed.

If endorsed

  • Each Start-up Visa is granted for a maximum of two consecutive years and provided there is satisfactory progress on the business.
  • Each Start-up Visa is granted on the basis of your business idea and your business as specified on the application form.
  • You are required to apply for the visa and start the visa application before the 31st of January 2021.
  • If applying from outside of the UK you are required to arrive in the UK within one month of having been granted the visa and make contact with the CityVentures team to confirm your arrival and provide a copy of your passport and visa.
  • You will be assessed by the University at agreed upon contact points during the period of your endorsement and provide quarterly progress reports.
  • There is no restriction on the location of your business however you should be primarily based – establish, develop and operate – in the UK.
  • There are no restrictions on the number of hours that you may work (for another employer) however your main focus should be your business – this will be evaluated as part of the application and monitoring process i.e. progress on your business idea must be demonstrated with evidence.
  • You must update the CityVentures Team and Visa Compliance Team if you change your name, change contact details, obtain a new passport, leave the UK for an extended period of time (no longer than 6 weeks) or switch into a different visa route.

Failure to meet the above requirements will lead to your endorsement being withdrawn and your visa being cancelled.