Innovation & Enterprise


Get a Start-up or Innovator visa

Set up and grow your business venture with endorsement for a Start-up or Innovator visa and extensive expert support.

Every year we work with the Home Office to endorse UCL graduates for Start-up and Innovator visas.

We also support UCL alumni who have a Graduate visa and want to start their own business.

Decide which visa is right for you

Start-up visa

The Start-up visa category is for early-stage, high-potential entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK for the first time.

It offers a one-off, two-year visa, during which applicants will spend the majority of their time developing their businesses. Successful applicants can bring their family members (spouses/partners and children under 18) to the UK. To apply, you don't need to have secured any investment funds in your business.

Innovator visa

The Innovator visa category is for people who have business experience and are seeking to establish a business in the UK.

Successful Innovator Visa applicants are granted leave for three years at a time and can bring their family members to the UK. After 3 years, you can apply to extend your stay for a further 3 years or to settle permanently in the UK. Each of these 3 stages (initial application, extension, settlement) requires endorsement from an endorsing body such as UCL.

Innovators must work entirely on developing their business ventures and cannot take on other employment outside their business. This includes anything which effectively amounts to employment, such as using their own business to hire out their labour to another employer.

Graduate visa

The Graduate visa allows graduates to stay in the UK for 2 years after they complete their degree (3 years if you have a doctoral qualification). While on a Graduate visa you may start a business or become self-employed. 

You must be in the UK when you apply. Your family can apply to stay too, if they were ‘dependents’ on your current Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa.

You don’t need endorsement from UCL to apply for this visa. If you have this visa we can support you in starting a business.

Make sure you’re eligible

You can apply for a Start-up or Innovator visa while in the UK, or from outside the UK. Your future business must be based in London.

To be eligible for endorsement you must:

  • be a UCL graduate
  • have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea 
  • have over 51% of shares in the future company or, if applying as a part of a team of two, have 50% of shares each in the future company
  • attend an information session and meet with an entrepreneurship advisor before submitting your application

For the Start-up visa, you:

  • can apply up to 24 months after your graduation date, or 36 months if you're a PhD graduate (we'll need a copy of your letter of completion)
  • will need to spend the majority of your time developing your business
  • must not have previously established a business in the UK 

For the Innovator visa, you:

  • can apply with the same business for which we endorsed you for a Start-up visa, or with a new business (but you will have to meet additional Home Office requirements)
  • must have at least £50,000 in investment funds, if you want to set up a new business
  • must work just on your business (e.g. not take on other employment)

You’ll need to be ready to launch your business as soon as your visa is approved. Our range of programmes and workshops can help you test and develop your business idea.

Immigration requirements

To be eligible for this scheme, you'll also need to meet the visa requirements.

You can only switch into the Start-up category if you have, or were last granted, leave as a:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) migrant (who has not yet been granted two years’ leave in the category)
  • Tier 2 migrant
  • Tier 4 (General) student
  • visitor who's been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur (please refer to the Home Office guidelines) 

Please see the UCL immigration and visas webpage for information on the application requirements. 

When to apply for endorsement

For a Start-up visa, there are two deadlines a year to apply for endorsement from UCL.

The next deadline is 1 March 2023.

For an Innovator visa there are no deadlines, you can apply at any time.

You should start thinking about your application as soon as possible and meet with an entrepreneurship advisor well before the application deadline so you have time to act on their advice. 

How to apply for endorsement

If you’re interested in applying for endorsement your next steps are to:

  1. attend one of our information sessions (see dates below)
  2. have at least two meetings with a UCL Entrepreneurship Advisor (to request a meeting, fill in the form on our online portal
  3. read and fill in our Start-up or Innovator visa application form, including the business feasibility plan (you'll be sent the form after you've met with an Advisor)
  4. gather the requested documents
  5. record a 4-minute elevator pitch video, covering:
    1. your idea and the progress you've made
    2. why UCL should endorse you
    3. how you'll contribute to UCL's Hatchery
  6. email your form, documents and video to entrepreneurship@ucl.ac.uk and include either 'Start-up visa endorsement application' or ‘Innovator Visa endorsement application’ in the subject line.

You'll find out if you're successful within 10 working days of your application. The panel’s decision is final.

If you're successful, you'll be issued a copy of the UCL endorsement letter (valid for three months only), which will be part of your application for the visa to the Home Office.

Details of how to apply to the Home Office for a Start-up or Innovation visa are on the GOV.UK website.

UCL Innovation & Enterprise takes no responsibility for your visa application to the Home Office.

After you get your visa 

Once you have your visa, we’ll continue to support you and your business.

If you have a Start-up visa, you’ll have a place in UCL’s Hatchery incubator programme, which includes access to desks and meeting rooms, as well as expert advice. If you have an Innovator visa, you'll still continue to receive support, but certain other conditions will apply.

While you have a Start-up or Innovator visa, you’ll need to adhere to our terms and conditions. If you do not, we may terminate the endorsement of your visa.

View terms and conditions for the:

Information sessions

Dates will be published here when confirmed.

You must book a place if you wish to attend.

Meet our entrepreneurs

Kaitlin Fritz, co-founder of Musemio
Kaitlin Fritz, Musemio cofounder

  • Graduated from UCL with an MA in Art History
  • Attended (and won) the Launch programme in summer 2018
  • Successfully applied for a Start-up visa
  • Established Musemio with her co-founder
  • Is a resident of the UCL Hatchery incubator 
  • Attends networking events to support other entrepreneurs 

Read Kaitlin’s story >

Case study

Sisi Lin, founder of Sishu, with her students
Sishu: UCL graduate uses psychoanalysis to transform Chinese language learning

After becoming the most popular teacher in a Chinese school Sisi Lin transformed her unique teaching methodology into a one-of-a-kind business.