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Get a Start-up visa

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

Every year we work with the Home Office to sponsor recent UCL graduates for a 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.

Make sure you’re eligible

You can apply while in the UK, or from outside the UK. Your future business must be based in London and you’ll need to spend the majority of your time developing your business.

To be eligible for sponsorship you must:

  • be a recent graduate of UCL, you can apply up to 12 months after your graduation date (we'll need a copy of your letter of completion)
  • 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 a business advisor before submitting your application

You can't apply if you've previously established a business in the UK.

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. 

How to apply for sponsorship

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

  1. attend one of our information sessions (see dates below)
  2. have at least two meetings with a UCL Business Acceleration Advisor (to request a meeting, fill in the form on our online portal) All meetings are currently being held online.
  3. read and fill in our Start-up 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 'Start-up visa 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 Start-up visa to the Home Office.

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

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

Dates

Information sessions

Information session are currently being held online using Microsoft Teams. The next sessions will be held on:

You must book a place if you wish to attend.

Deadlines

There are four deadlines a year to apply for sponsorship from UCL.

The next deadline is 3 March 2021.

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

After you get your visa 

Once you have your Start-up visa, we’ll continue to support you and your business. You’ll have a place in UCL’s Hatchery incubator programme, which includes access to desks and meeting rooms, as well as expert advice. 

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

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.