UK Startup Visa | Innovator Visa

How To Get A Tier 1 Entrepreneur Startup Visa Or Innovator Visa In The UK

Kurt Graver Business Start-up Advice

If you want to start a business in the UK, you’ll need to apply for a startup visa or Innovator visa. The process can be a bit daunting, but we’ve got all the information you need to get started.

Tier 1 is aimed at ”high-value migrants such as entrepreneurs who have funds available to set up or invest in a business in the UK, graduates with an endorsed business plan and those deemed to have exceptional talent within their field of expertise. 

The visas that make up the Tier 1 immigration route offer relatively favourable terms and eligibility requirements for visa holders.

The application process for the Start-up visa is in two parts. First, you will need to apply to be endorsed by a government-approved endorsing body. 

The application process and specific criteria can vary between endorsing bodies. But in general, you will need to submit a thorough business plan and presentation pitch that your business idea is viable, innovative and scalable and that you have not previously established a business in the UK.

If you secure an endorsement, you have three months to make your visa application to the Home Office.

What are the different visas under the Tier 1 visa scheme?

Startup Visa

The new Startup visa is for individuals wanting to set up their first business in the UK. It replaces the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, which is now closed to new applications. The Start-up visa is open to graduates and non-graduates who can demonstrate high potential, and there is no requirement to show investment funds as part of your application.

Innovator Visa

The innovator visa was introduced for experienced business people with a viable UK business idea.

The UK innovator route requires a capital investment of (£50,000), but applicants must secure an endorsement from an endorsing body before the Home Office visa application can be made.

Startup & Innovator Visa Business Eligibility

You will need to show you will be committed to the business, and your time in the UK under the visa will be spent wholly on the development of the business. If endorsed, you can then make your visa application.

The first step to applying is to prepare a business plan and financial plan to submit to an endorsing body. 

A list of endorsing bodies can be found below.

The endorsement body will assess your business against the following criteria. 


Your business idea has to be a new product or service, that is:

  • New in the UK 
  • Within a new or emerging industry 
  • Improves an existing product or industry

This naturally leads to businesses within knowledge-intensive industries such as technology, medicine, robotics and engineering.

This is the most demanding criteria to reach, so ensure you have done your research on the UK and can demonstrate there is a gap in the market for your business.


This is all about the sustainability of your business. 

The main questions you need to answer in your business plan.

  • Is it realistic for the business to startup?
  • Who are your customers? Does your business truly solve their problem?
  • Do you have enough money to start, and where will the money come from?
  • Do you have the right resources and staff to make the business happen?
  • Is your business model sustainable?
  • Do you have the right price for your product/service?
  • What is your go-to-market strategy, and how will you market your business? 


You have to demonstrate your business has the potential to grow significantly over the length of your visa.

 Your business plan needs to answer. 

  • Is the market size big enough?
  • How will you grow the business?
  • How many staff will you need?
  • How quickly can you grow?
  • Are you planning additional services to appeal to a broader target market?

What An Endorsing Body Will Expect In Your Visa Business Plan

USP – What is unique about the business in terms of industry, technology and innovation.

Strategy: What is your vision for the business over the next 3-5 years, and what do you need to achieve your goals.

Market Research: Market size, demographics and a description of your target market. You will also need to analyse your main competitors.

Industry Trends: Where the industry is heading, will your business be a fit with customer expectations going forwards. 

Marketing Plan: How will you put your business in front of your target market and get them to choose your product or service.

Risks: An assessment of any risks or threats in your business and the industry.

Staffing & Management Team: Experience and qualifications of people running the business. You will also need to provide a recruitment plan. For the Innovator Visa, you will need to hire at least ten members of staff who are paid at least £25,000 by the end of year 3​

Daily Operations: A breakdown of the location and daily tasks for the company.

Financial Plan:  You will need to list your Startup Costs, Revenue Model, Sales Forecast, P&L, Balance Sheet and Break-even Analysis. Long-term strategy and expansion plan financing.  


Our business plans are fully compliant with the core components of the Startup and Innovator visa schemes and include:

Innovation: We’llWe’ll analyse the competition to ensure your business is unique and you have a competitive advantage over your closest competitor.

Scalability: We set out a clear path to grow significantly with our market research and operations plan. 

Viability: All businesses we work with are taken through our business framework and have a robust and sustainable business model.

Financials: We”ll research all of your costs in the UK and prepare all the financial projections required to submit to the endorsing body.

You can find out more about our business planning services here.

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