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Start-up visas for international students

Solent University is an endorsing institution under the Home Office’s Start-up visa route. This replaced Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) in April 2019. The Start-up visa is for Solent University graduates who have graduated within the last 12 months, demonstrate entrepreneurial potential and wish to start a business in the UK.

The University aims to support international students who wish to stay in the UK to develop their ideas into sustainable UK-based businesses. This is limited to five students per year between 1 April and 31 March.


To be endorsed you must have successfully completed* a degree-level qualification (BA (Hons), MA, PhD, etc) from Solent University within the last 12 months. 

In addition:

  • If endorsed, you must spend the majority of your working time on developing the business idea in the UK.
  • You must not have previously established a business in the UK and/or have had previous leave in the Start-up and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories.

* Applicants who will shortly complete a relevant qualification may also apply but will not receive their endorsement letter until they have successfully completed their qualification. 

How long is the visa

The Start-up visa is valid for two years. After this period, you can consider switching into the Innovator route, for which you would need an endorsement from an endorsing body. Please note, the University cannot endorse businesses in the Innovator route and it is not possible to extend further under the Start-up visa. 

What are the assessment requirements for an endorsement?

The University has a central role in identifying suitable candidates to be endorsed for a Start-up visa. The University will assess applications against the following criteria, as set by the Home Office:

Innovation: Does the applicant have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage?

Viability: Does the applicant have, or are they actively developing, the necessary skills; knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business?

Scalability: Is there evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets?

How much will it cost?

How much you pay for a Start-up visa depends on your situation and where you apply from.

Who you're applying forApply (outside the UK)Switch (in the UK)
If you're a citizen of Turkey or Macedonia£308£438
All dependents£363 each person£493 each person

How to apply for the start-up visa endorsement

  1. Complete a Solent University Start-up visa business application form and personal details form, available on request from Please supply copies of your passport, your degree certificate, and existing visa documentation. These documents will be held securely by the University and will only be used for the purposes of your application.

  2. Email attaching your forms making it clear you wish to be considered as a candidate for the business Start-up visa. A member of the team will arrange for you to have an online consultation with our enterprise business adviser.

  3. Attend a meeting(s) with the enterprise business adviser to discuss your business idea in more detail. If your business idea fits the criteria for a Tier 1 Visa your adviser will support you while you prepare your Business Plan to help you get it ready for panel. They will also advise you on other resources available to help you.

  4. The next step is to upload your completed Business Plan/Cashflow with a supporting PowerPoint presentation. As we are not conducting face to face panels at the current time you will also need to prepare a 10-minute timed video of you presenting your idea just as you would to a live panel.

  5. The panel will review your submission against the set criteria for a Tier 1 Visa and invite you to an online interview to discuss your proposal.

  6. Successful applicants will be provided with a formal letter of endorsement on University headed stationery to support an application for a Start-up visa. The letter will include a secure reference number allocated by the Home Office to the University, which needs to be quoted on your visa application.

  7. You will be asked to complete a Declaration of Intent and Letter of Consent, confirming you will meet the requirements of the scheme, meet with the University regularly, and provide the University with permission to share information related to you and the route with the Home Office, including details of your application, business proposal, monitoring, and contact details.

  8. Make an appointment with the international student adviser to check and submit your visa application. Appointments can be made via email to

Visa requirements during your period of endorsement

  • You can only start your business once you have made the visa application. This is because a Tier 4 visa does not allow you to work on a self-employed basis or engage in business activity.
  • Once you have received the outcome of your visa application, notify Solent Futures. You will be required to bring in your visa for copying onto your record.
  • If your circumstances change you need to inform Solent Futures immediately. This includes a change of contact details, updated passport/visa, if you leave the UK permanently or are no longer working on your business idea.
  • You must spend the majority of your working time on your business idea.
  • The University is required to monitor the progress you are making with your business. You must fully engage with the University’s monitoring processes and attend scheduled progress review meetings to remain in contact. If there are any concerns you are not focusing on developing the business while endorsed on the Start-up visa, the University will consider withdrawing endorsement.
  • There are no restrictions on working hours or working for another employer while you develop your business. However, you must ensure you fulfil the requirement to be spending the majority of your working time on your business idea.
  •  Adhere to the conditions set by the University and UK Visas and Immigration. If the University has reason to believe you are breaching the conditions of your leave, we are required to report this to the Home Office.

Tips to ensure a successful application

  • Give yourself time to develop your idea. A well-planned and thought out idea is much more likely to receive the University’s endorsement. If you need help with business planning, visit our daily drop-in in RM001.
  • Don’t leave your Start-up application to the last minute! Allow at least three months before your existing visa is due to expire to begin the application process.
  • Be patient. Obtaining a visa may take several weeks and certain times of the year are busier than others. 
  • Receiving an endorsement does not guarantee a successful visa application. Start preparing for your visa application in advance, ensuring the required money is in your account in plenty of time (three months in advance of a planned visa application). 

Making a visa application

You are advised to make an appointment with the international student adviser to check and submit your visa application. Appointments can be made via the Student Hub or

To apply outside the UK, you must apply online and have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre. When granted your visa, you will receive a temporary entry clearance stamp in your passport to travel to the UK and then collect your Biometrics Residence Permit (BRP) on arrival in the UK. 

To apply inside the UK (also known as switching), you must apply online. When you apply, you’ll be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information (your fingerprints and a photo). 

You will need to provide the following documents with your visa application.

  • Original degree or master's certificate
  • A letter of endorsement from Solent University, issued in the past three months
  • Bank statements showing at least £945 in savings (£1,890 if applying from outside the UK). You must have had this in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply.*
  • Current passport or other valid travel identification
  • Tuberculosis test results if applying from a country where it is required (not applicable if you are currently in the UK or have been away from the UK for less than six months).
  • If applicable – permission from your financial sponsor to remain in the UK.  

*Please note, you will not be able to use funds held in your parent(s) or guardian(s) name, and any financial documents evidencing funds must be in your name. There are no ‘low-risk’ nationalities. Every applicant must submit all the required documentation. 

You can: bring dependants to the UK with you. Dependants must apply using the dependant’s application form and read the dependant guidance for further information. Our international student adviser can help you with this. 

You cannot: gain access to public funds, work as a doctor or dentist, professional sportsperson (or coach) or settle in the UK.