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International Entrepreneurs

If you're an international student (on a Tier 4 visa) that wants to set up a business in the UK, NTU Enterprise may be able to assist you with a Start-up Visa (previously Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa).

Introduction to guidelines

Two students smiling

These guidelines outline the regulations and processes governed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) rules for sponsoring a graduate under the Start-up visa scheme (previously Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa scheme) as applied at Nottingham Trent University.

The Start-up visa scheme allows graduates from outside of the EU/EEA to remain in the UK for up to two years to develop innovative high potential business ideas. Note that the University does not support any subsequent applications, after the two years, for Innovator Visas.

Nottingham Trent University is a UKVI recognised sponsor under the scheme and has been allocated a very limited number of endorsements by the Home Office for international graduates who wish to apply for the programme. To apply, high potential student or graduate entrepreneurs must first apply to the NTU Enterprise team, the University’s Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.

In line with UKVI guidance to institutions, The Enterprise team will assess all applications against the criteria that the business idea must be genuine, credible and innovative. Eligibility criteria are strict. The list of ineligible businesses is listed below:

  • Property development/management
  • Doctor /dentist (in training)
  • Professional sportsperson/sports coach
  • Religion
  • Pornography
  • Politics
  • Drugs
  • Sex trade

Applicants should have a genuine, innovative and credible business idea and hold a UK-recognised graduate qualification such as BA or BSc (Hons), MA or MSc or a PhD awarded by Nottingham Trent University.

Students/graduates will be required to undergo an assessment to determine the credibility of their proposed business. You must also be prepared to pitch your business idea to NTU Enterprise who will assess the viability of your business idea against the Start-up visa criteria. The decision of the panel is final and there is no appeal process.

All applicants must establish and run their businesses in Nottingham to the benefit of the local economy.

Students on a study visa can do the following, as this is not considered to be engaging in business activity:

  • Carrying out preliminary activities such as writing business plans or negotiating contracts
  • Incurring pre-trading costs with a view to deciding whether to start their businesses

This policy document has been written in line with the UKVI’s Start-up and Innovator visa guidance, version 02/19 and is subject to change in line with UKVI regulations.

How to apply for the Start-up visa

Check your eligibility to apply before you consider making an application. Applicants should allow at least three months before their existing visa is due to expire to begin the process. Read the Government’s Start-up and Innovator Policy, Guidelines and Supporting Documents as well as this document carefully before applying and make sure that you have understood whether you and your idea qualifies and that you understand all the responsibilities expected of you.

Guidance on applications under Start-up and Innovator Visas; - GOV.UK

If you meet the criteria then you will need to apply to NTU Enterprise and make it clear that you wish to be considered as an International Start-up candidate by completing all of the questions on the Start-Up Visa Application Form.

The Start-Up Visa Application Form can be accessed here.

Formal applications for Start-Up Visa endorsement will only be accepted by NTU Enterprise at certain points during the year. The first call for applications will be 1 October.

  • The second call for applications will be 1 July
  • The call for applications will close one week later

If the University considers that your business idea and application does not comply with the criteria you will be notified by e-mail.

If we consider your idea to be a potentially viable one, then you will be invited to attend a specific workshop to be held within three weeks of your application being received. This workshop is focussed on the development of a commercially viable and sustainable business concept, fully researched and evidenced.

Within two weeks, you will be expected to submit a fully documented business plan. The plan will be reviewed within a further two weeks of submission. The viability and appropriateness of your business plan/concept will be assessed against both NTU Enterprise and the UKVI evaluation criteria.

If you are successful, NTU Enterprise will provide you with a formal letter of endorsement on University headed stationary to accompany your visa application. Your visa application must be made within three months from the date of letter.

You have three months from this point to apply to the government for your visa.

You must have bank statements showing £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK and you must have had this amount in full in your bank account for 90 days before you apply. You will not be able to use your parent(s) or guardian(s) bank statements, any documents evidencing funds must be in your name.

For the Start-up visas, there are no ‘low-risk’ nationalities. Every applicant must submit all the required documentation with their visa application.

Applicants will generally only be permitted to apply once to NTU Enterprise with a single business idea. The decision of the panel is final. There is no appeal process.

The role of the University

International student smiling

If successful in your application, NTU Enterprise will offer business support and will monitor progression on behalf of the Home Office. You will be expected to attend NTU Enterprise's business start-up workshops which are run on a regular basis throughout the year to help in the development of the business. You will also be required to attend regular meetings with the team to check that progress has been made on your business. We will offer you a desk at The Dryden Enterprise Centre and require that you are based in Nottingham.

At the end of the two years, participants should be able to demonstrate that the business is still viable and progressing on track, and provide evidence that you have access to the requisite £50k contribution by the end of the first year enabling you to transfer to the Innovator Visa status.


An endorsement from NTU Enterprise does not guarantee that a visa will be granted. Visas are granted at the discretion of the Home Office and the progress of applications are subject to Home Office timeframes, neither the Enterprise team or the University can influence this process.

If your visa application is successful you will be sent a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which is your visa. You will need to present this visa to both NTU Enterprise and the University in line with the University’s Tier 4 Licence obligations. Please take your BRP and passport to the Student Services Centre, Level 0, Newton Building for scanning so the visa details may be added to the student records system.

If you have questions about your visa application you can seek advice from the International Student Support team who are based in the Newton Building, Level 0.

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants to the scheme must:

  • Have graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s Degree, or PhD within the immediate two years preceding the date of application; and have maintained a good engagement record with the University during their academic studies.
  • The University will NOT accept applications from students/graduates or postdocs from other Universities nor applications from any other person who is not a graduate of NTU within the preceding two years.
  • Have sufficient English language skills (both written and spoken) to meet the required standard for conducting business in the UK, and meet the requirements in the Government guidelines
  • Agree to attend the appropriate Enterprise start up programme of support and agree to regular contact during the year.
  • The business must be based in Nottingham to the benefit of the local economy.

A genuine, credible and innovative business idea is one that:

  • Will make good use of the graduate’s skills and add to the UK economy, rather than being a routine business which will merely compete with other existing local traders.
  • Evidences demand through a sound plan, clear market research to demonstrate market opportunity and realistic costings and financial planning.
  • ‘Credible’ means it must be more than just an idea – you must demonstrate evidence of structured planning.
  • The business should meet new or existing market needs and/or create a competitive advantage and should demonstrate potential for scaling and job creation and growth into national markets.
  • You must be able to demonstrate why this business needs to be based in the UK and cannot operate from your home country.

The university will not endorse applications for:-

  • Franchising where applicants have not had to develop their own plan and will be working to someone else’s business plan.
  • Taking over an existing business to re-invigorate the business, which was originally based on someone else’s business plan.
  • Employment as an operator, for an overseas agent for example:
    • A partnership in which the graduate has not made a significant input to the business plan development (i.e. equal to the other partners).
    • An employment opportunity where the graduate is more likely to be working on or for someone else’s idea.
    • Graduates who do not demonstrate the entrepreneurial skills and commitment needed to drive the creation and development of the business.
  • Self-employment or sole traders where the applicant is providing freelancing or fee-for-service consultation services.
  • A business that will compete directly with existing traders.
  • Working as a consultant, for example, is unlikely to meet the requirements.
  • Applicants to set up businesses in the following sectors:
    • A business that could operate online from any base
    • (eg. apps/platforms/websites/online stores)
    • Smoking / tobacco /gambling
    • Housing/property rentals/ construction / renovation
    • Property consultancy/management
    • Any business that does not have significant growth potential
    • Any business which we consider may bring the University’s reputation into disrepute

Withdrawal of Sponsorship

The University may withdraw sponsorship in the following circumstances:

  • Failure to notify the University of any change in your circumstance
  • Failure to progress the business as agreed
  • Missing any of the agreed contact points
  • Should you change (or plan to change) your business model from the one shared with the University at point of application without informing the University
  • Should you fail to spend the majority of your working time developing your business

If the University is, at any time, not satisfied with the progress being made on the business idea, or your compliance with the visa regulations, it may choose to withdraw endorsement with immediate effect. At the same time the University will inform the Home Office of our decision and the reasoning behind it, outlining your non-conformity with the terms of our endorsement.

There will be no right of appeal following this decision being made.

Your responsibilities as a Start-up Visa Entrepreneur

You must inform us immediately if your contact details change, as we need to know how to get hold of you quickly if the Home Office needs to contact you.

Failure to attend your scheduled progress reviews with the Enterprise team, without contact, will result in the Home Office being notified. As sponsors, we are duty-bound to inform any perceived infringements of your duties to the Home Office.

What are the visa compliance requirements?

You cannot start or work on your business whilst you are a student. You can only start after you have received notification of your qualifications and been approved by NTU Enterprise for your visa application. The Tier 4 visa does not allow you to work on a self-employed basis at any time.

Although you will be expected to spend most of your time setting up the business, the work conditions of this visa do allow you to take employment working for another employer for up to 20 hours per week.

You will be assigned a University contact who you will be required to meet once every three to four months to discuss the progress of your business.

Additional advice

If you are applying within the UK you must be switching to a Start-Up visa from a Tier 4 student visa. You must apply to switch prior to the expiry of your current visa.

You cannot previously have been granted immigration leave in the UK under Tier 1 (Post Study Work), the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme, International Graduates Scheme or Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme.

At the end of the two years covered by the Start-up Visa you will be expected to have attained the levels of business sustainability and financial targets set by the UKVI to enable you to transfer onto the Innovator or full Tier 1 visas.

This will require you to source a second Sponsor to endorse your Innovation visa to enable you to remain within the UK. Nottingham Trent University will only support and endorse the initial Start-up visa. We will not endorse any further continuation visas under the scheme.

Tips to ensure a successful endorsement

Don’t leave your application to the last minute. Allow at least three months before your existing visa is due to expire to begin the process. If you need advice or help with the visa application form you can talk to the International Student Support team. They are based on Level 0 in the Newton Building or you can contact them on

You should be able to evidence that you maintained a good engagement record with the University during your academic studies and engagement with Enterprise activities and NTU Enterprise will benefit your application.

Give yourself time to develop your idea. A well-planned and thought out idea, evidenced by appropriate research, is much more likely to receive the University’s endorsement.

You will be expected to demonstrate that you have the entrepreneurial skills and commitment to develop the business.

All email communication with the Enterprise team should be via the dedicated visa email address:

First Call 2022/23

Call for applications opens1 October 2022
Call for applications closes8 October 2022
Business planning workshop10 October 2022
Business plan submission3 November 2022
Decision made18 November 2022