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The Start-up Visa guidelines

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 the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa scheme] as applied at Nottingham Trent University.


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 the 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 2 years to develop innovative high potential business ideas.  Note that the University does not support any subsequent applications after the 2-year Start-up Visa.

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 submit an application to NTU Enterprise, the University’s Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.

In line with UKVI guidance to institutions, NTU Enterprise will assess all applications against both the UKVI criteria and those of NTU Enterprise, as outlined in these guidance notes. Also, the idea must not involve property development or property management nor work as a doctor or dentist in training, nor a professional sportsperson or sports coach.

Applicants should have a genuine, innovative and credible business idea and 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 the NTU Enterprise, (who will assess the viability of your business idea against the Start-up Visa criteria), and you must produce a basic business plan for the business venture. The decision of the panel is final and there is no appeal process.

This policy document has been written in line with the UKVI’s Start-up and Innovator Visa guidance, version 03/19 and is subject to change in line with UKVI regulations.

The role of the University

If endorsed, NTU Enterprise will offer business support and will monitor progression on behalf of the Home Office. If successful in your application, you will normally be expected to attend NTU Enterprise 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 NTU Enterprise to check that progress has been made on your business.

At the end of the 2 years, participants should be able to demonstrate that the business is still viable and progressing on track, and has the requisite £50k contribution in the business to enable the participant to transfer to the Innovator Visa status in order to remain within the UK.

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 to four 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.

If you meet the criteria, then at this point you will need to complete the NTU Enterprise Enquiry Form.

  1. Apply to NTU Enterprise and make it clear that you wish to be considered as an International Start-up candidate by completing all the questions on NTU Enterprise Enquiry Form. You may also have an initial meeting with a staff member of NTU Enterprise.
  2. If NTU Enterprise considers that your business idea and application does not comply with the criteria you will be notified by e-mail.
  3. If we consider your idea to be a potentially viable one, you will then be asked to provide us with a completed outline Business Development Plan before you will then be invited to a further more formal meeting at NTU Enterprise. Download a template Business Development Plan as a PDF or MS Word document.
  4. During this interview, the viability and appropriateness of your business plan/concept will be assessed against both NTU Enterprise's and the UKVI evaluation criteria.  If your application is 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 3 months from the date of letter.

You must have Bank statements showing at least £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK and you must have had this continuously in your bank account for a minimum of 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. You cannot keep returning with different ideas. There is no appeal process.


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 NTU Enterprise 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.

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 NTU Enterprise, without contact, will result in the Home Office being notified, which may jeopardise your chances of further endorsement at the end of the first year.
  • As sponsors, we are duty-bound to inform any perceived infringements of your duties to the Home Office

Tips to ensure a successful application

  • Don’t leave your application to the last minute! Allow at least three to four 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 email.
  • 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 potentially benefit your application.
  • Give yourself time to develop your idea. A well-planned and commercially viable 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 necessary to develop the business.

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 2 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
  • Have been accepted by NTU Enterprise, therefore confirming that they have a genuine, credible and innovative business idea.
  • Agree to attend the appropriate NTU Enterprise start up programme of support and agree to regular contact during the year.
  • 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, and particularly 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 and that you’ve tested and validated the key assumptions and critical success factors of your business idea.
    • The business should be innovative and 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 thus would 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, setting up a restaurant or a retail outlet/shop for example, does not meet the requirements.
  • Applicants to set up businesses in the following sectors:-
    • One’s that could operate online from any base (e.g. Apps/platforms/websites/online stores) location.
    • Alcohol / smoking / tobacco /gambling
    • Dating/social media
    • Housing/property rentals/ construction / renovation
    • Property consultancy/management
    • A business which is a franchise /a subsidiary /a transfer/an extension or replica of an existing business, whether that business is in the UK or overseas.
  • Any business that does not have significant growth potential and scalability
  • 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.  There will be no right of appeal following this decision being made.

In addition:

  • If you are applying within the UK you must be switching into this Start-up Visa category 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 further 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; nor can we guarantee any sponsors for those continuation Innovator Visas. At the end of the two years, participants will have to source their own sponsors from the UKVI approved list of ‘endorsers’ in order to remain in the UK. For details of up to date sponsors see GOV.UK.

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, including during a Placement year as part of a student’s studies.
  • 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 at least once every 6 months to discuss the progress of your business. The University contact will also determine whether the business is making satisfactory progress, in order that you can continue to be supported by the university for the duration of your Start-up Visa.

NTU Enterprise - 30 April 2019

Still need help?

NTU Enterprise
+44 (0)115 848 4354