Those who wish to establish a new business in the UK can apply for a Start-Up Visa. Applicants need to meet the eligibility criteria to migrate to the UK and run their own business. An endorsement letter is a must if you need to get a visa under this category. You need to have your business idea assessed by an endorsing body before you apply.
What is Endorsement?
Endorsement is the process of getting your business idea assessed and accepted by an approved body. If an organization/institution chooses to endorse your business, they will provide you an endorsement letter. If you are applying as a start-up team, each member needs to have individual endorsement letters.
For your business to be endorsed, it must be:
- Innovative – Your idea should be novel. You will not get endorsement for a business idea that is already functional in the market. Only original ideas that can create a competitive advantage get endorsed.
- Viable – It should be economically feasible and achievable with the available resources. The applicant should develop the necessary knowledge, skills, and market experience for starting and running the business.
- Scalable- There should be protentional for growth. Applicants must have a structured plan for taking their business forward. There should be potential for job creation and growth into national markets.
Wishful entrepreneurs can apply for a start-up visa without huge funds upfront. However, it is advisable to have a plan for investment and funds. This will help in proving the feasibility of your business and thus encourage institutions to endorse your idea.
First Time Entrepreneurs
The endorsing body has to confirm that the applicant has not established any business in the UK before this application. There is an exception if their last grant of leave was under Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur). Individuals who have previously set up a business can apply under the Innovator route.
What is an Endorsing Body?
A business organization with a history of supporting entrepreneurs or a higher education institution in the UK can be an endorsing body. The UK government has an approved list of endorsing bodies. Applicants can get an endorsement letter only from an organization or institution in the list.
Categories: There are three categories of endorsing bodies
- Business endorsing bodies
- Higher education endorsing bodies
- Legacy endorsing bodies – These organizations no longer accept new Start-up or Innovator endorsement applications. They continue to maintain and monitor the businesses they have already endorsed.
How to Choose: Applicants must choose their endorsing body according to the nature of their business concept.
How to Approach: You must study the details of the institution you wish to approach. You can visit their website and ensure that they match your requirements. You should only contact an endorsing body if you are applying for an endorsement from them. Hypothetical and speculative queries will not be encouraged. You need to have a clear business concept and a structured plan before you approach any of the approved institutions. If you have received an endorsement from a body not on the list, it should be reported to the UK Home Government.
The applicant must provide a letter from their endorsing body with all the information mentioned below:
- The name of the endorsing body
- The endorsement reference number
- The name, telephone number, email, and workplace address of a person at the endorsing body. This is for verifying the contents of the letter to the Home Office if required.
- The date of endorsement
- Name of the applicant, date of birth, nationality and passport or other travel document number
- A short description of the applicant’s business venture. It should also contain information on the main products or services the business will provide to its customers.
- Confirmation that the endorsing body finds the applicant’s business innovative, viable, and scalable.
- Confirmation that the endorsing body is convinced that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing their business venture.
- Confirmation that the endorsing body is satisfied the applicant is either
- a) the sole founder of the business or
- b) an instrumental member of the founding team
- Confirmation the endorsing body is satisfied that the applicant has created and is relying on their original business plan.
What if the Endorsement is Withdrawn?
If your endorsement is withdrawn by the endorsing body, your visa will be cut short. If you wish to stay longer, you must re-apply with a new endorsement before your current visa expires. You can only stay for a total of 2 years even if you are granted a new visa with the new endorsement.
If you are in the start-up route, you cannot apply for an extension. You can switch to the Innovator Route. Your endorsing body needs to assess your business and agree to this.