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The University of Cambridge 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 graduates who demonstrate high entrepreneurial potential and wish to start a business in the UK for the first time.

The Start-up visa is administered by the University’s International Student Office and facilitated by Accelerate Cambridge based in Cambridge Judge Business School. Accelerate Cambridge has a central role in identifying suitable candidates to be endorsed and in providing support through their programmes. All visa queries should be directed to the International Student Office. 

Applications to be considered for endorsement are closed.

Application Deadline Interview Dates (subject to availability)* Accelerate Start Date
31st August 2019  25th July 2019 and 12th September 2019 28th September 2019 
13th November 2019 21st and 28th November 2019 18th January 2020
28th February 2020 12th and 19th March 2020 25th April 2020

*The interview dates are subject to availability. If necessary, further interview dates will be added and this will be confirmed to you if invited to interview. 

Applications are to be made through the International Student Office using the form found in the 'Application process' section below. You do not need to submit a separate application to Accelerate Cambridge.

Please read through all the information below before applying.


To be endorsed you must either:

  • have successfully completed a degree-level qualification from the University of Cambridge or;
  • you must be employed by the University of Cambridge as a postdoctoral worker with a Tier 2 visa sponsored by the University of Cambridge and hold a PhD.

In addition:

  • You must not have previously established a business in the UK. The only exceptions to this are if you have already been granted leave under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, or under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme. 
  • You must not have had 2 years’ leave in the Start-up and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur categories).
  • If endorsed:
    • you must spend the majority of your working time on developing the business idea in the UK.
    • you must participate in Accelerate Cambridge programmes for the first year

If you are applying as a student, you can apply for consideration to be endorsed either during your studies or after completing your degree. If successful, you will not be issued your endorsement letter until you have completed your degree. PhD students can be issued an endorsment letter after the submission of their soft-bound thesis for examination. 

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. It is not possible to extend further under the Start-up visa. 

Application process

Step 1. Complete the application form and email it to

You do not need to submit a separate application to Accelerate Cambridge or copy them in on submission. 

As part of the application, you are required to create a 60 second video pitch of your idea, and upload it to either YouTube (as an unlisted video) or Vimeo (as a password-protected video). Please include your name in the title and a link to the video in your email to the International Student Office when you submit your application form.  

Step 2. Your application will be assessed by Accelerate Cambridge.

Step 3. If selected, you will be invited to a panel interview with Accelerate Cambridge.

The interviews last 30 minutes and are made up of a 5-minute pitch followed by Q&As. Interviews will take place face to face in Cambridge.

Step 4. The International Student Office will inform you of the outcome of your interview.

Step 5. If successful, you will need to complete and return a Start-up visa declaration, which sets out the terms and conditions of receiving endorsement under the scheme.

Step 6. Upon return of the signed declaration, you will be issued with an endorsement letter.

The endorsement letter will only be issued upon completion of your degree. For PhD students, the endorsement letter will only be issued upon submission of your softbound thesis.

Step 7. Apply for your Start-up visa online.

Step 8. Sign the relevant Entrepreneur Agreements by Accelerate Cambridge.

Step 9.  Begin the Accelerate Cambridge programme 

You must have submitted your Start-up visa application before joining the Accelerate Cambridge Programme 

What are the assessment requirements for endorsement?

In addition to demonstrating high entrepreneurial potential, candidates will be assessed against the following criteria, as set by the Home Office:

Innovation Viability Scalability
Does the applicant have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage? Does the applicant have, or are they actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business? Is there evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets?


To be endorsed applicants must be deemed to have fully met all three requirements and successfully achieve a place on the Accelerate Cambridge Programme. Accelerate Cambridge will assess applications and their decision is final. 

Financial requirements for the visa application

If endorsed, you need to have had at least £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply for your visa, ending no more than 31 days before the date of application.


What are the requirements during the endorsement period?

If successful, the International Student Office will issue an endorsement letter. You will need to return and complete a Start-up visa declaration which sets out the terms and conditions of receiving endorsement under the scheme prior to the letter being issued.

The University is required to monitor the progress you are making with your business. For the first year this will, in part, be monitored by your participation in the Accelerate Cambridge programmes. In addition, you will be required to complete a monitoring form at 6 months and 12 months after your visa is granted.

If endorsed, you are required to take part in 3 terms of Accelerate Cambridge. If you are successfully endorsed, you will have been accepted on to one term of Accelerate Cambridge. Progression to each term will be determined by Accelerate Cambridge and will be based on your active participation in the programme and continued commitment to developing your business.  


What are the visa compliance requirements?
  • You can only start your business once you been granted the visa. This is because a Tier 4 visa does not allow you to work on a self-employed basis or engage in business activity.
  • If you are applying within the UK you must apply to switch prior to the expiry of your current visa.
  • Once you have received the outcome of your visa application, notify the International Student Office. You will be required to bring in your visa for copying onto your record. 
  • You must spend the majority of your working time developing your business and fully engage with the University’s monitoring processes. If there are any concerns that you are not focusing on developing the business while endorsed on the Start-up visa, the University will consider withdrawing endorsement.
  • Your endorsement under the Start-up visa is based on the business idea you present in your endorsement application and your interview for Accelerate Cambridge. If this idea changes, or another idea becomes your primary focus, you must notify the International Student Office and an assessment will be made by the University as to whether it is appropriate for you to continue to be endorsed under the scheme.
  • 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 in the UK.
  • Adhere to the conditions set by the University and the Home Office. If the University has reason to believe you are breaching the conditions of your leave, it is required to report this to the Home Office.
Can I be endorsed to develop an existing or previous business?

The scheme supports graduates in developing a business idea. It is therefore expected that the business itself will be in the very early stages of development. The only exceptions to this are if you have already been granted leave under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, or under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme. 

Tier 4 students should also be aware that self-employment or engaging in business activity is not permitted on a student visa so you can only start work on the business once you have obtained the Start-up visa.


Can I be endorsed if I wish to set up a business with a partner or team?

The proposed business can be a partnership, whether other members of the team require endorsement or not. Endorsement under the scheme is granted on an individual basis. This means that as well as meeting the eligibility requirements, your application will be assessed on its individual merits and an assessment of your role within the business. You will need to have been central to the creation of the business idea and demonstrate how you will play a key role in its development

You will be interviewed by Accelerate Cambridge as a team (including members of the team who do not need endorsement).

Being part of a team is strongly encouraged by Accelerate Cambridge. Individuals will be considered but are encouraged to attend a Venture Creation Weekend hosted by the Entrepreneurship Centre at the Judge Business School to explore different ways you could approach your business. This will be discussed at the interview stage.  

If I am unsuccessful, can I apply again?

A second application can be considered in the next round of applications but it is only likely to be successful if the idea has developed significantly since the original application and/or interview.

No feedback will be provided following an unsuccessful application.

Who should I contact for queries?

For any queries on the Start-up visa, email the International Student Office