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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) from early April 2019. The Start-up visa is for Cambridge graduates who demonstrate high entrepreneurial potential and wish to start a business in the UK for the first time.

Who is eligible?

To be endorsed you must have successfully completed a degree-level qualification from the University of Cambridge.

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 2 years’ leave in the Start-up and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur categories).

You can apply for consideration to be endorsed either during your studies or after completing your degree.

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.

What are the assessment requirements for endorsement?

The University has a central role in identifying suitable candidates to be endorsed for a Start-up visa.

Applications 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. This will be assessed through an application and interview process. The panel's decision is final. 

How do I apply?

Applications to be considered for endorsement will be accepted from late Summer 2019. Details of the application process, including application and interview timeframes, will be updated on this page shortly.

Supporting yourself

If endorsed, you need to have had at least £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply for your visa.

What are the requirements during the endorsement period?

The University is required to monitor the progress you are making with your business. These arrangements are currently being finalised and will be updated shortly. 

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.

What are the visa compliance requirements?

  • 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.
  • If you are applying within the UK you must be switching into this visa category from a Tier 4 student visa sponsored by the University of Cambridge. You must apply to switch prior to the expiry of your current visa. You are also eligible to switch from a Tier 2 Visa.
  • Once you have received the outcome of your visa application, notify the International Student Office. You will be requried to bring in your visa for copying onto your record. 
  • You must spend the majority of your working time on your business idea and fully engage with the University’s monitoring processes (currently TBC). If there are any concerns that you are not focusing on developing the business whilst endorsed on the Start-up visa, the University will consider withdrawing endorsement.
  • There are no restrictions on working hours or working for another employer whilst 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 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. 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 submitted an application for 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

If I am unsuccessful, can I apply again?

A second application can be considered but it is only likely to be successful if the idea has developed significantly since the original interview.

Who should I contact for queries?

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