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The University of Cambridge is an endorsing body under the Home Office’s Start-up visa route. 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 valid for two years. After this period, you may consider switching into the Innovator visa. It is not possible to extend further under the Start-up visa.

The International Student Office can provide visa support under the Start-up route to eligible graduates.  

Applications for endorsement under the Start-up visa are currently being considered until April 2021.


To be eligible for endorsement from the University of Cambridge 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

You must also have successfully secured one of the following:

  • a place on the Accelerate Cambridge programme; OR
  • a place on the Cambridge Social Ventures 12-month incubator; OR
  • funding from Cambridge Enterprise.

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 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 you are applying as a student, you can apply for consideration to be endorsed 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 endorsement letter after the submission of their soft-bound thesis for examination. 

Applications for endorsement under the Start-up visa are currently being considered until April 2021.

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? Is the applicant's business plan realistic and achievable based on the applicant's available resources? 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 criteria will be assessed automatically as part of the process to be considered via the endorsement routes outlined above.

How do I apply for endorsement?

If you have been offered a place on Accelerate Cambridge, the 12-month Cambridge Social Ventures Incubator, or you have confirmed funding from Cambridge Enterprise you may request endorsement by completing the endorsement request form.

Upon submission of the Start-up endorsement request, the International Student Office will assess your endorsement eligibility.

If you meet the endorsement eligibility requirements, you will be issued with a guide to endorsement which includes a declaration setting out the terms and conditions of receiving endorsement under the scheme. Upon receipt of the signed declaration, the International Student Office will prepare and issue your endorsement letter. You need this in order to submit a Start-up visa application.

Financial requirements for the visa application

If endorsed and you are applying for permission to stay (i.e. switching within the UK) and have alreayd held UK immigration permission for 12 months or more on the date of application, you will not need to provide any evidence of funds with your visa application. You will also be exempt from having to show any funding for your dependants if they have held UK immigration permission for 12 months or more on the date of their application and are applying in the UK.

If you are applying for the visa from overseas, or applying to switch in the UK but have not already had UK immigration permission for at least 12 months at the point of application, you will need to demonstrate you have funds of at least £1270 in your bank account for a minimum consecutive 28 day period prior to making the application, ending no more than 31 days prior to the date of application.

If you intend to bring dependants, in addition to the £1270 you must have to support yourself, you - or your partner or child - will need:

  • £285 for your partner
  • £315 for one child
  • £200 for each additional child.

You'll need to have had the required funds in your bank account or your dependant's bank account for at least 28 days before you or they apply. You'll usually need to show proof of this when you apply, unless you or they are applying from inside the Uk and you've been here for 12 months or more.

What are the requirements during the endorsement period?

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 relevant programme. In addition, you will be required to complete a monitoring form at 6 months and 12 months after your visa is granted which will be cross referenced with the relevant programme.

If you have been accepted onto the Accelerate Cambridge programme, you are required to participate in two consecutive terms. Progression to the second term is determined by Accelerate Cambridge.

If you have been accepted onto the Cambridge Social Ventures 12-month Incubator, you are expected to participate fully for the duration of the incubator.


What are the visa compliance requirements?
  • 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, you must 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. 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.
  • Your endorsement under the Start-up visa is based on the business idea you presented to the relevant endorsement route, and outlined in your endorsement request form. 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.
  • 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 applicants 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 Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category, or under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme. 

Can I be endorsed if I wish to setup 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.

Important information for current student visa holders

The term 'student visa' in this section refers to immigration permission issued under both Tier 4 and the Student Route. Tier 4 was replaced by the Student route on 5 October 2020.

Student visa holders should also be aware that self-employment or engaging in business activity is not permitted on a student visa.  Further information about working on a student visa can be found here.

If you are switching from student visa, the point at which you can start undertaking business activity depends on when you were granted your student immigration permission: 

  • Students who had their last visa granted before 1 October 2019 may only engage in business activities once their Start-up visas have been granted. 
  • Students who had their last visa granted on or after 1 October 2019 may engage in business activities once they have applied to the Home Office for their Start-up visa. 
Who should I contact for queries?

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

For information about Accelerate Cambridge, please visit:

For information about Cambridge Social Ventures, please visit:

For information about Cambridge Enterprise please visit