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UK Start-up visa

If you're an international student who wants to set up a business in the UK, we can endorse you for a Start-up visa.

There is a formal application process and you need to contact the Careers and Employability Service a minimum three months prior to your student visa expiry date if you intend to apply.

What do we need from your application?

  • An innovative, viable and scalable business idea
  • A completed application form
  • A business plan (including realistic cash flow forecast)
  • You must have graduated from the University of Sunderland in London with an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in the 12 months before the date of application and you have to apply from within the UK
  • Potential applicants must speak with the Careers and Employability Service a minimum of three months before submitting their application. We can offer one-to-one business mentoring from external advisers. 

Your application will be reviewed by senior managers from the University and discussed at a panel. This may take some weeks to process so you should allow plenty of time before your current visa expires.

As a minimum your business plan should demonstrate:

  • Your idea – details of your product or service and what makes it innovative

  • Your skills and experience – what knowledge do you currently have that will help you deliver your business plan? What are you doing to fill any gaps in experience?

  • Operational plan – who will be involved and how will you deliver your product or service?

  • Knowledge and understanding – of the product or service and the market. Robust market research including the size of the market, competition, proof of demand, and how you will bring it to market.

  • Cash flow forecast – you'll need to make realistic projections based on your market research

  • You might also be asked to attend an interview or deliver a presentation on your business plan.

What happens next?

If your application is successful and the panel decides that your business plan is innovative, viable and scalable, you'll be offered a unique reference number which will be shared with the UK Visa and Immigration Service (UKVI). You then need to take the unique reference number to the UKVI and apply for your visa. 

The University has no further involvement with the visa application process after you've gotten in touch with the UKVI. You won't be allowed to set up your business or trade in any way until you receive your Start-up visa from UKVI.

Information on the visa application eligibility is available on the UK Visa and immigration website.

To be eligible to apply for a Start-up visa you will need all of the following:

  • A UK-recognised undergraduate or postgraduate degree awarded before your date of endorsement
  • Endorsement from an authorised UK higher education institution, such as the University of Sunderland in London, issued in the past three months
  • £945 in your bank account for 90 days prior to applying. This is to prove you can support yourself.
  • To meet the English language requirement
  • Permission to remain in the UK from your financial sponsor if they’re a government or an international scholarship agency and have paid your course fees and living costs in the past 12 months

You can’t apply with any of the following:

  • Foundation degrees
  • Honorary degrees
  • Qualifications awarded in the UK by overseas awarding bodies
  • Qualifications that you completed at overseas campuses of UK institutions
  • Professional and vocational qualifications
  • Postgraduate certificates or diplomas

As a minimum your business plan should demonstrate:

The University can offer you support through business mentoring while you're researching your idea. This can run alongside your studies and after you've received your Start-up visa.

Once you have your Start-up visa, the University will expect you to be working on your business idea on a full-time basis. You'll also need to be in regular contact with the Enterprise Place at the University of Sunderland. As part of your membership to the Enterprise Place you will be asked to submit monthly reports on your business progress. You'll also have regular review meetings with University staff including Enterprise and Innovation managers and the International Gateway team from the University who will assess the development of your business.

Contact us

Visit the Careers and Employability Service on the 4th floor (next to the Study Skills Office), the University of Sunderland in London.


Phone: 020 7531 7333 Ext. 2342