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Graduate Visas

If you are an overseas graduate or students approaching the end of your degree, it's important to understand the visa options available to you if you are thinking about self-employment or start-up entrepreneurship in the UK.

Both the Graduate visa and Innovator Founder visa grant you the right to work for yourself and start a business in the UK after graduating. Make sure you know the differences!

So how are the two schemes different?

While most things you can do on these visas are fundamentally the same - you can found a company or register as self-employed or work for someone else (with some constraints) - there are differences in the application process and what kind of businesses are best suited to each, also well as the financial requirements, the duration of the visa, and your progression to settled status.

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The Graduate route

Application for the Graduate visa is made directly to the Home Office. If you are awarded a Graduate visa, you will be able to remain in the UK for two years. This time will not count towards your settlement status. If you want to remain in the UK when it expires, you'll need to switch to a different visa type, e.g. Work visa or Innovator Founder visa. It is most suited to people who want to start freelancing or consulting, or to develop a more scaleable business idea while still work working, without having to produce a business plan and secure an endorsement.

The Innovator Founder route

This route involves an application for endorsement via a UK Endorsing Body. If you are successful, you will be awarded a visa for three years, and this time will count towards your right to remain. Endorsing Bodies will be looking for a business plan that articulates a clear business case and scalable business model, for an idea that's innovative relative to what's in the market already, scalable in terms of its ability to create employment for others, and viable in terms of whether it can achieve financial sustainability and you can make it happen.

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Application Process

Applications for the Graduate visa are made directly to the Home Office (UKVI) with no requirement for your University or any other organisation to support it.

As the Innovator Founder visa requires an endorsement from one of the UK's three official Endorsing Bodies (EB) - as well as the Government's own Global Entrepreneurs Programme - based on the quality of your business plan, and they each have their own priorities, acceptance criteria and support programmes. We can help you to explore which EB is right for you and to support you in preparing your application.

Is that everything?

As we've hopefully made clear throughout the information on this page, we are here to help you decide what the best visa option is for you in plenty of time before you graduate. Drop in to see us or drop us a line via to let us know and we'll take it from there.

Innovator Founder FAQs

Browse the FAQs accordion below, but if you can't find the answers you are looking for, please email


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