For international students who want to work in the UK after they complete their studies the most common visa options are:

  • Tier 2 (General): This route allows employers to 'sponsor' non-EU citizens to work in their organisation for a specific period of time.
  • Start-up Visa: This route is for graduates with an exceptional business idea, who would like to start a business in the UK. See separate section below for more details.
  • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker): This route allows graduates to undertake specific types of work in the UK with sponsorship for a period of one to two years, depending on the schemes.
  • Doctoral Extension Scheme: This route gives PhD students who have almost finished their qualification an additional 12 months leave to remain in which to look for and start work.

Start-up Visa

The Start-Up Visa is a two-year visa route which is for early-stage, but high potential, entrepreneurs who are starting a business in the UK for the first time.

 In order to be eligible for a start up visa your business needs to be innovative, viable and scalable; please see table below:

Is the business offering something more than merely competing with similar or local traders? Is there evidence of market research? Is the business likely to gain sufficient traction?
Is there a need for the business in the UK market that is not already being fulfilled? Does the applicant have realistic, sustainable product goals? Is it a business with a potential for growth?
Is the idea bringing something new to the pre-existing UK/global business market? Is there a long-term plan for the business? Would this business successfully scale to be a part of the national market?


As part of this process you must be endorsed by an authorised body. In order to be endorsed engagement with Research & Innovation at the university, prior to your application, is essential. We are unlikely to endorse applications from graduates from the University that have not engaged with Research & Innovation prior to graduation. We support current students and recent graduates (up to 2 years). Please note that the University of Aberdeen does not endorse graduates from other institutions.

Please also note we are unlikely to endorse applications for ideas that are similar to existing businesses or services where there is no clear innovation. This is a highly competitive process due to the small number of endorsements we can make, ideas are therefore expected to be well developed and comply with the criteria. We are unlikely to look at more than one idea per applicant in each academic year.

Full application process

Start-up Visa Application Process diagram                                                        

Further information

You can find more details about these, and other, visa options on the UK Home Office website and the UKCISA website. Whilst there are other visa options they all have their own specific requirements. Make sure you keep up to date via both websites. The Careers and Employability Service can provide general advice on visas but we are unable to provide individual visa advice.