Entrepreneur Visa

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What is Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and who needs it?

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is a visa that enables a person to set up a business in the UK, buy an already-existing business in the UK or join an already-existing business in the UK, and work at running the business. The entrepreneur must invest funds into the business and create jobs in the business.

The business can be of any type: service industries such as IT, retail and catering outlets are popular amongst Tier 1 Entrepreneurs but any realistic business proposal is acceptable.

Leave is initially granted for three years. The entrepreneur can potentially acquire indefinite leave to remain after five years on this visa or, if their business does exceptionally well, after three years (see below). Under the five-year route the entrepreneur has to apply to extend their visa after three years; under the three-year route no extension application is necessary; the entrepreneur can apply for indefinite leave to remain straightaway after three years.

If the business does exceptionally well (i.e. generates an income of at least £5m over three years or creates at least 10 full-time jobs) the entrepreneur can potentially acquire indefinite leave to remain in three years rather than five.

In most cases Tier 4 students must apply for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa from outside the UK; it is usually not possible to switch in the UK. Entrepreneurs may bring their family members (partners and children) with them to the UK.

Who is eligible to apply for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa?

The amount of required investment funds varies, depending on the circumstances. In many cases it is £200,000. In some other cases (e.g. where a Tier 4 applicant has special types of UK government funding) it is £50,000. The rules also allow a “team” Tier 1 Entrepreneur application, i.e. where a team of two people jointly provides the required funding, either in equal shares or unequal shares.

The jobs must be filled by “resident workers”, i.e. British citizens, people with indefinite leave to remain or EEA citizens. There must be at least two full-time jobs created for at least 12 months, or the equivalent in part-time jobs, e.g. one full-time job and two part-time jobs.

There is also an English language requirement for Tier 1 Entrepreneurs.

What documents do I need to prepare?

When you apply you’ll need to provide:

  • a current passport or other valid travel identification
  • a passport size colour photograph
  • evidence of the investment funds available to you (see Guidance on supporting documents for applying for UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa)
  • a business plan
  • evidence that you can support yourself during your stay
  • proof that you meet the English language requirement
  • your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test
  • you must provide a criminal record certificate from any country you have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years.

Apart from the fairly complex rules about funding and associated evidence there are also rules about “genuineness” and “credibility”. The effect of these additional rules is that the UKVI decision-maker must be convinced that the application is genuine and also that the proposed business (and particularly if it is a new business) is reasonably realistic.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur applicants are sometimes interviewed by the UKVI about their business proposal, and these interviews can be challenging.

The genuineness/credibility requirements can be very difficult to satisfy, and so a strong application requires good documentation, such as a well-prepared business plan.

A lot of different things can go wrong. For example, the bank statements showing funding may not meet all the published requirements in the rules. Of it could be that the UKVI is not convinced that the money will be transferable to the UK and thus not available to the applicant. Or, even if all the documents are correct, the UKVI may not be convinced about the genuineness or credibility of the application.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa

Some graduates (either with a UK degree or non-UK degree) may want to apply for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa but are not ready yet, e.g. because they have not yet done sufficient research about UK markets.

Graduates, if sponsored by their university or by the UK Government, may be able to apply for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa, which is a kind of “stepping stone” to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs are allowed to carry out research and set up their proposed business. When they are ready they can apply to switch to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa.