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Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category is designed for non-European entrepreneurs who are interested in investing in the UK either by setting up, taking over and/or been involved, actively in the day to day running of a business(es) in the UK. For the purpose of this application, a business means an enterprise, such as:

  1. A sole trader
  2. A partnership; or
  3. A company registered in the UK

The Tier 1 Category

The Tier 1 visa category is a business immigration category for individuals looking to invest or undertake a business venture in the UK. The British government has reiterated its positive stance on welcoming genuine businesses to set up shop in the UK. Understandably, this is because the government is keen on the benefits accruable from business immigration. In terms of the lump sum invested in the economy, jobs created for settled persons, tax returns to the government, etc.

The Tier 1 visa category is grouped into two major categories:

  1. Tier 1 Entrepreneur
  2. Tier 1 Investor

Each of the above categories have separate initial and extension applications as well as their respective routes to settlement (Indefinite Leave to remain).

Please note that the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa route is not thebest route when if you are looking to set up a branch of your company in the UK. If you are looking to set up a branch in the UK, it may be better to consider the Representative of an overseas business visa route. Similar to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, the Representative of an Overseas Business (ROB) visa route also allows for settlement (ILR) after 5 years of continuous residence under the same route. See our frequently asked questions on sole rep visas.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa

Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is designed for non-European entrepreneurs who are interested in investing in the UK either by setting up, taking over and/or been involved, actively in the day to day running of a business(es) in the UK. The major distinguishing element of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is that applicants must be show that they have access to at least GBP 200,000. There had previously been a GBP 50,000 route for certain visa categories which has now been closed apart from the Graduate Entrepreneur route (discussed briefly below).

With regards to the GBP 200,000, the money should be owned by you and disposable in the UK. Disposable in the UK means that the money should be kept in such a state that that it would be available to you to invest in the UK as and when you need it. If the money is held in your personal bank account, this may prevent the need for you to serve a third party declaration for access to another person funds. That said, you still can rely upon third party funds not promised for use of anybody else. Third party funds as well as personal funds for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route will need to also be disposable in the UK.

The bank where the money is held must be regulated and must provide a specific bank letter in confirmation of some key factors. The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category is a point based system route.This means that decisions as to the acceptance or rejection of applications are based on predefined points rather than on other subjective elements, although the introduction of the genuine entrepreneur test adds the need to be able to evidence a credible witness as an additional factor to the points. The genuine entrepreneur test is discussed in later parts of this page. Applicants must score a total of 95 points in order to meet the eligibility criteria of the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa initial application.

Requirements

  • Access to at least GBP 200,000 is 25 points;
  • The money is held in one or more regulated financial institutions is 25 points;
  • The money disposable in the UK is 25 points
  • Meeting the English Language requirement is 10 points
  • Maintenance funds requirement is 10 points

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa switch from Graduate Entrepreneur

The UK immigration rules allows for holders of the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa to remain or more appropriately switch to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category. Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs are allowed to make an in-country Tier 1 Entrepreneur Initial application if they can show that they have access to at least GBP 50,000 and have held a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visas are usually issued for between one and two years and require the endorsement of a higher education institution.

If you are switching from Tier 1 Graduate to Tier 1 Entrepreneur, you can rely on either fresh funds of GBP 50,000 or previously invested funds. This can be evidenced by audited/unaudited accounts, share capital or director loans agreement. If you partially invested the funds you must provide the evidence of the same and show that you still have access to any balance of money needed to total GBP 50,000. It was previously possible for Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) migrants to apply to switch to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category with an initial application. They used to need to show that they have access to GBP 50,000 as with the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur above. In addition, Tier 1 Post-study work migrants were expected to show the following:

Requirements

  1. That they have engaged and been actively involved in business before 11 July 2014 and up to the date of application.
  2. During this period of business involvement, the applicant must have been duly registered with the HMRC as self-employed or with the Companies House as a director of a new or an existing business.
  3. The occupation in which they are involved in must have been on at least a level 4 as per the Codes of Practice in Appendix J.

Challenges with the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application

The main challenge with this application in addition to having access to the necessary funds, is to get the documents right and that includes the 'specified Evidence' as well as the Genuine Entrepreneur Test. Bank letters from a regulated financial institution as well as third party templates are essential. Your business plan (the visa officers actually read it!) and evidence to support it are essential to the credibility of your application. Moreover, knowing your business plan and being able to answer to it are essential in the event that you are invited to the Home Office or embassy for an interview.

The decision maker, that being either the Entry Clearance Officer or Home Office official representing by the Secretary of State, will usually consider the specified evidence before the deciding whether the applicant is a genuine entrepreneur. We take the position of a decision maker when establishing whether the specified Appendix evidence has been provided. It is then the turn of proving that the business is to be operated by a genuine entrepreneur and that they have the ability to present this in an interview that we work on.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur initial application requirements

English Language Requirement

Tier 1 applicants will need to show that they have a good knowledge of the English language at a certain specified level. The English language requirement can be met by any of the following ways:

  • Being a national of a majority English speaking country; eg USA, Austria, Canada, etc.
  • Having an academic degree from an English speaking country.
  • passing an English language test approved by the UKVI (IELTS or Trinity College) at B1 level of the Council of Europe's Common European Framework CEFR

As mentioned earlier, meeting the English language requirement will give 10 points to the applicant. In addition, the following persons will be given an automatic 3 points under this section.

  • Individuals with current leave to remain or entry clearance under Tier 1 (General) or Tier 1 (entrepreneur) holders seeking extension.
  • Those who have leave to remain/entry clearance under HSMP given after 5th December 2006 and are seeking to switch to Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).

In Summary, the 10 points for English language will almost be automatically granted to individuals who are already resident in the UK with valid leave to remain as a business person under the Immigration rules. However, it is always safe to ask an immigration lawyer about whether a previous test will be invalidated, as English language is something that the Home Office have become stricter on over the years.

Maintenance Requirement

It is important that applicants show that they have enough funds to cater for themselves whilst in the UK. As a result, applicants need to meet the maintenance requirement by having a certain specified amount in their bank account for the last three months prior to making the application. The maintenance funds must be held and treated as separate from the required GBP 200,000 for investment in the UK business.

  • GBP 3310 from 01 July 2014, for entry clearance applications from outside the UK
  • GBP 945, for in-country applications
  • GBP 1890 for each family member where the main applicant has been in the UK for less than 12 months
  • GBP 630 for each family member if the applicant and the family members are residing in the UK and the main applicant has been in the UK for more than 12 months.

Source of Funding Acceptable for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Initial application

It has been established that in making the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Application, the applicant would need to have access to GBP 200,000 disposable in the UK. However, the applicant need not solely rely on his own funds for the purpose of this application, he may also rely on 3rd party funding from the following categories:

  • Family members
  • Investors
  • Any other corporate body

It is for this reason that the monies need to be in such a state that is accessible and disposable in the UK.

Work Restrictions under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa category

After a successful Tier 1 Entrepreneur initial application, holders of this leave to remain will only be allowed to work in the business in which they have invested the money. They are not allowed to work in any other establishment or take up any other paid job. Their dependents however will be allowed to work full time or be self-employed throughout the duration of their visa. The only work restriction they are faced with however is that they cannot work as trainee doctors or dentists or professional sportspersons or sports coaches in the UK. A practical note of consideration is that the Home Office understand that entrepreneurs may sometimes change their business or perhaps invest in more than a single business.

This is acceptable as long as one always keeps in mind that the Home Office will scrutinize the possibility of the applicant having not been a genuine entrepreneur if they have frequently switched from business to business. For examples sake, if the applicant registers a business within 6 months and then later decides that he or she wants to open an IT solutions company to replace his or her cake shop. This will be in line with the rules as he registered a company within 6 months of his specified date and then went on to open a new but genuine business.

The main challenge with the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa

As mentioned earlier, the point based nature of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa allowed for some form of objectivity. However, with the introduction of the genuine entrepreneur test, it has added a layer or subjectivity to the application process. Entrepreneurs will now have to prove to the Entry Clearance office or the Home Office as the case may be that they are "genuine entrepreneurs" and not just individuals with money looking to enter the UK before they are granted the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa. We recommend the applicant consider operating in a business that they are able to show that they have worked in before. This way, in both real evidence and live evidence, the applicant should face less problems in proving genuine skills as an entrepreneur in the desired sector.

Another challenge here is the inclusion of a business plan. Applicants now need to prepare a business plan in addition to their application and specified evidence. Applicants should not be mistaken that the business plan is just a tick box exercise, the visa officer actually do read it and critically access it. In interview, they make specific reference to figures, terms and forecasts that are included. Therefore, take your business plan with you to an interview and make sure that you know it well enough to answer questions. Another soft issue here is that applicants in addition to their applications will also need to show the source funds. These additional hinges are designed by the Home Office to reduce fraudulent applications.

Genuine Entrepreneur Test

tier 1 entrepreneur visa lawyers london

The genuine Entrepreneur test is a test introduced by the Home office to ascertain that the applicant has the intent and is able to set up and manage the business in the UK. The Home Office applies this strictly and would normally expect to see large volumes of documents demonstrating that the entrepreneur is a genuine entrepreneur. The applicant may even be invited for an interview.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa Business Plan

As mentioned earlier, in line with the genuine entrepreneur test requirement, the applicant will need to prepare a decent business plan to support the application. We have good business plan writers who understand the relationship between the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and business plans. They know what to look out for to make sure that the business plan is immigration and/or Home Office compliant.

Tips for passing the Genuine Entrepreneur Test

  • Prepare your application properly, with a lawyer that knows what the decision maker is looking for
  • Show the viability and credibility of the source of your investment funds
  • Draft your business plan appropriately either yourself or with a professional that you can trust
  • Undertake relevant market research and show that you know your marker place
  • Recognize the shortfalls in your application
  • Provide relevant supporting documents for any claimed qualifications/work experience
  • Be credible and consistent

Criminal Record

From 1st September 2015, you and adult dependents must provide an overseas criminal record certificate for any country you have resided in continuously for 12 months or more, in the 10 years prior to your application.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Lawyers London

For applicants switching from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa or a Tier 1 post-study work visa category to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, they may need to prepare and submit their application whilst in the UK. However, where an applicant is not in the UK and cannot switch in-country, the initial application for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa should be made from the country of origin of the applicant or where they hold leave to remain. An unsuccessful application may be challenged through an administrative review request to the Entry Clearance manager.

Such request is reviewed by the Entry Clearance manager and is either accepted or rejected.

Entry Clearance As Tier 1 Entrepreneur
Switching Into Tier 1 Entrepreneur
Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Extension
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) As A Tier 1 Entrepreneur
Dependants of Tier 1 Entrepreneur

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

It is possible for an International Student on a Tier 4 to swtich to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur without going back to his country as long as such an individual has access to at least GBP 50,000 pounds from any of the following:

  • More than one registered venture capital firms under the regulation of the Financial Services Authority; or
  • More than one entrepreneurial seed funding competitions in the UK that is endorsed by the UKTI; or
  • More than one more Government Departments or Devolved Government Departments in the United Kingdom, which is made available by the Department(s) for the specific purpose of establishing or expanding a business in the country

Appointments made through one of Home Office's partners i.e. VFS, at one of their various locations, can be rearranged with them. Please see the guidance for your appointment country at: https://www.gov.uk/find-a-visa-application-centre. However where you have made your appointment using your online application you will need to make a new application.

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