If I Get Funding for My Business During My Studies, Can I Switch from a Study Visa to an Entrepreneur visa?

If I Get Funding for My Business During My Studies, Can I Switch from a Study Visa to an Entrepreneur visa?

Every day, we receive a wide range of immigration questions from migrants to the UK.  One such question from a current Tier 4 visa holder sought clarification on the rules for switching to an entrepreneur visa if business investment funding was secured while studying.  In this article, we will discuss the newer replacement for the entrepreneur visa, the financial requirements which must be met, and how to secure endorsement for an innovative business idea.

The Phasing Out of the Entrepreneur Visa

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa was phased out on 29th March 2019, while the Tier 1 (graduate entrepreneur) visa came to an end on 6th July 2019.  It is still possible to apply for an extension of an entrepreneur visa, but not a new initial application. 

The entrepreneur visa was replaced by the innovator visa, and the graduate entrepreneur visa was replaced by the start-up visa. 

Can I Switch from a Tier 4 Study visa to an Innovator or Start-up Visa?

There is no option to switch from a Tier 4 study visa to an innovator visa, but it is possible to switch to the start-up visa.

To make the switch from the Tier 4 (General) student visa, you will need to satisfy a number of requirements, including:

  • That you are over 18 years of age
  • You meet the English language requirement (if you have a degree or post-graduate qualification taught in English, you will not need to pass an English language test)
  • You must have enough personal savings to support yourself while you're in the UK - this requires that you have at least £945 in your bank account for 90 days consecutively before you apply.                    

The most important eligibility requirement for a start-up visa is, however, that your business idea is endorsed by the UK endorsing body.

How Can I Secure Endorsement for my Business Idea?

The idea of the endorsement process is to provide the Home Office with the confidence that your business idea is genuinely innovative, and that you, therefore, should be granted an innovator visa.  The benchmark for endorsement is relatively high, and ideas that do not meet the strict requirements of the endorsing bodies will be rejected. 

There are several endorsing bodies in the UK whose role it is to assess your business idea.  Most specialise in different areas of industry and commerce, and are, therefore, well placed to listen to your ideas and offer a professional opinion.  Each has its own rules regarding the locations of businesses they assess, the dates of their intake, and which business types they will consider.  Given the range of endorsing bodies, you will need to select which is most appropriate for your proposed idea, and then approach them for consideration.

The endorsing body you choose will assess your idea based on several factors.  They will assess how innovative, viable, and scalable your business maybe and must be satisfied that:

  • The business plan was written and will be carried out by you, and;
  • You are either the sole founder or an instrumental founding member of the business, and;
  • You will spend the majority of your time on the business

When assessing whether your idea is innovative, they will look at whether you have a genuine and original business plan that either meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.  Viability will be determined by how much you are actively developing the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary, and market awareness to successfully run the business.  Scalability can be proven by showing evidence of long-term planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.

It is clear, therefore, that the strength of your business plan will determine whether you are awarded endorsement.  If you are unsure how to prepare a business plan for endorsement, speak directly to the endorsing body in the first instance as they will be able to provide you with an outline of their requirements and provide guidance.  Immigration Solicitors also understand how endorsing bodies assess business plans and will be able to assist you and assess what you have prepared before it is submitted.

If the endorsing body is fully satisfied that you meet the criteria, then they will provide you with a formal letter of endorsement, which can then be used to prepare the rest of your start-up visa application.

See also: 'The Start Up and Innovative Visa Endorsement [Basic] - Expert advice'

Do I Need Investment Funds for My Innovative Business Idea?

Unlike the innovator visa, as a start-up visa applicant, you do not need to invest funds to secure a visa.  What matters is that you have an endorsed idea.  That said, depending on your idea, sector, and endorsing body, you may need to provide evidence of the availability of investment funds to make your business plan viable and scalable.  In some cases, endorsing bodies may require a minimum level of start-up funds to be available to you before considering you for endorsement. 

How can I apply to switch from a Tier 4 student visa to a start-up visa?

The application process for a start-up visa is completed online.  In addition to the application form and endorsement process, you will also need to have your biometric information taken at a local UKVCAS office; this involves having your fingerprints, signature, and photo taken for the purposes of creating a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).

Final words

Having worked hard during your studies in the UK, and after coming up with a new and innovative business idea, you will naturally be keen to ensure your application for a start-up visa goes without a hitch.  It is not unknown for truly innovative ideas to lead to a refusal for a start-up visa due to poor preparation of the business plan.  Don't let this happen to you.  By taking longer to prepare and check your plan, and have it critically appraised from the relevant angles, you should be reasonably reassured of receiving a positive outcome.  We wish you all of the very best with your application for a start-up visa.

Related Article:  SOC codes explained



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