Can I Switch to a Start-up Visa from My Entrepreneur visa?
If you are currently on an Entrepreneur visa in the UK, you may be wondering what your future options are if you wish to stay in the country. The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa scheme came to an end on 29th March 2019 and was replaced by the Innovator visa. It is still possible to extend your visa if it is due to expire, assuming certain criteria have been met. In this article, we will discuss your immigration options, including extending your current visa or switching to another visa type.
Extending the Entrepreneur Visa
If your Entrepreneur visa is due to expire, you can apply for an extension if you:
- were registered as a director or as self-employed no more than six months after the date you were given permission to stay in the UK under a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa
- can prove you’ve been self-employed, a member of a partnership or working as a director of a business three months before you apply
- you have created at least two full-time jobs that have existed for at least 12 months
- you can continue to financially support yourself
- you must have invested into one or more UK businesses either £200,000 or £50,000 (depending on which funding level your initial application was based on).
The fee to extend your Entrepreneur visa is £1,277.
Can I switch from a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa to a Start-up visa?
Unfortunately, it is not possible to switch to a start-up visa from a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. The only visas which can be switched to the start-up visa are:
- the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) – not the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. If you switch from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, you do not need to prove that your business is a new idea with potential for growth.
- any Tier 2 visa, including the General work visa (Tier 2), Health and Care visa (Tier 2), Intra-company Transfer visa (Tier 2), Minister of Religion visa (Tier 2), and the Sportsperson visa (Tier 2)
- Tier 4 (General) student visa, and the;
- Standard Visitor visa – (the Home Office guidance states that anyone considering this switching option will need a supporting letter from an endorsing body to prove they are looking for funding)
There are other switching options available for Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa holders, however.
Switching from the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa to Another Visa Category
If you are currently on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and are considering other business-based immigration routes, the Innovator route may be the most suitable. The Innovator visa is specifically designed for experienced business people from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and who wish to run a new or already established business in the UK. One of the key benefits of the new Innovator visa is that it is possible to secure indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after only three years, rather than the five years required under most visa schemes. With ILR you will be able to remain in the UK permanently and can apply for British citizenship after a further twelve months. In addition, you will not need to make further visa applications, and you will be exempt from paying the NHS healthcare surcharge of £400 per year for yourself and each of your family members.
If you are setting up a new enterprise, you will need at least £50,000 in investment funds. If you already have a viable and sustainable business in the UK, as may be the case if you currently hold an Entrepreneur visa, you may not need investment funds. This will also be the case if you have changed your business and already agreed this with your endorsing body.
The eligibility criteria for a Start-up visa are as follows:
- your already established business or your new business idea must be endorsed
by an approved body[PM2] . The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that your business idea is either:
- new – it is not possible to join or invest in a business that is already trading
- innovative - you must have an original business idea which is different from anything else on the market
- viable, with potential for growth
- if your business is new, you will need £50,000 in investment funds
- you must meet the English language requirement – if you are not from a qualifying English speaking country or if you do not have an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD, then you will need to pass an English test at CEFR level B2 in reading, writing, speaking and listening
- you must have evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself (£945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply). This money cannot come from investment funds.
It is also possible to share investment funds in order to secure an Innovator visa. If you are considering this route, the immigration rules state that you can form a ‘team’ with other Innovator visa applicants, and each person must have investment funds of at least £50,000 (e.g. a team of three would need a total investment fund of £150,000). It is not, however, possible to share the same investment funds.
The UK continues to provide an unrivalled environment in which to set up an innovative and successful business enterprise. If you are currently in the UK on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and are considering your options for staying here, it is recommended that you speak to immigration Solicitors who can explain your options based on your circumstances, goals, and those of your immediate family members. It may be that you are already close to meeting the qualifying criteria for ILR, or there is another visa type which is more suitable for your needs. An immigration Lawyer can also prepare your application on your behalf, and handle any questions raised by the Home Office, giving you the best possible chance of securing a positive outcome.
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