Embarking on the journey of setting up a business in the UK is an exciting opportunity, and the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa is a crucial step for many entrepreneurs. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the eligibility criteria, application process, extension requirements, and offer valuable tips to increase your chances of success. Gain the confidence you need to navigate the complexities of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa process and turn your UK business dreams into reality.
Table of Contents
Please note: The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa was replaced by the Innovator Visa. As of 2023, the Innovator Visa has been further replaced by the Innovator Founder Visa.
a. Importance of Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Guidance
When it comes to applying for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, having the right guidance is essential to improve your chances of success. The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application process can be complex and challenging, with strict eligibility criteria and requirements that must be met. This guidance will help you understand the process and requirements, ensuring that you are well-prepared for your application and can avoid potential pitfalls and common mistakes.
b. Overview of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa was a UK immigration route designed for individuals who wished to invest in, establish, or take over a business in the UK. Applicants were required to have access to at least £200,000 in investment funds, or £50,000 if they were receiving funding from specific sources such as a registered venture capital firm, a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition, or a UK government department.
Successful applicants were granted an initial stay of three years and four months, with the possibility of extending their stay for a further two years if they met certain criteria. The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa also offered a route to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and British citizenship, subject to specific requirements.
However, it is important to note that effective from March 29, 2019, the Innovator visa UK has replaced the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. In terms of paragraph 245DB(a) of the Immigration Rules, the existing Tier 1 Entrepreneur migrants in the UK can continue to apply for the extension and settlement under the route till 5 April 2023 and 5 April 2025, respectively. This guidance will focus on the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa for those who are still eligible to apply for extensions and settlement within the specified deadlines.
Before being replaced by the Innovator visa in March 2019, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa was introduced in 2008, replacing other business immigration routes like the Businessperson and Innovator routes. From 2008 to 2018, a total of 80,801 Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa applications were decided, with an average success rate of 59.20%. It is important to note that the success rate for dependants’ applicants was generally higher than that for main applicants.
2. Eligibility Criteria for Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
a. Investment Funds
To be eligible for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, applicants needed to have access to at least £200,000 in investment funds. These funds could either be their own money or sourced from a third party, such as a family member, business partner, or an angel investor. Alternatively, applicants could qualify with £50,000 in funding if they received it from a registered venture capital firm, a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition, or a UK government department.
The funds needed to be held in a regulated financial institution and must have been freely transferable to the UK. Additionally, applicants were required to provide evidence that the funds were available to invest in a new or existing UK business.
b. English Language Requirement
Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa applicants were required to prove their knowledge of the English language. This could be demonstrated by:
- Passing an approved English language test at CEFR level B1 or above in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
- Holding a degree taught in English, which was equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD, as verified by UK NARIC.
- Being a national of a majority English-speaking country, as defined by the UK Home Office.
Applicants needed to provide evidence of their English language ability as part of their application.
c. Maintenance Funds
In addition to the investment funds, applicants were required to have a certain amount of money available to cover their living expenses while in the UK. This is known as maintenance funds. The exact amount depended on the applicant’s circumstances:
- If the applicant was applying from outside the UK, they needed to show they had at least £3,310 in available funds.
- If the applicant was applying from inside the UK and was already on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, they needed to show they had at least £945 in available funds.
The maintenance funds needed to be held in the applicant’s personal bank account for at least 90 consecutive days before the date of application. Applicants were required to provide bank statements as evidence of their maintenance funds.
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3. Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Application Process
a. Genuine Entrepreneur Test
As part of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application process, applicants were required to pass the Genuine Entrepreneur Test. This test was designed to assess the credibility and viability of the proposed business venture. The Home Office would evaluate various factors, such as:
- The applicant’s background, experience, and qualifications relevant to their business idea.
- The viability and credibility of the business plan.
- The applicant’s knowledge of the UK market and their research into the industry.
- The availability of the required investment funds.
To pass the Genuine Entrepreneur Test, applicants needed to demonstrate that they genuinely intended to establish, take over, or become a director of a UK business within six months of obtaining their visa.
b. Business Plan
A well-prepared business plan was an essential part of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application. The business plan needed to outline the applicant’s proposed business activities, market research, marketing strategies, financial projections, and operational plans. It should also demonstrate how the applicant would meet the job creation requirements of the visa.
The business plan should be clear, concise, and well-structured, making it easy for the Home Office to assess the credibility and viability of the proposed business venture. A strong business plan could significantly improve the chances of a successful visa application.
c. Application Form and Supporting Documents
Applicants were required to complete the relevant Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application form, either online or on paper, depending on their location and circumstances. Along with the application form, applicants needed to submit various supporting documents, including:
- Evidence of investment funds, such as bank statements or a letter from a financial institution.
- Proof of English language ability, such as test results or a degree certificate.
- Evidence of maintenance funds, including bank statements.
- A detailed business plan.
- Any other relevant documents, such as a CV, qualification certificates, or letters of endorsement.
It was crucial for applicants to ensure that all the required documents were submitted in the correct format and within the specified timeframes to avoid delays or refusals.
4. Tier 1 Entrepreneur Extension
a. Job Creation
One of the main requirements for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur extension was job creation. To qualify for an extension, applicants needed to demonstrate that they had created at least two full-time jobs for settled workers in the UK. These jobs should have lasted for at least 12 months and provided a minimum of 30 hours of work per week.
Applicants were required to provide evidence of job creation, such as employment contracts, wage slips, and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) documents, to prove that they had met this requirement.
b. Business Investment
Another crucial requirement for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur extension was business investment. Applicants needed to show that they had invested at least £200,000 (or £50,000, depending on the initial investment) in their UK business. The investment should have been made within the first three years of the applicant’s stay in the UK under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category.
To evidence this investment, applicants had to submit financial documents, such as business bank statements, audited accounts, or invoices, showing that the funds had been spent on the business’s qualifying expenses.
c. Extension Application Process and Timeline
The application process for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur extension involved completing the relevant application form and submitting the necessary supporting documents. Applicants also needed to pay the applicable fees and, in some cases, undergo biometric enrolment.
The Home Office aimed to process Tier 1 Entrepreneur extension applications within eight weeks from the date of submission. However, processing times could vary depending on the complexity of the case and the volume of applications at the time. It was essential for applicants to submit their extension application before their current leave expired to maintain their legal status in the UK while their application was being processed.
5. Changes to Tier 1 Entrepreneur Rules
a. 2016 Rule Changes
In 2016, the UK government introduced several changes to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa rules. Some of the most significant changes included:
- The introduction of a “genuineness test” for initial applications and extensions, requiring applicants to prove that they were genuine entrepreneurs with a credible business plan.
- The requirement for applicants to provide a detailed business plan as part of their application.
- The introduction of an accelerated settlement route for applicants who could demonstrate that their businesses had created 10 full-time jobs for settled workers or generated a turnover of at least £5 million during their three-year stay in the UK.
These changes aimed to tighten the eligibility criteria and ensure that only genuine entrepreneurs were granted visas under this category.
b. 2019 Rule Updates
In March 2019, the UK government replaced the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa with the Innovator Visa and Start-up Visa categories. These new visa routes aimed to attract innovative entrepreneurs and start-up founders to the UK, with a focus on scalable, high-growth businesses.
Some key differences between the new visa categories and the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa include:
- The introduction of an endorsement requirement, where applicants need to be endorsed by a UK higher education institution or a business organization with a history of supporting UK-based entrepreneurs.
- The investment funds requirement for the Innovator Visa is £50,000, significantly lower than the £200,000 or £50,000 required for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa.
- The Start-up Visa does not have a specific investment requirement but requires applicants to demonstrate that they have a genuine, innovative, and scalable business idea.
Despite these changes, Tier 1 Entrepreneur migrants in the UK were allowed to continue applying for extensions and settlements under the route until 5 April 2023 and 5 April 2025, respectively, as per paragraph 245DB(a) of the Immigration Rules.
6. Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Interview Questions
a. Tips for a Successful Interview
To increase the chances of a successful Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa interview, applicants should keep the following tips in mind:
- Be prepared: Thoroughly review your business plan and be ready to discuss it in detail, including your financial projections, marketing strategy, and growth potential.
- Be honest: Answer questions truthfully and provide accurate information about your background, experience, and intentions for your business.
- Be confident: Speak confidently about your business idea and how it will contribute to the UK economy.
- Show your knowledge of the UK market: Be prepared to discuss the specific market conditions and opportunities in the UK that make it an ideal location for your business.
- Be organized: Bring all required documents to the interview, including your business plan, proof of investment funds, and any other supporting evidence.
b. Common Interview Questions
During a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa interview, you may be asked a range of questions related to your business and your intentions in the UK. Some common interview questions include:
- What is your business idea and how did you come up with it?
- What research have you conducted on the UK market and your competitors? How
- How will your business benefit the UK economy?
- How do you plan to fund your business and meet the investment requirements?
- What is your marketing strategy, and how do you plan to acquire customers?
- How many jobs do you expect to create, and what types of roles will they be?
- What are your long-term goals for your business in the UK?
- What is your professional background, and how does it relate to your business idea?
- Have you ever run a business before, and if so, what was the outcome?
By preparing for these common questions and being ready to discuss your business plan in detail, you can increase your chances of a successful Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa interview.
7. Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa for Indian Applicants
a. Special Considerations for Indian Applicants
Indian applicants applying for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa may face some unique challenges and considerations. Here are a few special points to keep in mind:
- English Language Requirement: As an Indian applicant, you may need to prove your English language proficiency through an approved test, such as IELTS, PTE, or TOEFL. Ensure that your test results are within the acceptable range to meet the visa requirements.
- Investment Funds: The source and transfer of investment funds may be subject to additional scrutiny for Indian applicants. Be prepared to provide clear documentation and evidence of the source of funds and their transfer to the UK.
- Documentation: Indian applicants may have different formats of documents, such as financial statements or educational certificates. Make sure to have them translated (if necessary) and certified as per UKVI requirements.
- Networking: Networking with other Indian entrepreneurs in the UK can provide valuable insights and connections to help you navigate the business environment and increase your chances of success.
b. Success Stories and Tips
Several Indian entrepreneurs have successfully obtained Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visas and established thriving businesses in the UK. Here are some tips derived from their success stories:
- Research and planning: A well-researched and detailed business plan is crucial for a successful Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application. Spend time understanding the UK market, competitors, and potential opportunities.
- Adaptability: Be prepared to adapt your business model to suit the UK market, taking into account cultural differences, consumer preferences, and local regulations.
- Networking: Utilize networking opportunities to connect with other Indian entrepreneurs in the UK, as well as local business organizations and resources, to help grow your business.
- Patience and perseverance: The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application process can be challenging and time-consuming. Be patient and prepared to overcome setbacks in order to ultimately achieve success.
By taking these special considerations and tips into account, Indian applicants can improve their chances of a successful Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application and business venture in the UK.
8. Transitioning from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
a. Requirements and Process
Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa holders may transition to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa if they meet certain requirements and follow the correct process. Here are the key points to consider:
- Investment Funds: The applicant must have access to at least £50,000 in investment funds, which can be a combination of personal funds and funds from an endorsing body, such as a UK higher education institution or a UK government department.
- Genuine Entrepreneur Test: The applicant must pass the Genuine Entrepreneur Test, demonstrating that they have a viable and credible business idea, a well-prepared business plan, and relevant experience or qualifications.
- English Language Requirement: The applicant must meet the English language requirement, which is generally satisfied through the previous Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa application.
- Maintenance Funds: The applicant must provide evidence of maintenance funds to support themselves and any dependents during their stay in the UK.
The application process for transitioning from a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa involves submitting the relevant application form, paying the required fees, and providing the necessary supporting documents, such as evidence of investment funds, a business plan, and maintenance funds.
b. Differences between Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
There are several key differences between the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa:
- Investment Funds: The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa requires a minimum investment of £200,000 (or £50,000 in some cases), while the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa does not have a specific investment fund requirement.
- Duration of Stay: The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa initially grants a stay of up to 3 years and 4 months, extendable for a further 2 years, whereas the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa grants a stay of up to 1 year, extendable for an additional year.
- Job Creation: The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa has a job creation requirement, with the applicant needing to create at least 2 full-time jobs for settled workers in the UK. The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa does not have a job creation requirement.
- Settlement: Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa holders can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after 3 or 5 years, depending on their level of investment and business growth, while Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa holders must transition to another visa category, such as the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, to eventually apply for settlement.
Transitioning from a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa provides the opportunity for graduates to continue developing their business ventures in the UK, while working towards settlement and potentially obtaining British citizenship.
9. Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
a. Requirements for ILR
Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa holders can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after completing the required period of continuous residence in the UK, which is usually 5 years. However, some applicants may be eligible for accelerated settlement after 3 years, depending on their level of investment and business growth. The main requirements for Tier 1 entrepreneur visa to ILR include:
- Continuous Residence: The applicant must have completed a continuous period of 5 years in the UK as a Tier 1 Entrepreneur or a combination of qualifying visa categories. For accelerated settlement, the required period is 3 years.
- Investment Funds: The applicant must have invested the required minimum funds into their business (£200,000 or £50,000, depending on the initial application).
- Job Creation: The applicant must have created at least 2 full-time jobs for settled workers in the UK, lasting for at least 12 months each.
- Knowledge of Life in the UK: The applicant must pass the Life in the UK Test, demonstrating their knowledge of British culture, history, and values.
- English Language Requirement: The applicant must provide evidence of their English language proficiency, usually through a valid English language test certificate or a degree taught in English.
- Absences: The applicant must not have spent more than 180 days outside the UK in any 12-month period during their qualifying period of continuous residence.
b. ILR Application Process and Timeline
The ILR application process for Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa holders involves the following steps:
- Gather Supporting Documents: The applicant must compile the necessary supporting documents, such as evidence of investment funds, job creation, maintenance funds, English language proficiency, and Life in the UK Test results.
- Complete Application Form: The applicant must complete the relevant ILR application form, either online or in paper format, providing accurate and up-to-date information.
- Pay Fees: The applicant must pay the required ILR application fees, which are subject to change and may vary depending on the method of submission (online or postal).
- Biometric Information: The applicant may need to provide biometric information, such as fingerprints and photographs, as part of the application process. Submit
- Submit Application: The applicant must submit the completed application form, fees, and supporting documents to the UK Home Office for processing.
The processing time for ILR applications can vary, but most applications are processed within 6 months. Some applicants may be eligible for expedited processing through the Home Office’s premium or super premium services, which offer a decision within a few days or even on the same day.
Once granted ILR, Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa holders can live and work in the UK without immigration restrictions and may be eligible to apply for British citizenship after meeting further residency and naturalization requirements.
10. Common Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Refusal Reasons
a. How to Address Refusal Reasons
Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa applications can be refused for various reasons. Some of the most common Tier 1 entrepreneur refusal reasons include:
- Insufficient or Inappropriate Investment Funds: Ensure that you provide clear and comprehensive evidence of your investment funds, such as bank statements, share certificates, or loan agreements, and that the funds are genuinely available for investment in the UK business.
- Inadequate Business Plan: Your business plan should be detailed, well-researched, and feasible. It should clearly demonstrate market research, financial projections, and a solid marketing strategy. If your business plan was a reason for refusal, consider revising it with the help of a professional business consultant.
- Failure to Pass the Genuine Entrepreneur Test: The Home Office may question the credibility of your business idea or your intentions as an entrepreneur. To address this, provide more evidence of your business experience, market research, and the viability of your business proposal.
- Insufficient Evidence of English Language Proficiency: Ensure you submit a valid English language test result, a degree taught in English, or proof of being a national of a majority English-speaking country.
- Inadequate Maintenance Funds: Provide clear evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependents in the UK without recourse to public funds.
b. Reapplying after a Refusal
If your Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application is refused, you may reapply by addressing the refusal reasons and submitting a new application with the appropriate supporting documents. Here are some tips for reapplying:
- Carefully review the refusal letter: Understand the reasons for refusal and take appropriate steps to address them in your new application.
- Gather additional evidence: Collect further documentation to support your application and address any shortcomings identified in the refusal letter.
- Seek professional advice: Consider consulting with an immigration lawyer or specialist who can help you navigate the application process and improve your chances of success. Revise
- Revise your application: Make necessary changes to your application based on the feedback received from the refusal letter and any professional advice you have obtained.
- Submit a new application: Once you have addressed the refusal reasons and gathered the necessary supporting documents, submit a new Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application.
Note that a fresh application requires payment of the application fees again, and there is no guarantee that the new application will be successful. However, addressing the refusal reasons and providing the necessary supporting documents can significantly improve your chances of success.
a. Importance of Thorough Preparation for Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Application
Thorough preparation is essential for a successful Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application. A well-prepared application not only demonstrates the viability of your business idea but also showcases your commitment and ability to contribute to the UK economy. Paying attention to the eligibility criteria, preparing a strong business plan, gathering the necessary supporting documents, and practicing for the visa interview can significantly improve your chances of success.
b. Achieving Success with Proper Guidance and Planning
Navigating the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application process can be complex, but with proper guidance and planning, you can increase your chances of obtaining the visa. Seeking advice from immigration specialists or experienced entrepreneurs who have gone through the process can provide valuable insights into what to expect and how to present a compelling case to the Home Office. Ultimately, success in the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa process is a combination of thorough preparation, a viable business idea, and a strong understanding of the UK market and business environment.