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Guidance and FAQs: Tier 1 UK Entrepreneur visas

If you are an entrepreneur looking to set up business in the UK you will be interested in entrepreneur visa opportunities. The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa closed to new applicants on the 29 March 2019 but entrepreneurs have the option of applying for the Start-up visa, Innovator visa or Global talent visa. This article looks at the visa options for those who’ve already been granted leave in the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, the next steps you could take to meet your business goals, and when to employ the advice of an experienced business immigration solicitor.   

Who can still make applications under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa scheme?

 Although the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category has been closed to new applicants since the 29 March 2019 it is still an important visa option if you have already been granted leave in the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa categories.

The Home Office guidance on Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas states that:

  • Entry clearance applications will only be accepted if you have held Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) leave in the past twelve months.
  • Leave to remain applications will only be accepted if you were last granted Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) leave.
  • Dependants can still apply to join you if you hold a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa.
  • Extension applications for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holders are open until the 5 April 2023.
  • Settlement applications for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holders are open until the 5 April 2025.
  • Switching applications for Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa holders are open until the 5 July 2021 and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) extension applications will remain open for these individuals until the 5 July 2025, and settlement applications until the 5 July 2027.
  • If you are a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa  holder and you want to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain you must not only ensure that you don’t have excessive absences from the UK but that you can also meet the specific Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) ILR requirements for an Indefinite Leave to Remain application.

Why was the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa closed to new applicants?

On 7 March 2019 the Home Office announced that the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category would close to any new applications made on or after the 29 March 2019. The rationale behind the decision to close the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa scheme was the introduction of two new visa routes for those wanting to enter the UK to set up business, namely:

The Tier 1 (Start-Up) and Tier 1 (Innovator) visas are contained within the new Appendix W of the Immigration Rules.

If you are interested in applying for a Start-up visa or Innovator visa read our guide to the Start-up visa and our guide to the Innovator visa.

How to switch from the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to the Start-up visa

The start-up category is designed for new entrepreneurs who intend to start a business in the UK for the first time. If you have a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa then you can apply to switch to a Start-up visa. The key eligibility criteria for the Start-up visa are:

  • You must obtain an endorsement from a Home Office approved endorsing body. To secure endorsement the endorsing body must review your business idea and be satisfied that the business is innovative, viable and scalable and confirm that you will devote your working time to the new business.
  • You must meet the English language skills requirement.
  • You must have maintenance funds of at least £945 held for a minimum of 90 consecutive days or your endorsing body must confirm that they have awarded sufficient maintenance funds in their endorsement letter.
  • You must be at least eighteen at the time of the application's decision.

The Start-up visa can be granted for up to two years. However, if you switch to a Start-up visa from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa after one year on the graduate visa then you can receive leave of one additional year.

How to switch from the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa to the Innovator visa

The Innovator visa is intended for experienced business people who intend to create or run a business in the UK. If you are in the UK on a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa or a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, or a Start-up visa, you can apply to switch to an Innovator visa provided you meet the Innovator visa eligibility criteria. 

The key eligibility criteria for the Innovator visa are:

  • Endorsement from a Home Office approved endorsing body that must assess your business plans as innovative, viable and scalable and confirm that you will spend your working time in the business.
  • You have invested or are able to invest a minimum of £50,000 in your new business through one of the approved means. This could be an endorsement letter confirming the funds, or a signed declaration from a UK organisation employing a minimum of ten people stating their relationship with you, the amount of funds being made available and that those funds are to be used solely for your business.
  • You must meet the English language skills requirement.
  • You must have maintenance funds of at least £945 held for a minimum of 90 consecutive days or your endorsing body must confirm that they have awarded sufficient maintenance funds in their endorsement letter.
  • You must be at least eighteen at the time of the application's decision.

Innovator visa and switch applications can be granted a visa for up to three years. You can apply to extend your Innovator visa. The Innovator visa can lead to settlement in the UK.

What are my visa options if I am on a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa?

If you are in the UK on a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa then you will understandably be anxious about the closure of the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa scheme. You do however have a number of visa options:

  • You can switch into the new Start-up visa category if you have not yet received your two grants of leave.
  • Until the 5 July 2021 Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa holders, including those who choose to switch into the Start-Up visa, can switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa route.
  • Until the 5 July 2025 if you are on a graduate entrepreneur visa you can apply for extensions of your visa and, once you meet the settlement eligibility criteria, you have until the 5 July 2027 to make a UK settlement application.

Switching from the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa 

Although the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa route is closed to new applicants you can still apply for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa if you hold a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, and you meet the eligibility criteria for the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, and you make your application before the cut-off date of the 6 July 2021. Business immigration solicitors recommend taking legal advice on your visa options beforehand, as the Start-up visa or Innovator visa may be more suitable for you.

To meet the eligibility criteria for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa you must have funds of at least £50,000 to invest in your UK business and have a business plan. If you are switching from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to a Start-up visa you don’t need a minimum level of investment funds but you do need endorsement by a Home Office approved endorsing body. The choice of visa routes and different eligibility criteria mean that it is best to take specialist legal advice on which visa suits your business needs, provides the most flexibility, whilst also meeting your settlement goals.

For more information on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa and your switch options to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, Start-up visa or Innovator visa you can read the government guide to the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa

Can I extend my existing Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa?

If you’re in the UK on a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, your visa remains valid even though the visa route is closed to new applicants. If you want to apply to extend your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa or to settle in the UK then you can do so but you should ensure that:

  • You take legal advice to ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for settlement in the UK on a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa or the eligibility criteria for an extension of your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa.
  • You make your application before your existing Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa expires so that you are not classed as an ‘overstayer’.

 What are the deadlines for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa settlement and extension applications?

 If you are in the UK on a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa you not only have to remember the date of the expiry of your visa but also the deadline for applications under the closed Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa route. The deadlines are:

Type of Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa applicationDeadline for the application
Extension applications for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa5 April 2023
Settlement application5 April 2025

Do I meet the eligibility criteria to extend my Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa?

If you want to apply to extend your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa it is essential that you meet the extension eligibility criteria, namely:

  • You need to have been registered as a company director or as a self-employed person no more than six months after the date you were given your permission to stay in the UK under your first Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa.
  • You need to be able to prove that you’ve been self-employed, or a member of a partnership, or working as a company director of a business three months before you apply for the visa extension.
  • You need to have created at least two full time jobs in your self-employed business that have existed for at least twelve months.
  • You need to be able to continue to support yourself and your dependants.
  • You must have invested either £200,000 or £50,000 in cash into one or more UK businesses. The amount depends on the level of funds used for the initial Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa application.

If you are living in the UK with dependant family members on dependant visas it is important to include your dependants in your application to extend. This includes any children who have turned eighteen during their stay in the UK.

How long does a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application take to process?

Business immigration solicitors say that it normally takes about eight weeks for the Home Office to process your extension application. The important thing is to ensure that the extension application is submitted prior to the expiry of your visa.

You may find that the Home Office take longer to process your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application if they have queries about the application or your circumstances. For example if:

  • Your supporting documents need to be verified.
  • The Home Office believe that you need to be interviewed in person in connection with your extension application.
  • There are personal circumstances (such as a criminal conviction) which need to be considered and discussed.

How much does a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application cost?

If you apply to extend your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa then there are two fees payable, namely:

  • £1,277 Home Office application fee
  • £19.20 biometric information fee (for fingerprints and photograph)

What are the rules on working on the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa?

The Immigration Rules state that whilst on an entrepreneur visa you can't be employed by a business other than the one that you have set up or taken over as part of your entrepreneur visa application. This means you can't take a second job with an employer whilst also running your own business. The Immigration Rules permit studying in certain circumstances.

How can you best ensure a successful Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa extension application?

Any visa extension application can be worrying but it is especially so if you are applying for an extension of a visa in a category that is closed to new applicants. That is why we’ve put together some tips on how best to make a successful Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application below:

  • Allow time to prepare your extension application and documents. Whether or not you are working with a business immigration solicitor it takes time to prepare a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application and get all the supporting paperwork in order. It is essential that your extension application is submitted before the expiry of your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa as otherwise you will be classed by the Home Office as an overstayer and this may affect your chances of securing a visa extension. The Immigration Rules state that your visa expiry date is the deadline for when you must either apply to extend your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa or leave the UK. Under paragraph 39E in the Immigration Rules, you can only extend the time to submit your extension application by fourteen days but only if there is a good reason outside your control as to why the extension application was late.
  • Consider the timing of your extension application. The timing of your Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa extension application may be important if you have plans to travel abroad for business or personal reasons whilst the Home Office is assessing your extension application. The normal time for an extension application to be processed is around eight weeks but it can take a lot longer if your application is complex or there are Home Office backlogs.
  • Be organised with your extension paperwork and visa supporting documents. Whilst you may be one of those people who sorts things out at the last minute, when it comes to your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application it pays to be prepared. That is because the Home Office require sight of quite substantial paperwork when making an extension application and locating the correct documents can hold up your visa extension application.
  • Make sure your accountant is organised and accredited. When you apply for an extension of your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa the main point you must prove is that the business you set up or joined is both genuine and financially successful. The Home Office requires proof of the success of your business from a reputable accountant and has therefore produced a list of accountant qualifications from whom they are prepared to accept the business financial accounts when assessing your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application. The list includes the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. When applying to extend your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa the important point to remember is how essential it is to work with your accountant to ensure that they have the necessary paperwork to sort out your accounts.
  • Double check your maintenance requirement funds. When dealing with a complex extension application it is easy to forget the minutia of the Immigration Rules relating to your extension application. When applying for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension you must prove that you have the required amount of maintenance funds and that you have held them in an account for at least ninety days.
  •  Consider your long-term plans. If you are planning to make a UK settlement application, then when you submit your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application it is a good time to review the eligibility criteria for settlement after entry on a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. That is to ensure that once you have been in the UK for the relevant period that you meet both the general eligibility criteria and the criteria specific to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holder applying to settle in the UK. In addition, it is worth taking legal advice to see if you meet the criteria for accelerated UK settlement allowing you to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after three years rather than the standard five-year residence requirement.
  • Take legal advice on your Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa extension application. When it comes to visa extension applications the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa extension application is one of the most complicated because of the personal and business documents required in support of your extension application. That is why it can be best to take specialist professional advice on your extension application.

What next?

If you are in the UK on a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa and need advice on your visa options our business immigration solicitors can help. For support, call us on 0800 689 1700, email us at enquiries@hjsolicitors.co.uk,  or fill out the short form below with your enquiry.

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