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Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Changes Announced

Mar 14, 2019
Last Updated on May 22, 2024

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and Tier 1 (Graduate) Entrepreneur Visa are to end and be replaced by “Start-Up” and “Innovator” routes.  This was announced by a Statement of Change to the Immigration Rules published on 7 March 2019.

The Statement of Change is 296 pages long, with most changes taking effect on 29 March 2019 or the 6 April 2019.

What should I do now if I want to submit Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application before 29th March 2019?

If you wish to apply for a Tier 1 (Graduate) Entrepreneur Visa or a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa before 29th March 2019, it is imperative to contact us immediately so we can collate the information you need and submit your application immediately.  Those who already hold a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa must be mindful of the cut-off dates for applying for an extension and settlement so they do not miss the deadline.

How will the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa change?

New Start-up and Innovator categories for those coming to the UK to set up a business will replace the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) categories.

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes stated:

“The changes we are introducing today include two new visa routes that enhance the UK’s offer to overseas entrepreneurial talent:

“The Start-up visa, announced by my rt hon Friend, the Home Secretary, in June 2018, will provide for those starting a new business for the first time in the UK.

“The Innovator category will be for more experienced business people who have funds to invest in their business.

“Both new categories will build on the endorsement model which has proved successful in our Graduate Entrepreneur and Exceptional Talent routes. Business experts, rather than the Home Office, will assess applicants’ business ideas for their innovation, viability and scalability, to identify those that will bring the greatest benefits to the UK. These organisations will include business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers.

“These new routes will replace the existing Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur routes, which have attracted some high-quality businesses, but the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route also has a long tail of low-quality projects which contribute little or nothing to the wider UK economy. We will keep the existing routes open for a transitional period to allow those who are already in them to extend their stay and settle if they meet the existing requirements.”

Those wishing to apply for entry to the UK through the Start-Up or Innovator route will need to show that they:

  • have been endorsed by organisations “such as business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers”
  • will have an ongoing relationship with the body endorsing them
  • speak English to a B2 level (currently B1 is required)
  • have a credible business plan
  • have £945 in their bank accounts for 90 days prior to applying

 Application criteria specific to the Start-Up category

The Start-Up Visa will replace the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa.  The latter will close on 6 July 2019.  The explanatory note states:

“The Start-up category is an expanded version of the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category. It is for those starting a new business for the first time in the UK. Applicants will not need to be graduates and will not need to have secured any initial funding. Successful applicants will be granted 2 years’ leave (doubled from 1 year) and will be able to progress into the Innovator category to continue developing their businesses in the UK after that time.”

Specific requirements for entering the UK via the Start-Up route include:

  • applicants for entry clearance or leave to remain must have been endorsed by an endorsing body listed on the website
  • the endorsement letter must comply with what is stated in Part W5 of the new Appendix W of the Immigration Rules
  • the endorsement letter must confirm that the applicant has:
    • a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage
    • the necessary skills (or they are developing the necessary skills), knowledge, experience, and market awareness to successfully run the business
    • evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets
  • confirmation that the endorsing body is “reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing business ventures”.

Application criteria specific to the Innovator category

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa will meet its demise on 29 March 2019.  The explanatory note for the replacement Innovator category states:

“The Innovator category is intended for more experienced businesspeople. As well as an endorsement, applicants will need £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source (reduced from £200,000 for most applicants in the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category). The funding requirement will be waived for those switching from the Start-up category who have made significant achievements against their business plans. The category may lead to settlement in the UK.”

Again, the applicant must provide a letter of endorsement from an approved endorsing body listed on the website.  Unlike the Start-Up Visa requirements, an applicant for the Innovator Visa will need to prove they possess the necessary skills and, whilst Start-Up applicants only need to show growth into national markets, Innovator’s need to show they can scale internationally as well.

Can I apply for settlement in the UK under the new Start-Up and Investor routes?

For those entering the UK on a Start-Up Visa, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is not available.  Applicants must transfer to an Innovator Visa.

Those on an Innovator Visa will be eligible for ILR after three years providing they meet two out of three criteria related to turnover, jobs created, and the amount of money invested.

Can I still apply for an extension on my Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa?

Extensions on Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visas will be available until 5 April 2023.  ILR via this route will remain open until 5 April 2025.

A Y & J Solicitors are specialists in immigration law based in central London. If you would like more information about applying for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, please contact us at [email protected] or call +44 20 7404 7933.

Disclaimer: No material/information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Readers should seek an appropriate professional advice for their immigration matters.

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