The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa is a business visa issued for one year to residents of overseas countries who are graduates that have been officially endorsed as having a credible and genuine business idea to come to the UK to live and establish their business. To apply for this visa, the following criteria must be met:
- Do not take any of public funds;
- Be registered with the police;
- Do not get a job in the UK as a doctor or dentist in training;
- Do not get a job in the UK as a professional sportsperson
- Meet the condition to hold an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate – For candidates aged 18-over when given a visa, or, who will become 18 before the termination of the visa period.
In this article we have explained in details what one should do in order to obtain this visa, the requirements, criteria, application process and other.
Who needs a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa?
This visa is for foreign UK graduates who are endorsed for entrepreneurial skills combined with genuine and brilliant business ideas, and for foreign UK graduates recognized as elite global entrepreneurs, who want to open a business in the UK. They must not be nationals of any of the the European Economic Area (EEA) member states or Switzerland.
Foreign persons who can apply for this visa type, must fulfill the following criteria:
- They must seek to start a business in the UK within the within the following areas:
- Sole ownership;
- In a business that is registered in the UK.
- Must not come from the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland;
How to apply for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur?
Third country nationals will have to go through a certain process in order to be able to obtain the visa. However, though the application process does not change a lot, it still depends on the situation of the visa applicant. A foreigner can obtain the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa in three different ways:
By applying for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa
This application is done when the candidate is out of the UK and wants to enter the country. In such case, they need to apply for an Entry Clearance or visa to enter in Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur.
By switching into Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
This application is done when the candidate is within the UK with another temporary visa (known as Leave to Remain) and wants to switch into Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur from such a visa;
By extending their Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
This application is done when the candidate is within the UK with a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur and wants to stay even longer. The application to extend the stay in the UK should be done right before the end of the existing visa period, not after the expiration of such visa.
Keep in mind that there is no possibility to get an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) – to settle in the UK with this visa type.
Application Process for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
This visa type is somewhat more specific because it has 2 stages of the visa application, as below:
- The Endorsement (validation) – Where one of the following authorized bodies makes the endorsement:
- Higher Education Institution (HEI) that is listed as an authorized endorsing body;
- The Department for International Trade (DIT) as part of The Elite Global Graduate Entrepreneur Programme (Sirius)
- The Visa Application for Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
Stage 1 – The Endorsement
A foreign graduate cannot be known for having a genuine and brilliant business idea, or as an elite global entrepreneur, if the aforementioned competent authorities do not endorse them first.
The endorsement letter is not a visa-alike formal application, but is a document, which shows that the education, capabilities, ideas, creativity and entrepreneurial skills of the candidate are evaluated by competent establishments (UK HEI or DIT).
Conditions to get the Endorsement Letter from a UK Authorized HEI
An authorized UK HEI will issue the endorsement letter, if a foreign UK graduate has:
- A UK recognized Bachelor, Master or PhD Degree – As a replacement, a degree that is qualified as equal to that by NARIC is accepted also;
- Genuine and Brilliant Business Idea;
- The Readiness to Remain in The UK for Working and Developing in That Business Idea;
HEIs are allowed to endorse mostly 1,900 graduates during one year.
Conditions to get the Endorsement Letter from DIT
You will have to fulfill the following requirements in order for DIT to issue you the endorsement letter:
- Have a Degree that is equal to UK Bachelor Degree;
- Have a properly Researched and Developed the Business Idea;
- Answers Questions of the Application Form with information about the candidate, business and team members;
- Prepared a Pitch Desk – Describing the business and a business plan (a short powerpoint or Prezi presentation consisting of introduction, team, problem, advantages, solution, product, traction, market, competition, business model, investing,
- Created a Business Team – usually with up to three members;
- Included links of the LinkedIn profiles of each business team member;
- Prepared a short Video to describe their Business Idea
DIT is allowed to endorse mostly 100 graduates during one year.
Stage 2 – The Visa Application
At this stage, the candidate must be able to comply with the conditions to get a visa. From the moment the candidate gets the Letter of Endorsement (from any of the approved authorities), they are prepared to apply for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa.
The endorsement letter can be used within three months from the date of issuance, so the candidate must apply for the visa in accord to that. This does not mean that the letter needs to be extended after they get the visa, because in case of a successful visa application, the letter becomes valid for as long as the visa is valid. In this case, extension of the period of this letter will be made at the time the candidate applies for visa extension.
Compile the Tier 1 Graduate entrepreneur document file
Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa applicants must fulfill the following conditions:
- Fulfill general requirements of application for UK visa;
- Pass general grounds for refusal;
- Have 75 points for attributes
- Have 10 points for understanding the English language – The Level of English equivalent to B1 level. The candidate is exempt from this requirement if:
- The study program where they took their degree was held in English Language which is qualified by NARIC for equivalence with a UK Bachelor, Master or a PhD Degree;
- They are endorsed by the same UK HEI where they took their university degree;
- Was never issued the following visas:
- Tier 1 (Post-Study Work);
- As a participant in the Fresh Talent Working in Scotland;
- As a participant in the International Graduates Scheme;
- As a participant in the Science and Engineering Graduates Scheme
- The unconditional written consent of the sponsor to the visa application
- Maintenance funds of £945 per month
- Don’t have a history of overstaying in the UK
Requirements for Holders of a HEI Letter of Endorsement
A foreign person with a valid Letter of the Endorsement can apply for a visa if:
- UK recognized Bachelor, Master or PhD Degree
- Endorsement letter from an authorized HEI;
- Approval letter from a financial sponsor – In cases when a candidate was a financially covered student from a Government or from an International Scholarship Awarding Institution (in the last year);
Requirements for Holders of a DIT Letter of Endorsement
A person who is endorsed from DIT must be of the following situations:
- Degree equal to a UK Bachelor degree;
- Endorsement letter from DIT;
- Confirmation letter from NARIC – To confirm the equality of a foreign degree with a UK Degree
Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa Extension
When a candidate wants to stay even longer in the UK as a graduate entrepreneur, beyond the period the existing visa, they should apply for a Leave to Remain (LR) in Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur.
The longest extra period one can get by a LR in this visa category is six other years.
Graduate Entrepreneur extension requirements
A foreign person who is ready to apply for an extension of the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa should:
- Fulfill the criteria to apply for a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur;
- Have 10 points minimum for maintenance – The candidate must give documents to evidence having £1,890 saved, to support himself financially while in the UK.
- Is a holder of a permit to work as a postdoctoral researcher (in the institution issuing the endorsement letter)
Switch to Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
To switch into Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa while being in the UK with the following visas:
- Tier 4 General Visa;
- Tier 2 General Visa – but only if such visa allowed the candidate to work as a post-doctoral researcher for the same UK Institution which issued them the Endorsement Letter
Requirements to switch into Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa are:
- Endorsement letter from an authorized HEI in UK;
- Endorsement letter from DIT;
- Maintenance funds of £945 per month – there is not needed to show maintenance funds if DIT Endorsement covers such costs for the candidate;
- Unconditional written consent of the sponsor to the visa application;
- Bachelor, Master of PhD degree recognized in the UK;
- Biometric Information (fingerprints and photos)
Points of attributions in Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
For candidates applying for EC or LR in Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur):
- 25 Points – are given if the candidate has an endorsement letter from a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI), only if that institution has one of the following statuses:
- Sponsor Tier 4 visa holders;
- Licensed A-class Sponsor for Tier 2;
- Licensed A-class Sponsor for Tier 5;
- Is a degree awarding institution with the authority and competence to find, promote and develop entrepreneurs amongst undergraduates and postgraduates;
- 25 Points – are given for having an endorsement letter from the Department for International Trade (DIT) endorses the candidate;
- 25 Points – if the candidate holds Degree that is recognized in the UK, taken in the UK or abroad, if it is qualified as equal to UK Bachelor Degree (only if confirmed by UK NARIC);
- 25 Points – If the candidate holds The Endorsement Letter – with the approval of the competent endorsing body, indicating that the candidate is qualified as having a genuine and brilliant business idea; and, that they are ready to stay in the UK for working and developing that business idea in a specific business sector (which should be mentioned in the letter).
Financial Means Requirement
The following money should be in a hold of the candidate for their dependents living and accommodation costs. When applying from within the UK the main applicant must show they have at least £945 per month, and £1,890 per month when applying from outside. Whereas, they must show they have at least £945 per month for each of their applicant when applying from within the UK, and £1,890 per month when applying from outside
Maintenance money must be kept in a bank account of the candidate, at least three months before the application.
You will have to submit the following documents in order to prove that you can support yourself and your dependents financially while in UK:
- Personal Bank or other Financial Institution Statements – They must cover a period of three consecutive) months before the application
- Financial Institution Pass Book – Covering the period of three consecutive months before the application
- Letter from a Bank or other regulated Financial Institution – UK (FCA) or other home regulatory body must regulate Bank or Financial Institution for saving accounts;
- DIT Endorsement Letter – If the candidate has a type of Endorsement from DIT, which also covers maintenance costs of the candidate and their dependents, then the they are not needed to give other documents to prove they have enough funds for living in the UK.
The letter should include the period of three consecutive months before the application. It must contain the name of the candidate, their account number, date of letter issuance, name and other official information of the issuing institution, and the amount of money in the account of the candidate.
When the money is in other foreign currency, they must be converted to pounds sterling. Money must be held in the form of cash, both in a saving account or existing account.
Fees for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
The cost of application for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa depends on whether you are applying from within or outside the UK. There are also lower fees for Turkish and Macedonian nationals.
Candidates applying from outside the UK will need to pay a fee of £349, aside of Turkish and Macedonian nationals who will pay a lower fee of £294. Whereas, every applicant will need to pay an extra £294 for each of their dependants is they are planning to bring them to the UK.
On the other hand if the applicant is already in the UK and is applying to switch to or extend their Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa then they will have to pay a fee of £474, while Turkish and Macedonian citizens will have to pay a lower fee of £419. As for dependants, each applicant needs to pay an amount of £474 for each of their dependants no matter of their nationality.
The endorsement letter
The letter should provide the following information:
- Reference number;
- Date of issue and validity;
- Applicant’s name, birthday, nationality, passport number;
- Information for dependant) of the candidate (those inside the UK already and those seeking to join him);
- Name and contact details of the endorsing institution;
- Name and contact details of the authorizing body of the endorsing institution;
- Name, degree level, date of taking the degree;
- Information about the business idea, including business plan and the sector;
- Reason for endorsement of the candidate;
- Confirmation that the candidate’s business idea is genuine and brilliant;
- Confirmation that the candidate plans to remain in the UK in working and developing on that business idea;
- Confirmation that the endorsing institution is contented with the work made by the candidate in developing their business idea (only needed to apply for LR)
Candidates who are Endorsed (given a Letter of Endorsement) from the same HEI where they took their Bachelor, Master or PhD Degree (before being endorsed), they are RELEASED from brining documents to prove their level of education (degree).
Candidates who hold a letter of endorsement issued by DTI or, from another UK HEI must also provide:
- Awarding certificate of qualification – It must be original, with the name of the candidate, the title of the qualification, date of receiving it, the name of the issuing institution – if the candidate has graduated already
- The academic certificate – It must be official and original, with the name of the candidate, title of qualification, date of receiving it (or date they will be receiving it), date of issuing certificate (if candidate yet has not undergone the graduation ceremony), a letter of confirmation from the issuing HEI for the impossibility to reproduce the certificate or awarding certificate of qualification – if the candidate has not undergone yet the graduation ceremony, or, if the Issuing body cannot reproduce the academic certificate;
- The academic transcript – It must be original and official, with the name of the candidate and of issuing HEI, title of the course, and the confirmation of the award – if the awarding certificate of qualification cannot be reproduced
- Academic reference from university – Is allowed as a substitute of aforementioned documents – The issuing university must be that where the candidate took their degree and IT IS TOLERABLE only for candidates who have a qualification in exceptional research areas, i.e., a doctor and they cannot provide original documents, yet such reference must include the aforementioned information.
Degrees not permitted for endorsement in Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa are:
- Foundation Degrees
- Honorary Degrees
- Qualifications Awarded In The UK By Overseas Awarding Bodies
- Qualifications Undertaken At Overseas Campuses of UK Institutions
- Professional And Vocational Qualifications
- Postgraduate Certificates or Diplomas