The UK has one of the world’s most diverse and productive economies, and there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to make their mark on the nation’s markets (not to mention making a fortune). In order to help drive the national economy forward, and to attract investment from overseas, the UK government provides a special visa application for individuals who are looking to start a business in the UK, or to invest in one. The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is designed to permit applicants who have the necessary funds, experience and drive to set up shop in the UK and begin trading; it comes with several key requirements which differentiate it from the general Tier 1 visa.
We’ll explore the different requirements of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa throughout this article, and examine what it is, who it’s for and how it can be applied for. Anyone looking to apply for a visa should make sure they fully understand the process before putting any plans in place, and should read through the detailed information supplied by the Government on their website.
What is a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa?
An entrepreneurial visa is specifically targeted to immigrants who are coming to the UK in order to become part of the economic landscape. As such, the rules and regulations related to these applications are somewhat different to those which surround general applications, and reflect the different criteria for entrepreneurial applicants.
In broad strokes, an entrepreneurial visa requires that the applicant demonstrates access to sufficient funding to start a business or invest in one, and grants them leave to remain for 40 months. During this time, the applicant must work for the business they’ve invested in, or for themselves; they cannot leave to find other employment or earn any money “on the side”. We’ll explore these criteria in more detail, but this overview serves to illustrate that the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is specifically designed to cater to a certain type of applicant, and that it’s not quite so simple as having a certain amount of money in the bank.
Criteria For Applying for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
There are three basic requirements which must be fulfilled before applicants will be approved for this type of visa. Applicants must be:
- Looking to set up or run a business in the UK
- From outside the EEA (European Economic Area) or Switzerland
- Meet the eligibility requirements for application
The first requirement highlights the specific reasons for application, and defines the character of the applicant; they must be intending to move to the UK for the specific purpose of beginning OR running a business. The application process is different for citizens of EEA member states, and the border agreements with these countries are typically more straightforward - this is why the applicant must not be from these countries, because a separate process is in place. Finally, they must meet the eligibility requirements, which determine whether they fit the strict criteria for applicants under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa system.
Who Can Apply for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa?
There are several key areas which must be fulfilled for applicants under this visa scheme, and the requirements presented by the Government provide an idea of who will be approved. We’ll cover each requirement in turn, to provide an overview of what’s needed when applying for an entrepreneurial visa.
The Tier 1 Visa system operates on a system of “points”, which are awarded based on different attributes the applicant has. These are covered in more detail in our overview of the Tier 1 visa system, but in general terms these points are awarded for higher education, higher income, experience of working in the UK and age (under-30s are awarded higher points). Applicants for the entrepreneurial visa must score at least 95 points, which is higher than the 80-point threshold for general Tier 1 applications. This reflects the higher scores which are expected of a “typical entrepreneur” (i.e. they will have a high income, some higher education and be fairly young).
Funding for Entrepreneurship
If you’re coming to the UK to start or run a business, you’ll have to prove that you’re able to finance your activities. Therefore, applicants will need to provide evidence of their funding. The ways in which this can be proved varies, with two different thresholds for different methods. Firstly, if the applicant has been awarded funds from an FCA-accredited venture capital firm,a UK Department of International Trade seed-fund competition or a UK Government department, they will need to have at least £50,000 in funding. This can be seen as a lower “bar” to entry for applicants who have received certain types of funding, those which are likely to benefit the nation and society.
The second criteria applies to those who are self-financed, or who are backed by a third party. In this case, because the money isn’t tied up in a regulated fund, the amount must total more than £200,000, and be held within the UK.
In both cases, if the money has been invested in a UK business within the last 12 months, it’s still possible to “count” it towards the visa application. A Tier 1 entrepreneur visa can only be applied for 3 months in advance, so this presents plenty of leeway for investors looking to apply after setting up a business.
Documents to Provide
As with any visa application it’s important to provide evidence of any claims made on the application form. For an entrepreneurial application, the following documents will need to be provided:
- A business plan
- A current passport
- Evidence of investment funds
- Evidence that you can support yourself
- A criminal record certificate
If any of these documents aren’t in English, a certified translation must be provided. In addition to this documentation a fee must also be paid; this is £960 if applied for in person, and £1,200 if applied for via post or email.
Tier 1 Entrepreneurial Visa Form
This form of visa clearly demonstrates that the UK fosters a spirit of international entrepreneurship, and helps provide a route for overseas talent to make their way in the UK.