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Guide

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa

A major part of the Tier 1 visa system is recognising talent and allowing skilled individuals to enter the country. The Home Office recognises that valuable individuals don’t all fit into the same set of criteria, and that there are many individuals with the potential to benefit the UK who may only just be beginning their career. The possibility that these individuals will provide useful talents and skills to the UK in the future makes them worthwhile prospects for immigration, and as such the Graduate Entrepreneur visa has been established to provide a pathway through which they can apply for entry.

This article covers the basic requirements of applying for a graduate entrepreneur visa, as well as the differences between it and other types of Tier 1 visa. This will help potential applicants decide whether this visa is right for them, or whether they should look to other options. Applicants should be sure to turn to the Government’s own website for further guidance on Tier 1 visa applications, as they provide detailed information which is invaluable throughout the application process.

Who is the Graduate Entrepreneur visa for?

A graduate entrepreneur is someone who’s received a degree-level education and is looking to start their own business. The UK stands to benefit by allowing driven, educated individuals to start their businesses in this country, and the fresh influx of talent they provide is valuable for the continued health of the national economy.

It’s important to understand what the graduate entrepreneur visa offers to applicants, and what aspects of it make it suitable for certain candidates. Firstly, applicants should understand that the graduate entrepreneur visa does not lead to settlement, and is not designed to provide a route towards indefinitely remaining in the UK. In fact, the visa only permits applicants to remain in the UK for 12 months (with the ability to apply for a 12 month extension), so it’s not an appropriate visa for making a home in the UK. It is possible to switch to an alternate visa, though, so if the individual’s needs change they can apply for a visa with different terms.

As the name suggests, the graduate entrepreneur visa is geared towards those applicants who intend to start their own businesses. As such, a requirement of the visa is that the applicant works mostly for themselves, on their own business, and though they are permitted to take on part-time work of up to 20 hours a week, they must not exceed this amount.

Who can qualify for a Graduate Entrepreneur visa?

To qualify for this type of visa, applicants must receive an endorsement from a UK-based authority. The number of endorsements which can be made each year are limited, and only accredited institutes are able to issue them; either the Department of International Trade (DIT), or a UK Higher Education Institute (HEI). There are 2,000 endorsements in total available each year, of which 100 are reserved for the DIT and the remainder split between the various UK HEIs. The endorsement will highlight the specific business idea which the applicant will be pursuing, along with details of the sector in which they will be working (businesses which focus on property management or development are not recognised, though construction is).

In addition to being endorsed by one of these authorities, applicants must also hold a Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD qualification. Although international qualifications are recognised (subject to approval by NARIC, the relevant UK authority), equivalent-level vocational qualifications are not - this visa is specifically aimed at graduates with degree qualifications.

Applicants will also need to be able to demonstrate a sufficient level of English language skills to allow them to communicate effectively in the UK. This can be in the form of a test, or a previous qualification. Additionally, if they hold a degree qualification which was taught in English, or they are from an English-speaking country, individuals will not need to provide further evidence of their language skills.

Finally, applicants will need to be able to support themselves initially in the UK, and as such are required to have a minimum level of personal finances in place. Applicants will need to hold at least £1,890 in their bank, which must have been in place for at least 90 days prior to applying for the visa. If the applicant has been granted funding from a UK HEI or the DIT, they may not need to meet this requirement, but will need to provide evidence of their alternate funding.

Costs and Timeframe of a Graduate Entrepreneur visa

Like most Tier 1 visa applications, the graduate entrepreneur visa can only be applied for up to 3 months before travelling. However, the relevant endorsements can be sought before this time, which means that applicants can put the necessary documentation in place before submitting their application. Once an application is made, a decision is usually received within 8 weeks (an endorsement usually takes around 3 weeks to receive a decision).

In addition to holding the necessary funds to fulfil the maintenance requirement outlined above, applicants will also need to pay for their application to be processed. If the application is made from outside the UK, this will cost £342, but if it is made by post or online within the UK, the cost rises to £465.

Documentation

To apply for this visa, applicants will need to supply the relevant proof of their eligibility. This includes the following documentation:

  • A valid and current passport, or an equivalent travel identification document
  • An endorsement letter from the HEI or DIT
  • Bank statements proving that the applicant can meet the maintenance requirements
  • Evidence of the necessary qualifications (if a foreign equivalent degree is used, approval from NARIC must also be shown)
  • Evidence of fulfilling the English language criteria (if appropriate)

By ensuring that all the necessary paperwork is in place as soon as possible, applicants can make the process of applying for a graduate entrepreneur visa as straightforward as possible. It’s important to thoroughly examine the Home Office’s requirements for this visa, and applicants should be sure to read the relevant Government documentation.

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