If you are an international student with a viable idea for a business, you may be eligible to set up your enterprise here in the UK under the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa.
The ‘Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa‘ permits successful applicants to extend their stay in the UK after graduation to establish one or more businesses.
To be eligible to apply for the graduate entrepreneur visa you must:
- Be from outside the EEA and Switzerland.
- Be endorsed by a UK higher education institution, if it is an authorised endorsing agent, or by the Department for International Trade (DIT).
- Hold a UK-recognised higher education qualification such as a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s or PhD.
- Meet the English language requirements.
- Provide relevant supporting documentation. The type of documents will be dependent on whether you have been endorsed by a higher education institution or by DIT.
- Have access and be able to evidence sufficient maintenance funds. The level of funds required depends on where you are applying from; at least £1,890 if applying from outside the UK, and at least £945 for those applying from within. In both circumstances, you must have had access to the funds for 3 continuous months or more.
- Be committed to dedicating most of your working time on the business.
A viable business idea?
The endorsement process will see your business assessed for its entrepreneurial contribution and potential to add to the UK economy through a new and innovative idea. Your entrepreneurial skills and potential as a business leader will also be assessed.
The visa is specifically aimed at graduates. This means you will not be eligible to apply unless you have UK-recognised bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD awarded before your date of endorsement.
The following do not qualify for the visa:
- 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
Endorsement from your University
Authorised universities will invite applications from international students to request endorsement for a graduate entrepreneur visa.
Each university has a limited number of endorsements available, meaning there will usually be a selection process which typically includes a written business plan submission and presentation.
You will need to contact your university for details of the selection process and timescales.
Endorsement from Department of Industry and Trade
Under the ‘Sirius Programme’, the DIT is working in conjunction with a consortium of private companies and charities to identify and support international graduate entrepreneurs with new commercial ventures in the UK.
Successful applications will benefit from a support package to maximise their chances of success.
Applications are typically invited in the autumn for consideration.
Critical to your application will be the documents you provide to support your application. Through this documentation, you will need to prove your business idea is viable and that you meet the eligibility requirements under the visa.
Taking professional advice on what to submit can help ensure you are putting forward the strongest and not omitting essential information.
If you are endorsed
If you are successful in securing endorsement, you must apply online to the Home Office for your visa. This requires submission of evidence that you satisfy the general grounds for leave to enter or remain in the UK.
Switching to the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
You can apply to switch to the Graduate Entrepreneur visa from one of the following categories:
- Tier 4 student
- Student nurse
- Student re-sitting an examination
- Student writing up a thesis
- Postgraduate doctor or dentist
- Tier 2 (General) migrant working as a post-doctoral researcher
Importantly, you must apply to switch before your current leave expires.
Length of stay & settlement
Under the visa, you are permitted to stay in the UK for up to 1 year. An extension is available on application for a further year, provided you continue to satisfy the eligibility requirements.
The graduate entrepreneur visa is not a route to settlement in the UK. You will not become eligible on this visa to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Howeber – after completing your time on the Graduate Entrepreneur visa, you may be eligible to switch to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa and benefit from reduced investment requirement of £50,000.
A DIT endorsement has a faster application time of up to 3 weeks. Higher education endorsement can take up to 8 weeks.
Applications can be delayed if the submission was incomplete (supporting documents missing or not certified) or if you are required to attend an interview.
Your letter of recommendation must state you will be spending the majority of your time on your business. However, you are permitted to take on a second job to help support yourself while in the UK.
You are permitted to set up as either a sole trader, partnership or limited company.
Under the visa you will not be able to access public funds.
Graduate Entrepreneur visa application fees
The application fee for a graduate entrepreneur visa is determined by where you are applying from and whether you are applying to switch visa categories.
Fees are subject to change and you are advised to check the current rate at the time of making your application.
All applications require payment of the Healthcare Surcharge as well as the fee for collecting your biometric data.
Can dependants join you in the UK?
As a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur, you may bring dependants with you, for a fee per person. Again, confirm the current rate when making your application.
Do you need advice with your Graduate Entrepreneur Visa application?
DavidsonMorris is a specialist UK immigration law firm. We are a team of highly experienced legal experts, specialising in advising entrepreneurs looking to set up in the UK on their visa and settlement options. We can help you compile all required supporting documentation and navigate the Home Office application process. If you have any queries about making an application for the graduate entrepreneur visa, please contact us.