Tier 1 Entrepreneur Policy Guidance


The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa is closing on 29th March 2019. It is being replaced by the new Innovator route.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Policy Guidance for Applicants 

The five-tier points based system introduced in 2008 is the main UK immigration route for foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to work, train or study in the UK.

Tier 1 of this system is specifically designed for high value migrants, and covers entry of investors, entrepreneurs, graduate entrepreneurs and those very few individuals who are eligible to make an exceptional talent visa application.

This route is intended to promote UK economic growth through innovative and high potential entrepreneurs, whilst at the same time guarding against abuse of the system. Accordingly, the entry requirements set out under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance are designed to be:

  • selective – only genuine entrepreneurs who wish to set up a valid business should be able to meet the entry criteria.
  • effective – the criteria should allow genuine entrepreneurs to set up and grow a business.
  • beneficial – the route should deliver significant economic benefits in the UK, including but not limited to the creation of jobs.

Entry requirements for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa

Prior to making an application, reference should always be made to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance issued by the Home Office, to be read in conjunction with the relevant provisions of the Immigration Rules.

Under the points based system you must meet the full requirements of the Immigration Rules and score a minimum number of points determined by your Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application. The awarding of points will also be conditional upon you providing detailed documentary evidence in support.

For a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application, you must score:

  • 75 points for attributes
  • 10 points for English language
  • 10 points for maintenance (funds)

Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance on attributes

To make an initial application under this category, you must have access to funds of £200,000 to invest in one or more businesses in the UK. This investment threshold can be lowered to £50,000 where funding is provided from an approved source, namely from one the following:

  • registered venture capital firm
  • UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition
  • UK government department

The funding must be held in one or more regulated financial institutions, be disposable in the UK and be held by the applicant for at least 90 days, unless it is being provided by a third party.  All Tier 1 Entrepreneur applicants are also subject to a “genuine entrepreneur test”. Accordingly, you must show.

  • you genuinely intend and are able to establish, take over or become a director of one or more businesses in the UK within 6 months.
  • you genuinely intend to invest the requisite money in a UK business or businesses.
  • the money is genuinely available to you and will remain so until such time as it is spent for the purposes of the UK business or businesses.
  • you do not intend to take employment in the UK other than working in your business.

Further, in your initial application you will be required to provide a business plan, setting out your proposed business activities in the UK and how you expect to make your business succeed.

The viability and credibility of your source of funds, business plan and market research into your chosen business sector, are taken into account as part of the “genuine entrepreneur” test applied by the Home Office.

This test, together with the mandatory requirement for all applicants seeking entry clearance to submit a business plan, were additional measures introduced by the Home Office to tighten the route against suspected abuse.

By way of example, there was evidence to suggest that the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route was being used as a low-cost alternative to the Tier 1 (Investor) route, particularly since the investment threshold on this route was raised from £1million to £2million in 2014.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance on the English language requirement

Unless you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, you will need to satisfy the Home Office of your knowledge of English. This can be achieved by providing evidence of an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors degree, masters degree or PhD. Otherwise, you will need to pass an approved English test prior to submitting your application.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance on the maintenance requirement

You will also need to satisfy the Home Office of your ability to support yourself on arrival in the UK without use of state benefits. If you are outside the UK seeking entry clearance you must have at least £3,310 of personal savings, which you must have held for 90 consecutive days prior to the date of your application. If you are in the UK seeking further leave to remain, you must have at least £945 of personal savings.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance – top tips

When submitting an application for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, expert advice should always be sought from an immigration specialist. However, the following tips may also prove useful.

When you submit your application you must provide all of your documents in support at that time. Any documentation must be originals, not copies, unless stated otherwise. Further, these documents must only be those specified in the Immigration Rules and which are covered by the Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance. The Home Office will not consider unrelated evidence when calculating the points score.

If your situation is unusual or particularly complex, you should include a covering letter with your application to provide an explanation of how you are claiming points, providing clarification on matters either unsupported or unclear from the documentation.

If you are invited for interview, you must attend or provide a reasonable explanation for not doing, otherwise you risk your application being refused. The interview will typically focus on your business plan, and assessing whether or not you will be engaging in genuine business activity. It is therefore crucial that you are well prepared and can answer questions on all aspects of your proposed business.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance DavidsonMorris

If you are hoping to establish, join or take over one or more businesses in the UK, the consequences of having your visa application rejected can be significant, both financially and professionally.

However, the entry and evidential requirements under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance can be complex to interpret and follow. They are also frequently subject to change. Further, following recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee who identified evidence of low quality businesses being established in the UK via this route, further reform may be imminent.

As experienced business immigration specialists, we can provide up to date advice and Tier 1 Entrepreneur policy guidance to ensure your application has the best chance of success.  We work with applicants from across the world, giving advice from the initial stages of the Home Office application process, advising on eligibility and suitability of the Tier 1 visa route and visa options for any dependants, through to detailed support with compiling your supporting evidence, completing the Tier 1 form and guidance on visa interviews. We also have specific expertise in entrepreneurial team applications, appealing refusals and compiling and submitting Tier 1 extension applications.

If you have any questions relating to your application, please contact us.




Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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