Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Guidance


The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa has closed to new application and has been replaced by the new Innovator visa aimed at experienced entrepreneurs setting up business in the UK.

The UK remains an attractive option for ambitious entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their business opportunities overseas. As one of the world’s major established trading nations, companies based in the UK have ready-access to global markets, and the British start-up scene is thriving.

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa was designed to attract and allow non-EEA nationals to come to the UK to set up and develop a business. Despite the welcome appearance however, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa has an application refusal rate of 48%. While it may be tempting to attribute the high number of rejections to stringent Home Office decision-making – errors, omissions and mistakes with applications do result in a refused visa. With expert Tier 1 entrepreneur visa guidance however, applicants can ensure their applications meet the required standards and follow the required process first time round.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Guidance: Eligibility

To qualify, applicants must:

  • Be non-UK and non-European nationals intending to set up or take over the running of a business in the UK
  • Plan to invest the minimum investment amount
  • Have a genuine and credible business idea
  • Have the skills and knowledge to make the business viable
  • Meet the English language and maintenance funds requirements

Investment Funding

As a minimum, you have to show in your application that you have access to at least £200,000 to invest in a UK enterprise. There are extensive evidentiary requirements in relation to the funds, including proof of source of funds and proof that the funds are under your control and disposable for investment in the UK.

It may be possible to rely on a lesser investment amount of £50,000 if you have already made the investment within 12 months of making your application, or where the source of the £50,000 funds is a UK government department, DIT-endorsed seed fund or an FCA-registered venture capital firm.

Sharing investment funds

There are alternative options to build the necessary capital. You can opt to share the same investment funds by forming an ‘entrepreneurial team’ with another Tier 1 Entrepreneur applicant. The same criteria apply for teams as they do for solo applicants; as a team you each must meet all the eligibility criteria, though you will not be able to use the same funds on another application with a different entrepreneurial team.

‘Genuine Entrepreneur’ test

The Genuine Entrepreneur Test was introduced as a subjective means for the Home Office to assess Tier 1 applicants and the credibility of their application in an attempt to minimise fraudulent applications. To pass the Genuine Entrepreneur test, you must be able to demonstrate that:

  • You genuinely intend to and are able to establish, take over or become a director of one or more businesses within six months of coming to the UK;
  • You genuinely intend to invest the money in the business (or businesses);
  • That your investment funds are genuinely available and will remain available to you; and
  • That you do not intend to take any other employment in the UK other than working in your own business.

This can be a challenging test for applicants to evidence, requiring extensive and comprehensive documentation to support the application and satisfy Home Office scrutiny.

If you are accepted for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, you can work in and for your business. However, if you’re self-employed you will need to ensure that your work meets the criteria of self-employment. In addition, you won’t be able to carry out any work outside of your business, such as being employed by another company.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa Guidance: Making your application

If applying for your Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa from outside the UK, you need to apply online and submit your biometric information (your fingerprints and photograph) at a visa application centre.

You will then need to provide the following documentation and supporting evidence:

  • Your current passport (with a blank page on both sides for your visa);
  • Evidence of the investment funds available to you (the viability of credibility of the money’s source will be verified);
  • A sound strategic business plan that demonstrates thorough market research and knowledge of your chosen business sector;
  • Evidence that you can support yourself during your stay: this includes having at least £3,310 of personal savings for 90 days before you apply

Other supporting evidence includes:

  • Proof that you meet the English language requirement, which can be demonstrated in several ways – through passing a test, or by having an academic qualification taught in English (equivalent to a UK degree)
  • Your tuberculosis test results (if you’re from a country where you have to take the test); and
  • A criminal record certificate from any country you have stayed in for a total of 12 months or more over the last 10 years.

The final stage will be attending your visa interview.

For Visa Guidance – contact DavidsonMorris!

As with running your business, applying for a visa is a complex process. With the stakes so high and considerable risks involved, it’s crucial to seek Tier 1 Entrepreneur guidance from professional immigration specialists, to get your visa application right and enable you to realise your business plans.

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa lasts for a maximum of three years and four months, after which time an extension is required if you want to remain in the UK operating your business. Utilising the services of an  immigration lawyer during your initial 3 years will provide the necessary Tier 1 Entrepreneur guidance on how to prepare for your extension application.

DavidsonMorris specialise in Tier 1 Entrepreneur applications. We work with applicants from across the world seeking to enter or remain in the UK by establishing, investing in or taking over a business here.

We provide 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 and appealing refusals. 

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa lasts for a maximum of three years and four months, after which time an extension is required if you want to remain in the UK operating your business. We continue ot support our clients throughout their 3 years to ensure they are sufficiently prepared for the extension application.

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.

Contact DavidsonMorris
Get in touch with DavidsonMorris for general enquiries, feedback and requests for information.
Sign up to our award winning newsletters!
Find us on: