The Tier 1 visa route into the UK offers individuals of non-EEA nations to come to Britain for a number of different purposes considered of high value to the UK economy, for example, to set up business, make investments to take up employment as an exceptional talent.
Before proceeding with any Home office application, you should firts ensure you have opted for the most appropriate route for your circumstances and ensure you satisfy the eligibility requirements.
We summarise the various types of Tier 1 visa currently available, and the eligibility criteria applicants have to satisfy as part of the application process.
The 5-tier points based system is the main UK immigration route for foreign migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland to work, train or study in the UK.
Tier 1 of this system covers entry of investors, entrepreneurs, graduate entrepreneurs and those formally endorsed as having exceptional talent.
Note than applications under Tier 1 (General) are now closed.
Tier 1 visa for Investors
Tier 1 (Investor) is for individuals who wish to make a substantial financial investment in the UK. The criteria for this category are set out under paragraphs 245E to 245EF 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 particular Tier 1 visa application. The awarding of points will be conditional on you providing documentary evidence in support.
Under the Tier 1 (Investor) requirements, you must score at least 75 points for attributes. Accordingly, in order to qualify for an initial grant of leave in this category you must have:
- at least £2 million of your own funds, under your control, held in a regulated financial institution and which is disposable in the UK.
- have opened an account with a UK regulated bank for the purposes of investing not less than £2 million in the UK.
You may rely on money that is owned either jointly with, or solely by, your husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner. However, you must have an unrestricted right to transfer and dispose of the money, together with permission to have control of this money in the UK.
Tier 1 visa for Entrepreneurs
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) is the route for migrants who wish to establish, join or take over one or more businesses in the UK. The criteria for this category are set out under paragraphs 245D to 245DF of the Immigration Rules.
For a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa you must score:
- 75 points for attributes
- 10 points for English language
- 10 points for maintenance (funds).
Attributes – to make an initial application under this category, you must either have funds of £50,000 or £200,000, depending on the circumstances, to invest in your UK business. You must show that your money is held in a regulated financial institution and is disposable in the UK. You must also show that the funds are genuinely available to you, that you intend to invest in a business and will not seek other employment. This is known as the “genuine entrepreneur” test.
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.
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.
Tier 1 visa for Graduate Entrepreneurs
Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) is, in broad terms, the route for UK graduates identified as having developed genuine and credible business ideas, and have the entrepreneurial skills to establish one or more businesses in the UK.
The criteria for this category are set out under paragraphs 245F to 245FC of the Immigration Rules. For a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa you must score:
- 75 points for attributes
- 10 points for English language
- 10 points for maintenance (funds)
Attributes – to make an initial application under this category you must be endorsed by a Higher Education Institution if you got your qualification in the UK, or the Department for International Trade if you are an overseas graduate. You must have been awarded a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD, or recognised equivalent, before your date of endorsement.
English language requirement – you will meet this requirement if you have an endorsement from the same institution that awarded your degree or you have a degree level qualification taught in English recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors degree, masters degree or PhD. Otherwise, you can meet this requirement by being a national of a majority English-speaking country or passing an English language test.
Maintenance requirement – if you are outside the UK seeking entry clearance you must have at least £1,890 of personal savings, which you must have held for 90 consecutive days prior to the date of your application. Alternatively, you may be able to get an endorsement from the Department for International Trade to confirm that they have awarded enough funds to you to cover maintenance.
Tier 1 visa for individuals with Exceptional Talent
Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) is the route for highly skilled individuals in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, the arts and digital technology who, by relocating to the UK, will enrich the UK’s knowledge, economy and cultural life. The criteria for this category are set out under paragraphs 245B to 245BF of the Immigration Rules.
An applicant applying for entry clearance as a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) migrant must score 75 points for attributes. This comprises of an endorsement by one of five Designated Competent Bodies according to that Body’s criteria. By way of example, the Arts Council will apply specific criteria for arts and culture.
You may qualify under this route if you are already internationally recognised as having made significant contributions as a leader in your field, or you have demonstrated potential to contribute significantly as a future leader in your field.
Having been granted endorsement, the Home Office will consider the immigration aspects of your application including whether General Grounds for Refusal apply, for example, based on your previous immigration history.
Seeking legal advice when making a Tier 1 visa application
All applications for a Tier 1 visa are subject to General Grounds for Refusal. They are also subject to a limited number of places per year. Accordingly, if you are hoping to establish or invest in a business in the UK, or otherwise relocate to the UK to work, the consequences of having your application rejected can be significant, both financially and professionally.
The Immigration Rules for a Tier 1 visa application are extremely complex and frequently subject to change. An experienced immigration specialist can help you to select the most suitable type of Tier 1 visa and any other available routes. Your expert adviser can also assist with all aspects of your Tier 1 visa application, giving you the best possible chance of a positive outcome.
Do you need help with a Tier 1 visa application?
Before making a UK visa application, take professional legal advice to ensure you have selected the most appropriate route, and for guidance on how to meet Home Office requirements and make a successful application.
DavidsonMorris specialise in Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa applications. We work with applicants from across the globe who are seeking to enter or remain in the UK by establishing or taking over a business here.
We provide advice from the initial stages, 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 entrepreneur form and guidance on the interview.
We also have specific expertise in entrepreneurial team applications, appealing refusals and Tier 1 renewals, and our advice for the initial application will ensure the foundations for any future application to renew your Tier 1 visa.
If you have any questions relating to your application, please contact us.