Guide to the UK Tier 1 Visa


Tier 1 visas for high value migrants 

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 is for high value migrants and covers entry of investors, entrepreneurs, graduate entrepreneurs and those very few people who are eligible to make an exceptional talent visa application.

Note that the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa is closed to new applicants, and the Tier 1 (General) visa has been withdrawn altogether.

Tier 1 visa for Investors

Tier 1 (Investor) is for high net worth individuals who wish to make a substantial financial investment in the UK. The requirements on applicants were tightened significantly in March 2019.

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 or civil 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.

Visas for Entrepreneurs

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route is closed on 29th March 2019 to new applications. It has been replaced by the Innovator visa and the Start Up visa.

Tier 1 visa for Graduate Entrepreneurs

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa is closing to new applications on 6th July 2019. New applicants should consider the Start Up visa, which launched on 29th March 2019.

The graduate entrepreneur visa is a route for UK graduates that are deemed to have developed a genuine and credible business idea, 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.

Making a Tier 1 visa application – DavidsonMorris can help!

The Tier 1 scheme offers many benefits to visa holders, including the opportunity to bring family members to the UK with you and the potential to apply for a British passport where qualifying criteria are satisfied.

Applications are however demanding. The specific Tier 1 visa requirements will be determined by the route in question, and will include stringent qualifying criteria in addition to meeting general grounds for UK admission.

With endorsement a mandatory requirement for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent and the new Start Up and Innovator routes, applicants must ensure the quality and impact of their submissions at both the endorsement and Home Office visa application stages.

DavidsonMorris specialise in UK Tier 1, entrepreneur and business visa applications. We work with applicants from across the world looking to pursue business opportunities in the UK, whether that is to invest in or start up and take over the running of a UK-based enterprise.

We provide advice on the most appropriate visa class for your circumstances, support through the initial stages, advising on eligibility and suitability of the Tier 1 or alternative visa routes, as well as options for any dependants, through to detailed support with compiling your supporting evidence and guidance on visa interviews. We also have specific expertise in entrepreneurial team applications, applying for visa extensions and appealing refusals. 

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 500and 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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