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Tier 1 – UK Visa for Investors and Entrepreneurs

Check if you are eligible to come to the UK under a Tier 1 visa 

Tier 1 is one of the immigration routes under the UK’s points-based visa system available to individuals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

Tier 1 is aimed at ‘high value migrants’ such as investors and entrepreneurs who have funds available to set up or invest in a business in the UK, graduates with an endorsed business plan and those deemed to have exceptional talent within their field of expertise. As such, the visas which make up the Tier 1 immigration route offer relatively favourable terms and eligibility requirements for visa holders.

What are the different visas under the Tier 1 visa scheme?

Within the tier 1 visa scheme, there are four separate categories:

We take a brief look at the eligibility and application criteria for each of the Tier 1 visas for investors and entrepreneurs.

Tier 1 visa for Investors

This tier 1 visa is for investors and the eligibility criteria for applications are as follows:

  • You have £2,000,000 or more that you wish to invest within the UK, which is held in one or more regulated financial institutions and is available to spend freely in the UK on business
  • The £2 million investment is the price paid by you rather than the market value
  • You must show source of funds if £2 million has been held for less than 2 years (previously 90 days).
  • You are based outside of the EEA and Switzerland
  • You are over 18 years old
  • You have a UK bank account
  • You have proof that the funds belong to you, your spouse or partner
  • You should meet a minimum points score of 75

How to apply 

When you apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) Visa, you will need to be able to provide the following evidence to support your application:

  • A current and valid passport that has one page that is blank on both sides or travel identification document
  • Proof of your available investment funds – where it’s being held, where it came from (if you haven’t had it for 3 months at least) and that it can be transferred into sterling
  • Results from a negative tuberculosis test if applicable
  • A criminal record certificate if you have stayed in any country for 12 months or more over a 10 year period

Under a Tier 1 (Investor) Visa, the maximum permitted stay is 3 years and 4 months, at which point you would be required to apply to extend your visa for a further 2 years in order to remain in the UK lawfully.

Tier 1 visa for Entrepreneurs

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa is now closed to new applicants. Individuals looking to set up a business in the UK should look at the new Innovator route.

Individuals already in the UK under the Entrepreneur visa have until 5th April 2023 to apply to extend their visa, and until 5th April 2025 to apply for UK settlement under this route.

Start Up visa

The new Start Up visa is for individuals wanting to set up their first business in the UK. It replaces the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, which is now closed to new applications. The Start up visa is open to graduates and non-graduates who can demonstrate high potential, and there is no requirement to show investment funds as part of your application.

How to apply 

The application process for the Start up visa is in two parts. First, you will need to apply to be endorsed by a government approved endorsing body. The application process and specific criteria can vary between bodies, but in general you will need to evidence through a business plan and presentation pitch that your business idea is viable, innovative and scalable, that you have not previously established a business in the UK, unless you are applying to switch from the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category. If you secure endorsement, you have three months to make your visa application to the Home Office.

Innovator route 

The innovator route was introduced in 2019 for experienced business people with a viable UK business idea.

Replacing the previous Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, the UK innovator route requires a lower capital investment than its predecessor (£50,ooo), but endorsement must be secured by applicants from an approved entity before the Home Office visa application can be made.

How to apply 

The first step is to make your endorsement application to the appropriate endorsing body. Your business will be assessed against criteria including innovation, viability and scalability and you will also need to show will be committed to the business and your time in the UK under the visa will be spent wholly in the developing this enterprise. If endorsed, you can then make your visa application.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa 

This tier 1 visa is for exceptional talent and the eligibility criteria for applications is as follows:

  • You work within in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology, fashion or the arts
  • You are endorsed by the Home Office as a recognised leader or an emerging leader in your particular field
  • You are based outside of the EEA and Switzerland
  • You meet a minimum points score of 75

How to apply

Before making an application to the Home Office, you must first secure endorsement from the relevant industry body to confirm your status as ‘exceptional talent’ in one of the following prescribed fields:

  • science
  • engineering
  • humanities
  • medicine
  • digital technology
  • the arts
  • fashion

This is done via an online application form.

If you are successfully endorsed, you can proceed to the next stage, applying to the Home Office for your visa. When you apply for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa, you will need to be able to provide the following evidence to support your application:

  • A current and valid passport that has one page that is blank on both sides or travel identification document
  • An endorsement letter from the Home Office
  • You must be able to provide evidence of your skills, abilities and achievements within your specific field
  • Proof that you have achieved the required English language standard
  • Results from a negative tuberculosis test if applicable

You will be required to pay a fee for both stages in the application process. You can only apply 3 months before you travel. The maximum that you can stay within the UK is 5 years and 4 months if you make your application outside the UK or 5 years if you make your application inside the UK. You can then apply for an extension of up to 5 years.

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 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 alternative business visa options, as well as visas for dependants, through to detailed support with compiling your supporting evidence, completing the application forms and guidance on visa interviews.

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.

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