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Getting your UK entrepreneur visa: Seven tips on passing the genuine entrepreneur test

In January 2013 the Home Office introduced the ‘Genuine Entrepreneur test’ for individuals seeking to enter or remain in the UK under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category. The entrepreneur category is designed for those who have access to the relevant level of funds (whether this is £50,000 or £200,000) and who also intend to run a business in the UK. The genuine entrepreneur test has been added to ensure that individuals applying in this category genuinely intend, and are able, to set up and run a business in the UK.

The test is applied strictly and the Home Office expects to see a large volume of supporting documentation as proof that the applicant is a genuine entrepreneur. Even a genuine entrepreneur will find it difficult to pass the test, and may find themselves invited for interview, or have their application refused if it is not properly prepared.

Latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal that currently 51% of all Tier 1 Entrepreneur entry clearance applications are refused by the Home Office.  In order to try and address this, our immigration barristers have put together their top 7 tips for passing the genuine entrepreneur test.

Tip 1: Prepare your application properly

It may sound obvious, but it is important that any application for entry clearance or leave to remain in the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category is prepared carefully and supported by specified supporting documents. The Immigration Rules now contain very detailed requirements and each of these requirements must be satisfied with mandatory specified documents in an appropriate format and with specific information included. If any item of information is missing or a document is not in the correct format then your application will be refused.

If you are not aware of the specified requirements of the Immigration Rules, we strongly recommend that you seek professional legal advice before you submit your application.

Tip 2: Show the viability and credibility of the source of your investment funds

In order to show that you genuinely intend to invest your money into your business or businesses in the UK, you must make sure that you demonstrate the viability and credibility of the source of your investment funds.

If you are relying on your own funds, then your application will be strengthened if you show the source of the funds in order to confirm that the money is genuinely available to you, and will remain available to you until such time as it is invested in your business. This is particularly important if you have held your investment funds for less than 90 days.

Tip 3: Draft your business plan appropriately

In order to show that you are genuinely intending to establish or take over a business in the UK, it is important that you prepare and draft an appropriate business plan. There is no mandatory format, but your business plan should contain detailed information addressing issues such as your proposed business, the proposed market and your marketing strategy.  It should also include a competitor analysis, set out staff recruitment policies and incorporate full financial projections.  It is important that any figures quoted are accurate, realistic and consistent with the documentary evidence provided.

You may wish to seek professional help with preparing your business plan, but it is important that you get involved in the process too. Doing so will provide you with an opportunity to ensure that your business plan is accurate. Being involved in this process will also help you to prepare for your entrepreneur interview, should you be called for one.

Tip 4: Undertake relevant market research

As part of your business plan, it is likely that you will consider the market for your product or service; however, the importance of this section must be emphasised. When deciding whether or not you are a genuine entrepreneur, one of the matters that the Home Office will be looking to assess will be the viability of your proposed business. The Home Office will do some very basic – sometimes overly simplistic – research of their own into your business and the market for your product or service. They might, for example, search for the number of competitors that there are in the area where you intend to base your business. It is therefore very important that you are able to provide accurate market research information in your application which, ideally, should be backed up with supporting evidence.

Tip 5: Recognise the shortfalls in your application

When you are preparing your application, you should try to identify any weaknesses (actual or potential) and take steps to address these prior to submitting your application. This could involve obtaining industry specific experience, conducting extra research or taking professional advice about establishing and running a company in the UK. If you are overseas, it may be advantageous to apply to come to the UK as a Business Visitor first, in order to undertake business meetings and research in the UK, before applying for an Entrepreneur visa. You will have to return home prior to making your Entrepreneur application, but the activities that you engage in whilst in the UK may assist you to satisfy the genuineness and credibility test.

Tip 6: Provide relevant supporting documents for any claimed qualifications/work experience

If you are intending to rely upon your academic qualifications or work experience, it is important that you provide supporting documents for your claimed qualifications and/or work experience in order to show that you are genuinely able and intend to operate your business in the UK. For example, if you are relying on a relevant academic degree, you should provide your original degree certificate. Alternatively, if you are relying on previous work experience, you should provide a contract of employment, payslips, P60’s and/or a letter from your previous employer.

Tip 7: Be credible and consistent

Make sure that any information that you provide to the Home Office as part of your supporting documentary evidence is consistent with your business plan, your market research and your proposed business activity.

For further advice or assistance with preparing an application for entry clearance or leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant, or satisfying the genuine entrepreneur test, contact our immigration barristers in Covent Garden, London on 0203 617 9173 or by email


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