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How to switch from a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur to a Start-up Visa

If you are in the UK as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant you might be asking yourself what to do next. You might be on your first year and have intended to extend for a second year, or you might have put together those £50,000 of investment funds and were planning to switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category.  Don’t worryyou still have options, including the new Start-up visa.

What are the options for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs?

If you want to enter or extend as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) you can, but you will need to obtain your endorsement letter by 5 April 2019, and apply by 5 July 2019. If you are set on the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) track, you can also still switch from Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) to Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or switch from Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) into the Start-up visa category and then Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) until 5 July 2021. In either case, you will need to apply to extend as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) by 5 July 2025 and apply to settle by 5 July 2027.

However, if you miss the 5 April 2019 deadline for obtaining your endorsement letter to extend as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), you should consider switching into its replacement: the Start-up category.

This will likely be the easiest transition for you to make and you can do it without leaving the UK. It may be worthwhile if you would like more time to work on your business and gain experience, or time to put together funds before switching into the Entrepreneur or Innovator routes, or if you simply aren’t sure if your current business idea is viable. You should be aware, however, that like Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) the Start-up visa is not a route to settlement.

What are the requirements for a Start-up visa?

In my previous posts, I ran through the General and the Specific Requirements for the Start-up visa.  Below, I’ve raised parts of the requirements specifically applicable to Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrants.

The first endorsement criterion is to show that you have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is supported by an endorsing body.  

  • Innovative: you must have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage
  • Viable: you must have, or are, developing the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business
  • Scalable: you must show evidence of structured planning and potential for job creation and growth into national markets

Since you are here as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) you have already proven that you had a genuine and credible business idea which has been officially endorsed by either a UK higher education institution or the Department for International Trade. If you would like to receive an endorsement from the same body that previously endorsed you, luckily for Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrants, you do not have to show an innovative, viable and scalable business idea. You simply need your endorsing body to confirm your business venture is genuine and credible. This is likely placed in the Rules to smooth over the transition between the categories.

If you had wanted to extend your Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) leave at the one-year point you would in any case have needed a new endorsement letter from your higher education institution or from the Department of International Trade confirming you had made satisfactory progress in developing your business. If you would have been eligible to extend on that basis, having the endorsing body instead confirm your business venture is genuine and credible should not pose too great a difficulty.

If you are relying on an endorsement from a different endorsing body (which you can) you will again need to prove and the body will need to confirm in its letter the innovation, viability and scalability of your business venture.

In either case your endorsing body must confirm the second of the criteria is met, i.e. that you will spend the majority of your working time in the UK developing business ventures. One of the reasons that it might be better to switch into Start-up before Innovator or Entrepreneur, is that you will also be allowed to work for a business other than one you have established.  This may be advantageous if you need a part-time job to supplement your income while your start-up is getting off the ground if it has not yet broken even.

One point to note as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Migrant is that you cannot rely on the fact that you met the English language requirement when you were granted that leave. To meet the B2 English requirement, you will need to fall back on your degree which should be at least the equivalent of a UK bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, you may meet the English language requirement if you were previously in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student. There are different documents required depending on how you meet the English language requirement.

What will the length of the Start-up visa be?

As a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) switching into the Start-up category you will receive the remainder of 2 years minus the period already spent in the UK as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur). You cannot extend once you have hit a 2-year total combined  period in the Start-up and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories.

If you are worried the period of leave granted as a Start-up will be quite short, one option for you to consider is switching directly from Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) to Innovator, which would place you on a 3-year route to settlement. Alternatively, you can still switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route to settlement, which will give you an initial period of 3 years, and then the possibility to extend for a further two years.

Deciding whether you should switch into the the Start-up, Innovator or Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category is a difficult decision and will depend on your particular circumstances, including the availability of investment funds, whether you would like to undertake employment other than for your business, and whether and how soon you wish to settle in the UK.

Contact our Direct Access Immigration Barristers

For expert advice in relation to an application under the Start-up, Innovator or Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) categories, contact our Immigration Barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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