Personal Immigration
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Switching from Graduate Entrepreneur or Start-up to Entrepreneur

As we have previously covered in the Knowledge Centre, the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route will close to new entrants on 5 July 2019. However individuals who have already entered the category will be able to spend the period of time they are granted in the UK or can switch into the Start-up category.

However, individuals who have been granted leave in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category, including those who have subsequently switched into the Start-up visa route, are still able to apply to enter the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category, and will remain able to do so until 5 July 2021, with later closing dates for extension and ILR applications available, in comparison to those who have not held leave in the Graduate Entrepreneur category.

The Entrepreneur route remains open to those who have leave in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category, or those who have had leave in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category in the 12 months before making their application. Similarly, those who have leave in the Start-up category who previously held leave in the Graduate Entrepreneur category or have had Start-up leave following Graduate Entrepreneur leave in the last 12 months before the date of their application are eligible to apply to enter the Entrepreneur category.

Entrepreneur or Innovator?

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) migrants will therefore have the option to apply in either the Entrepreneur or Innovator category. It is important to look at your own individual circumstances when deciding which is the better route for you. However, in general terms, applying as an Entrepreneur, rather than as an Innovator has the following advantages:

  • No requirement to obtain an endorsement before making an application;
  • No limit on the number of places available;
  • Can work in any industry and not just those with an endorsing body available;
  • Only have to create two jobs in order to extend leave and settle;
  • Can potentially apply to settle after three years if they create 10 jobs;
  • Can change business type without having to obtain a new endorsement;

However, for some businesses the Innovator category will be more appropriate, as an Innovator:

  • Does not need to invest the £50,000 funds if they are able to meet two other criteria for settlement
  • Can potentially apply to settle after three years if two of the ILR criteria can be met
  • Have the option to extend their stay even if they have not yet created any jobs in their business
  • Has a more flexible range of criteria to meet (albeit these are all quite difficult) in order to obtain ILR.

Entrepreneur Application

Where someone decides to make an application as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) they will need to demonstrate that:

  • They have access to £50,000
  • They have access to the relevant level of maintenance funds for themselves and their dependants
  • They meet the English Language requirements (someone who has held leave in the Graduate Entrepreneur category will meet this requirement on the basis of their previous grant of leave)
  • They provide the relevant criminal records check, if applying for Entry Clearance
  • They provide a business plan with their application demonstrating how their business will succeed.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applicants have had to meet the ‘Genuine Entrepreneur test’ since January 2013 and this always previously applied to all applicants entering the category, including those who had spent time in the Graduate Entrepreneur route. However, while the requirement to provide a business plan remains in the Immigration Rules, the parts of the rules relevant to the assessment of whether or not an Entrepreneur applicant is genuine, credible and if their business is viable have been removed from both the Entry Clearance and Leave to Remain rules, for those applying to enter for the first time.

It is not clear if their removal from the Rules is a deliberate acknowledgement that those who have spent time in the Graduate Entrepreneur category should have previously had their business idea assessed by their endorsing institution, or whether their deletion from the Rules is entirely accidental.

Contact Our Entrepreneur Immigration Barristers

For expert advice in relation to an application for entry clearance, extension of stay or settlement as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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