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When can a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa be a good alternative to a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa?

If you would like to come to the UK to start a business, your first consideration is likely to be a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. However, there are some cases in which the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa can allow entry and future settlement in the UK for individuals working in the digital technology sector without the need for prior investment, and with a lot more flexibility upon arrival.

Tech Nation has been designated by the Home Office to endorse applications for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa from individuals with expertise in digital technology. Tech Nation itself is a Home Office Designated Competent Body which assesses applications from individuals with expertise in digital technology.

Tech Nation Process

There are two stages to the application process for a Tech Nation visa. The first stage is an application for endorsement from Tech Nation. The second is an application to the Home Office for the visa itself via the Home Office website. You must be successful in both of these stages.

Requirements of the visa

Business vs Technical skills

Endorsement from Tech Nation is available for applicants with technical or business skills. The Home Office has addressed the criteria for those with business skills and those with technical skills individually. Examples of those with technical skills include software engineers, hardware engineers, operating system engineers or data scientists. Examples of those with business skills include those with experience as a commercial/business lead, experience of scaling a digital product internationally, or experience of taking a tech company through IPO. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but is intended to give an indication of nature of the categories.

Exceptional Talent vs Exceptional Promise

There are two routes under which you may be endorsed. The ‘Exceptional Talent’ category is for those who have proven to be a recognised leader. The ‘Exceptional Promise’ category is for those who have proven to be an emerging leader. The main difference between these categories is that in order to be recognised as having Exceptional Talent you will need to demonstrate a track record of success, as opposed to being able to provide examples. Further, the Exceptional Talent requires you to have recognition as a leading talent in the industry, as opposed to having the potential to be.

There is no requirement for any specific investment with the Tech Nation visa, unlike the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. Further, the Tech Nation visa requires more limited evidence than the extensive list of specified evidence required for the Entrepreneur visa.

Conditions of the visa


One of the main advantages of this visa is that it allows you to work and change employers, or to be self-employed, without the need for further authorisation. It also allows you to be sponsored for employment in a specific post.

This allows a lot more freedom than the Entrepreneur visa, which requires that you are not employed other than working for the business or businesses that you have established, joined or taken over.


The Tech Nation visa can be granted for up to five years for applications made from inside the UK, and five years and four months from outside the UK. Although ‘up to’ indicates that the visa might well be granted for a significantly shorter amount of time, the maximum length is longer than the normal grant of leave for Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas. These are typically granted for 3 years and 4 months for entry clearance, and 2 years for extensions if your previous grant of leave was as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).


As with the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route, the Tech Nation visa can lead to settlement. The routes for settlement vary depending on whether you have been granted under the criteria for Exceptional Talent or Exceptional Talent. The Exceptional Talent route requires three years before settlement, and the Exceptional Promise route requires five years before settlement.

Under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route, you will only be eligible for settlement after three years if:

  • you have created 10 new full-time jobs;
  • investment from business activity of at least £5 million during your leave as Tier 1 (Entrepreneur); or
  • a net increase in income from business activity to that business of £5 million during a 3 year period in which you have had leave as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant, when compared to the immediate preceding 3 year period.

In all other cases under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route, you will have had to have spent 5 years in the UK as an entrepreneur before you are able to apply for settlement.


Dependants are permitted under the Tech Nation visa, as with the Entrepreneur visa.

Tech Nation vs Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

On many counts, therefore, the Tech Nation visa might well be an appealing alternative to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. It does not require investment, it allows you to seek employment in the UK, and it potentially gives longer grants of leave with shorter routes to settlement.  However, the emphasis on having examples or track records of previous success means that the Tech Nation visa will only be suitable for those relatively experienced individuals who are seeking to establish businesses in the UK; it requires more stringent evidence of experience than the ‘genuine entrepreneur’ test under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route.

It is also worth mentioning that the Tech Nation visa can serve an entirely different function to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. As mentioned above, employment is permitted under the Tech  Nation visa. This means that someone with the requisite experience can apply without intending to immediately establish a business, but in order to pursue employment. An additional advantage is that there is no requirement for a business plan, meaning that even if you are looking to establish a business, an application can be made under the Tech Nation route at a much earlier point in the business planning process.

Contact Our Immigration Barristers & Lawyers

For expert advice in relation to an application under either the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) route, contact our business immigration barristers & lawyers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete 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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