Tier 1 Start-up visa

What is the Tier 1 Start-up visa?

The Tier 1 Start-up visa was introduced on 29 March 2019 replacing the former Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa/Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. The Tier 1 Start-up visa is for non-EEA national entrepreneurs who wish to set up a business in the UK.  This new visa has replaced the former Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa/Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. Applicants must show that their business idea is innovative, viable and scalable and they must secure an endorsement from a UK higher education institution or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs. A significant difference is that there is no longer a funding requirement. In the past, Applicants had to show that they had at least £50,000 to invest in their proposed business. The application is broken down into two stages. Applicants must first apply for an endorsement from an approved industry body and then apply to the Home Office for the visa. Applicants can still apply for Tier 1 Entrepreneur extensions until 5 April 2023 and settlement until 5 April 2025.

What are the requirements for a Tier 1 Start-up Visa?

Applicants who wish to apply for a Tier 1 Start-up visa must meet the requirements listed under Appendix W of the Immigration rules. To summarise, Applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old on the date of the decision;
  • Be of good character and not fall under the general grounds for refusal;
  • Not have a history of overstaying except for any period of overstaying allowed under the Immigration Rules;
  • Pass the credibility assessment (see below); and
  • Meet the English language and maintenance requirements (see below).

It is important to submit a well-prepared application with all the mandatory documents. Our Immigration solicitors can advise on the requirements and application process.

What is the Tier 1 Start-up credibility assessment/endorsement requirement?

The Home Office will no longer carry out a genuine entrepreneur test in reviewing an Applicants business idea. Immigration practitioners often questioned and criticised the Home Offices’ approach in conducting the genuine entrepreneur test. As a result, the Home Office has now introduced a credibility assessment/endorsement requirement for the Tier 1 Start-up visa. Applicants secure an endorsement from a UK higher education institution or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs. Applicants are required to submit their business idea alongside a detailed business plan to a relevant endorsement body. The endorsement body will review whether the business is innovative, viable and scalable. The endorsement body must provide a letter to the Applicant confirming the details listed under Appendix W of the Immigration Rules.

What is the Tier 1 Start-up English language and maintenance requirement?

Applicants must show that they have sufficient knowledge of the English language by passing an English test at level B2 of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework. In the alternative, Applicants can meet the English language requirement if they have obtained an academic qualification which was taught in English or if they are from a majority English speaking country.

Applicants must show that they have at least £945 in savings to meet the maintenance requirement. The money must be held for a consecutive 90 days with the last statement dated 31 days before the date of the application.

Is it possible to switch into a Tier 1 Start-up visa?

In some circumstances, Applicants can switch into the Tier 1 Start-up visa from within the United Kingdom.  In order to switch into this visa Applicants must have been last granted leave (visa) as a:

  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) migrant (who has not yet been granted 2 years’ leave in the category);
  • Tier 2 migrant;
  • Tier 4 (General) student; and
  • A visitor who has been undertaking permitted activities as a prospective entrepreneur, as set out in Appendix V.

Successful Applicants will be granted a visa for 2 years. Similar to the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa, this route does not lead to settlement (Indefinite leave to remain).


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