Graduate Entrepreneur Visa – Calling the Young, Bright and Talented to Britain banner


Graduate Entrepreneur Visa – Calling the Young, Bright and Talented to Britain

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There has never been a better time in history for young people to say adieu to corporate life and embark on starting their own business venture.

Many international students who have entered the UK on a Tier 4 (Student) visa have had their eyes opened to the vast opportunities for start-up companies in the UK, and have no desire to miss out by having to go home when their course ends.

Is it possible for a young person to stay in the UK as an entrepreneur? Or is it a privilege only afforded to those with years of life-experience and savings behind them?

The answer to these questions is a resounding yes...and no.

UK graduates with a sound business idea can indeed apply to remain in the UK under the Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) route. To ensure your application is successful, it makes sense to engage an experienced Immigration solicitor to help you with the procedure.

Want to know more? Then read on.

UK Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) Visa – the basics

To apply for a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, you need:

  • a genuine, credible business idea endorsed by an authorised Higher Education Institution (HEI)
  • a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PHD
  • £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK, or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK
  • the required level of English language competence
  • permission to remain in the UK from your financial sponsor if they’re a government or an international scholarship agency and have paid your course fees and living costs in the past 12 months

There is a limit of 2,000 places per year for Tier 1 visas. These are allocated to 100 qualifying Higher Education Institutions and 100 places are held for the Department of International Trade. The places are now open to graduates of all disciplines; previously 1,000 places were reserved for MBA graduates, however this rule has since been removed.

Different Higher Education Institutions are also allotted a certain number of endorsements. For example, the London School of Economics was allotted 15 endorsements in 2014/15. Oxford university, has allocated about 55 visas to its students since they were introduced in April 2012.

Educational institutions differ in how they select students who they believe have developed world-class entrepreneurial ideas or skills. For example, London’s University of Greenwich runs pitching contests, on the basis that being able to effectively covey and sell a business idea is a key skill that entrepreneurs must be equipped with.

Once accepted, the UK Home Office requires the sponsor institution to check the progress of a successful applicant’s business each year. If acceptable growth is not demonstrated, the visa can be terminated.

The Sirus Programme

The Sirius Programme was launched in September 2013 and has attracted international graduate entrepreneurs from over 93 countries.

There are currently over 40 companies on the Sirius Programme with high-growth potential and innovative ideas. Seventeen of these companies alone have raised in excess of £14.5 million in equity investment.

The governing body responsible for endorsing Graduate Entrepreneur Visas was formally UK Trade and Investment. In July 2016, this government department became the Department for International Trade. At present, it is unknown whether or not the Department for International Trade will continue to endorse Graduate Entrepreneur Visas - OTS’s Immigration solicitors continue to keep up to date with the latest changes in this area of law.

How long you can stay in the UK on a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa

One of the perceived faults in the Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) entry route is that successful applicants can only stay in the UK for up to two years. After this time, they must either switch to a different visa or leave the country. This provides little time for young start-ups to get off the ground and makes it difficult to retain talent.

Those who are successful in gaining an endorsement can bring dependent family members with them to the UK. Dependents are defined as a spouse, partner or children under the age of 18 years. You must show that you can support your family without having to rely on benefits. On top of the £945 that you must show in savings to support yourself, you will need to provide the Home Office with evidence that you have £1,260 for each dependant if you’re applying from outside the UK or have been in the UK for less than 12 months. If you’ve been in the UK for more than 12 months, you must have £630 for each dependant. This money must have been in your bank account for 90 days prior to making your application.

In Summary

The Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) visa provides a route for talented young graduates to enter or remain in the UK, providing them with the time and opportunity to develop their business idea.

OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected Immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. We will assist you with all aspects of applying for a Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) visa and will support you throughout the process.

If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123.

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