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Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa

You can apply for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa if you:

  • are a graduate who has been officially endorsed as having a genuine and credible business idea
  • are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
  • meet the other eligibility criteria

If you are unsure of your position or would like to ensure that your application is handled by a knowledgeable specialist, get in touch with one of our friendly team members now on 0203 384 4389 to find out exactly how we can assist you to get it right first time round, saving you time, money and the heartache of being refused.

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Further Information

Getting Endorsed

You must be endorsed by either:

  • the Department for International Trade (DIT) as part of the elite global graduate entrepreneur programme (Sirius)
  • a UK higher education institution (HEI) if it’s an authorised endorsing body

How long it will take

How long it takes depends on how you’ve been endorsed.

DIT endorsement

You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks if you’ve been endorsed by DIT. The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel.

UK HEI endorsement

You’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 8 weeks if you’ve been endorsed by a UK higher education institution. The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel.

How long you can stay

You can stay in the UK for one year on a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.

You can apply to extend this visa for one more year.

What you can and can't do

You can:

  • bring family members with you
  • extend your stay in the UK using this visa
  • switch into this visa from some other visa categories

You can’t:

  • get public funds
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • work as a professional sportsperson, for example a sports coach
  • settle in the UK on this visa

Eligibility

The eligibility requirements for this visa depend on who is endorsing you.

Endorsement by a UK higher education institution (HEI)

You need all of the following to be eligible:

  • a UK-recognised bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD awarded before your date of endorsement
  • endorsement from an authorised UK higher education institution issued in the past 3 months
  • £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK, or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK – this is to prove you can support yourself and you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days before you apply
  • to meet the English language requirement
  • 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

You can’t apply with any of the following:

  • foundation degrees
  • honorary degrees
  • qualifications awarded in the UK by overseas awarding bodies
  • qualifications undertaken at overseas campuses of UK institutions
  • professional and vocational qualifications
  • postgraduate certificates or diplomas

Endorsement by the Department for International Trade (DIT)

You need all of the following to be eligible:

  • a degree qualification that’s recognised as being equal to a UK bachelor’s degree
  • criteria set by DIT
  • endorsement from DIT issued in the past 3 months
  • £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK – this is to prove you can support yourself and you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days before you apply
  • to meet the English language requirement

You don’t have to provide evidence that you have sufficient savings to support yourself if you have an endorsement from DIT stating you’ve been awarded funding to cover your maintenance.

Knowledge Of English

You may need to prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply.

You can prove your knowledge of English by either:

  • passing an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening
  • having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD

You may be able to meet the English language requirement in other ways. Check the full visa guidance for detailed information.

Exceptions

You won’t need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re a national of one of the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

You also may not have to prove your knowledge of English in other circumstances.

Documents you must provide

The documents you need to provide depend on how you’re being endorsed.

Endorsed by a UK higher education institution (HEI)

When you apply you’ll need to provide:

  • a current passport or other valid travel identification
  • a letter of endorsement from your UK HEI
  • bank statements showing you’ve had at least £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK – you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days before you apply
  • your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test

You’ll also need to provide the following if your degree was awarded by a different UK HEI than the one providing your endorsement:

  • an original certificate of your qualification or an accepted alternative
  • proof that you have knowledge of the English language

You need a page in your passport that’s blank on both sides for your visa.

Endorsed by the Department for International Trade (DIT)

When you apply you’ll need to provide:

  • a current passport or other valid travel identification
  • a letter of endorsement from DIT
  • an original certificate of your academic qualification or an alternative from the documents guide
  • previous passports
  • a residence permit, ‘green card’ or valid visa if you’re not a national of the country from where you’re applying
  • proof that you meet the English language requirement
  • bank statements showing you’ve had at least £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK – you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days before you apply
  • your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test
  • a letter from NARIC that proves you can use your qualification to apply for this visa

You’ll need to have a blank page in your passport on which to put the visa.

You’ll need to provide a certified translation of any documents that aren’t in English or Welsh.

You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances.

Extend your visa

You can apply to extend your stay in the UK under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.

You should include any dependants who are on your current visa on your application to extend – including children who have turned 18 during your stay.

You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application.

You should apply before your current visa expires.

Eligibility

You must already have this visa and all of the following:

  • a new endorsement letter from your UK higher education institute or the Department for International Trade (DIT) confirming that you’ve made satisfactory progress in developing your business
  • at least £945 available

How long you can stay

A Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa can be extended for one year.

You may be able to switch into a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa at the end of your 2 years as a Graduate Entrepreneur if your business is successful.

How long it takes

A decision will be made on your application within 8 weeks.

You’ll be contacted if your application is complex and will take longer, eg:

  • if your supporting documents need to be verified
  • if you need to attend an interview
  • because of your personal circumstances, for example you have a criminal conviction

Once you’ve applied you can stay in the UK until you’ve been given a decision, as long as you applied before your last visa expired.

Switch to this visa

You can apply to change (‘switch’) from another visa to a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.

You should apply before your current visa expires.

Eligibility

You must already be in the UK as a:

  • student
  • student nurse
  • student re-sitting an examination
  • student writing up a thesis
  • Tier 4 (General) visa holder
  • postgraduate doctor or dentist
  • Tier 2 (General) migrant working as a post-doctoral researcher

You must meet all of the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa’s eligibility requirements.

You can’t switch to this visa if you’ve already had a visa under one of the following categories:

  • Tier 1 (Post Study Worker)
  • Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme
  • International Graduates Scheme
  • Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme

How long you can stay

You can stay in the UK for one year on a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.

How long it takes

A decision will be made on your application within 8 weeks.

You’ll be contacted if your application is complex and will take longer, eg:

  • if your supporting documents need to be verified
  • if you need to attend an interview
  • because of your personal circumstances (for example if you have a criminal conviction)

Once you’ve applied you can stay in the UK until you’ve been given a decision, as long as you applied before your last visa expired.

Family Members

Your family members (‘dependants’) can come with you when you come to the UK on this visa. Your family members must have a visa if they’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

A ‘dependant’ is any of the following:

  • your husband, wife or partner
  • your child under 18

They’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of their application.

They must complete their visa application by 5 July if they’ve already paid the immigration health surcharge or you they have to pay it twice. They’ll get a refund for their first payment.

Savings

You must show that your dependants can be supported while they’re in the UK.

Each dependant must have a certain amount of money available to them – this is in addition to the £945 you must have to support yourself.

The amount you must have depends on your circumstances.

You must 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.

You must have proof you have the money, and that it’s been in your bank account or your dependant’s bank account for at least 90 days before you or they apply.

Example:

You must have £3,465 if you want to bring your partner and 1 child with you to the UK: £945 to support yourself + £1,260 for your partner + £1,260 for your child.

You don’t need to provide evidence of your savings if you have a letter from the Department for International Trade (DIT) saying you’ve been given funding to support yourself and your dependants.

Children born while you’re in the UK

If you have children while you’re in the UK, you can apply for permission for them to stay.

You must do this if you want to travel in and out of the UK with them.

When you apply, send a full UK birth certificate for each child showing the names of both parents.

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