Tier 1 Route: New Rules From 29 March 2019

According to the new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules, the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) and the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will be scrapped, and replaced by “start-up” and “innovator” routes.

To put it shortly, the most significant changes prescribe that Applicants will have to:

  • be endorsed by trusted organisations in the UK, “such as business accelerators, seed competitions and government agencies, as well as higher education providers”
  • be monitored by those endorsing bodies as each step entails a new endorsement
  • demonstrate knowledge of English at level B2 (instead of B1)
  • provide a “credible” business plan and potentially be ready to prove the genuineness of their entrepreneurial profile by attending an interview
  • demonstrate they have held £945 in their account in cash funds for 90 consecutive days prior to the date of the application (instead of £3310).

Family members will be allowed to apply for dependent visa as always by relying on the Main Applicant.

Start-Up Visa

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) applications will still be valid if submitted by 5 July 2019. From 6 July, they will be replaced by the start-up visa.

The new statement of changes explains the new route as follows:

The Start-up category is an expanded version of the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category. It is for those starting a new business for the first time in the UK. Applicants will not need to be graduates and will not need to have secured any initial funding. Successful applicants will be granted 2 years’ leave (doubled from 1 year) and will be able to progress into the Innovator category to continue developing their businesses in the UK after that time.

The letter of endorsement must confirm the business’ “innovation, viability and scalability”. Moreover, even though applicants could potentially work for other businesses, the endorsement body must be “reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing business ventures”. 

A start-up visa “does not lead directly to settlement in the UK”, however, applicants on a start-up visa will be able to  switch into an innovator visa. 

Innovator Visa

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route will be replaced from 29 March 2019. The main reason for this replacement is discouraging “low quality projects which contribute little or nothing to the wider UK economy”.

The innovator visa will be in place from 30 March and entail the following changes:

The Innovator category is intended for more experienced business people. As well as an endorsement, applicants will need £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source (reduced from £200,000 for most applicants in the current Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category). The funding requirement will be waived for those switching from the Start-up category who have made significant achievements against their business plans. The category may lead to settlement in the UK.

The main criteria for the endorsement are also in this case innovation, viability and scalability. The difference is that applicants will need to demonstrate they have already matured the necessary skills, while for start-up visa applicants need to show they are developing those skills. Moreover, applicants will have to show their business potential for growth into national and international market. The endorsing organisation will have to be “reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend their entire working time in the UK on developing business ventures”; This means that innovators can only work for their business.

After having continuously resided in the UK for 3 years, Innovators will be eligible for ILR provided they meet at least two of a list of criteria relating to business growth, access to funds and job creation.

If you are a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant you will be able to extend your visa until 5 April 2023, and you will be eligible for ILR under the old route until 5 April 2025.  

Investor Visa

From 29 March 2019 investors will be required to demonstrate that they have held the 2mil for two years instead of 90 days prior to the date of the application. The requirement to open a UK bank account before applying for an investor visa “is being tightened to make explicit that the bank must carry out all required due diligence checks and Know Your Customer enquiries, and confirm that these have been done”.

Applicants will no longer be allowed to use purchase of UK government bonds as a qualifying investment.

For those currently holding an investor visa, transitional arrangements will be in force until 5 April 2023 for extension applications and 5 April 2025 for ILR applications.