If you are an international student with a viable idea for a business, you may be eligible to set up your enterprise here in the UK under a Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa.

The ‘Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa’ permits successful applicants to extend their stay in the UK after graduation to establish one or more businesses.

Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the graduate entrepreneur visa you must:

  • Be from outside the EEA and Switzerland.
  • Be endorsed by a UK higher education institution, if it is an authorised endorsing agent, or by the Department for International Trade (DIT).
  • Hold a UK-recognised higher education qualification such as a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s or PhD.
  • Meet the English language requirements.
  • Provide relevant supporting documentation. The type of documents will be dependent on whether you have been endorsed by a higher education institution or by DIT.
  • Have access and be able to evidence sufficient maintenance funds. The level of funds required depends on where you are applying from; at least £1,890 if applying from outside the UK, and at least £945 for those applying from within. In both circumstances, you must have had access to the funds for 3 continuous months or more.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa – what you need to know

Length of stay – Under the visa, you are permitted to stay in the UK for up to 1 year. An extension is available on application for a further year.

Fees – The application fee for a graduate entrepreneur visa is determined by your situation, where you are and how you apply. You will also be liable to pay the Healthcare Surcharge as part of your application.

Processing times – A DIT endorsement has a faster application time of up to 3 weeks. Higher education endorsement can take up to 8 weeks.

Activity – Your letter of recommendation must state you will be spending the majority of your time on your business. However, you are permitted to take on a second job to help support yourself while in the UK.

Company structure – You are permitted to set up as either a sole trader, partnership or limited company.

Dependants – You may bring dependants with you, for a fee per person.

Funding – Under the visa you will not be able to access public funds.

Switching to Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa – You can apply to switch from one of the following:

  • Tier 4 student
  • Student
  • Student nurse
  • Student re-sitting an examination
  • Student writing up a thesis
  • Postgraduate doctor or dentist
  • Tier 2 (General) migrant

UK settlement – The visa is not a route to settlement in the UK.

Seeking Endorsement from your University

Authorised universities will invite applications from international students to request endorsement for a graduate entrepreneur visa. Each university has a limited number of endorsements available, meaning there will usually be a selection process which typically includes a written business plan submission and presentation.

You will need to contact your university for details of the selection process and timescales.

Seeking Endorsement from Department of Industry and Trade

Under the ‘Sirius Programme’, the DIT is working in conjunction with a consortium of private companies and charities to identify and support international graduate entrepreneurs with their commercial ventures in the UK.

Successful applications will benefit from a support package to maximise their chances of success. Applications are typically invited in the autumn for consideration.