Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Category Visa under the Points Based System of UK Immigration Process


The United Kingdom immigration process follows a widespread set of laws that the government is obligated to abide by. These laws, directly and indirectly related to immigration, regulate the immigration process by defining procedures and rules that the government references while deciding on cases. The Home Office, the government department responsible for handling immigration related cases, grants permission to individuals who wish to enter the UK in the form of a document known as a ‘visa’. It is headed by the Secretary of State who is given authority to preside over and make decisions on immigration cases. The visa serves as a legal document for the individual who enters the UK detailing the conditions and time period the individual is allowed in the country under. It has been divided into 4 functional categories i.e. Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 and Tier 5. Each category deals with a different scenario which an individual might wish to enter under. For example, a person who wishes to come to the UK for study purposes will apply on the Tier 4 visa while a person wishing to come for work purposes will apply on the Tier 1 visa. The Home Office is also responsible for handling cases related to asylum, detention and deportation.

The UK has compiled the procedures and rules for the immigration process in the form of a document titled the UK Immigration Rules. The UK immigration rules is divided into several parts and categories each concerned with a separate scenario. It also details requirements for the applicants that they must fulfill if they wish to be eligible for a visa. It should be noted that this does not apply to EU citizens as they can already enter the UK without permission under the Schengen Agreement.

The requirements process of the UK visa application is defined through the Points Based System. The Points Based System is a measuring system set up by the UK government that determines whether an applicant has fulfilled all the visa requirements so that he/she can be considered eligible for the visa. This is done by awarding the applicant a certain number of points each time he/she fulfills a requirement of the visa. When the applicant crosses the minimum threshold of points needed to be eligible, the applicant is deemed eligible to go for the visa. Note that the Points Based System only acts to complete the visa application form and does not guarantee that the applicant will be granted a visa by the Home Office. Furthermore, the number of points needed varies from category to category e.g. 75 points for UK Tier 1 investor visa, 75 points for exceptional talent category etc.

The Tier 1 visa, often referred to as the High Value Migrants category, is divided into 5 categories i.e. the UK Tier 1 investor visa category, the exceptional talent category, the entrepreneur category, the general category and the graduate entrepreneur category. The following blog discusses the Tier 1 UK graduate entrepreneur visa and the visa application process taking into account the Points Based System.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Category

The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur category has been created by the UK government to identify individuals who have recently graduated from a Higher Education Institution of UK and are thought to possess innovative ideas and entrepreneurial skills, and who wish to use these to start a business (or businesses) at UK. Through this category, individuals with world class entrepreneurial skills can extend their UK stay after graduating to start a business. It should be noted that applicants applying under this category must be non-European since the criteria for EU citizens differs and they do not need to go for a visa application. Furthermore, applicants must be present in United Kingdom if they wish to apply on the Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa.  

This category, due to having only a limited number of slots, is very competitive with regards to the visa application process. For the period from the 6th of April, 2012 to the 5th of April 2013, only a small number of 1000 slots were made available under this category. The same number remained in the year after following the 6th of April, 2013 to the 5th of April, 2014. Furthermore, these 1000 slots were divided in an equal amount between several institutions that participated in this category. However, if an individual wishes to extend his/her UK and he/she is currently staying under this category, the limit will not be applicable in this condition.

Also, the United Kingdom has recently added more slots to this category applicable to recent MBA graduates who are talented and have recently graduated from a Higher Education Institution of UK. On the 6th of April, 2013, the government announced plans to add an additional 1000 slots for these MBA graduates.

It should be noted that the UK government only allows a limited number of visa categories to be able to submit a visa application to switch to this category. These categories, the visa holders of which are only allowed to switch to the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur category are:

  • The applicant is currently staying in UK as a student nurse ,
  • The applicant is currently staying in UK to complete his/her thesis.
  • The applicant is currently staying in UK as a student.
  • The applicant is currently staying in UK as a student re-taking an exam.
  • The applicant is currently staying in UK as a dentist or a doctor who has completed his/her postgraduate degree.
  • The Tier 4 Migrant category.
  • The migrant category of Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur.
  • The applicant switching to this category is a part of the United Kingdom Trade and Investment’s graduate scheme known as the elite global graduate entrepreneur scheme.

Points Based System and Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa

Applicants under this visa category needs a total of 95 points. These 95 points are broken down and divided among several requirements that need to be fulfilled to reach this amount and be eligible for this visa category. The point distribution scheme is explained as:

  • A total of 25 points are awarded to the applicant when he/she secures an endorsement from a Higher Education Institution in the United Kingdom.
  • A total of 25 points are awarded to the applicant when he/she receives a graduate or postgraduate degree from a recognized Higher Education Institution in the United Kingdom.
  • A total of 25 points are awarded to the applicant when he/she is applying for extension under this category and secures an endorsement from the same institution that have previously endorsed him/her. Or, if it is from a different Higher Education Institution of UK, the endorsement must state that the institution has thoroughly reviewed and assess the applicant’s business profile and business idea.
  • A total of 25 points are awarded to the applicant when he/she proves his/her English language skills. This can be done by giving an English language test recognized by the UK.
  • A total of 25 points are awarded to the applicant when he/she proves to the Home Office that he/she is financially stable to cover accommodation and other expenses while at his/her UK stay.

In the scenario that the applicant is applying for an extension to stay longer under this category, a total of 75 points will need to be secured. The point distribution scheme is explained as:

  • A total of 25 points are awarded to the applicant when he/she receives a graduate or postgraduate degree from a recognized Higher Education Institution in the United Kingdom
  • A total of 25 points are awarded to the applicant when he/she provides an endorsement on his/her visa extension application from the same institution which had previously endorsed the applicant on this category
  • A total of 25 points are awarded to the applicant when the endorsement confirms that the applicant has been thoroughly assessed by the UK based Higher Education Institution along with the applicant’s business profile and business idea. The endorsement must also confirm to the UK government that the applicant has made significant gains in the development of the business since the time the original visa application for the Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa was granted. Furthermore, the endorsement should state that the applicant is likely to continue with this trend in the extension period.

What is a letter of endorsement?

A letter of endorsement serves as a form of credibility letter to the UK government that the applicant is recognized and backed by a reputed UK institution. Applicants applying under this visa category are required to provide an endorsement letter written within three months of the visa application form being submitted.

Applicants can acquire an endorsement from the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) by filling the following requirements listed as:

  • If the applicant holds a degree that is considered and recognized by the UK as being the equivalent of a UK bachelor’s degree.
  • By completing the criteria set by the UKTI.
  • An endorsement issued by the UKTI within the last 3 months of the visa application.
  • The applicant holds at least GBP 945 in savings if he/she is applying for this visa from within the country. If the applicant is outside of the UK during the application process, he/she must possess GBP 1890 in savings.
  • The applicant possesses the necessary English language skills required by the UK government.

Will an applicant be charged a fee for the visa application form?

Yes, a certain fee is charged from applicants applying for a visa application form. The fee is dependent on the category the applicant is applying under. For the Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa UK guidance and all other categories, the official website of the Home Office can be visited where the fee can be viewed in Pound Sterling. The web address is given as www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/fees/.

Where is the visa application form available for applying on Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa category?

All visa application forms, including for the Tier 1 UK graduate entrepreneur visa are available at the Home Office’s official website. The web address is given as www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.

Recent Developments in the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Category

The UK government has recently started implementing a more strict procedure with regards to this visa category because of postgraduates abusing this visa type to stay in UK longer and with hopes to permanently settle. Even though the original intention was to allow individuals with entrepreneurial skills, to start and develop businesses in UK to benefit the country’s economy.  The government also uncovered evidence by examining the tax returns of the visa holders of this category that these people were working in low skilled jobs while showing the government that they were in the process of starting their business.

The government now follows stricter procedures to thoroughly examine the applicant’s business idea and evidence that they possess the viable resources to carry this out. Furthermore, the government has implemented measures to only allow individuals to switch to this category with funds that are held in a financial institution under the regulatory authority by the UK government.