Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa
Applicants who currently hold immigration permission under this category are only permitted to work for the businesses they are involved with as a director or sole trader, although their family members, being partners and children under 18 years of age (the “Dependants”), are free to undertake any employment, self-employment, studies or be self-sufficient in the UK.
Although this category is now closed for initial applications, individuals who are currently in the UK under this route can still apply to extend their visa and/or apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) (also know as permanent residence or settlement).
It is important to note that applications for extending this visa and applications for ILR continue to be heavily scrutinised by the Home Office.
Consequently, applicants must be certain that they satisfy the qualifying criteria and can demonstrate that they continue to be a genuine entrepreneur. This involves submitting a business plan which includes an overview of the business activity; the applicant’s job description and responsibility in the day-to-day running of the business; progress in implementing the previous business plan; and the business’ financial details.
The Home Office will take into consideration the progress that the business has made and may request that the applicant attends an interview.
In order to be granted an extension, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that they:
- have registered with Companies House as a director of a UK company or registered with HM Revenue & Customs as self-employed within six months of being granted immigration permission as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa holder and continue to be registered and engaged in business activity in the UK;
- have invested the full £200,000/£50,000 (depending on the source of the funding) into the UK business. The investment cannot include the cost of any residential accommodation or be invested in businesses involved in property development, management or investment. The investment also cannot be used for the applicant’s remuneration or to purchase the business;
- have created the equivalent of two new full-time roles for settled workers in the UK that have existed for at least 12 months. Settled workers include British/Irish citizens; those who have settled status/ILR/Permanent Residence; those who are resident under the EU Settlement Scheme; and British Overseas Territories citizens and Commonwealth citizens who are in the UK under the UK Ancestry category. The jobs do not have to be in existence at the time that the extension application is submitted but must have existed at some point during the initial period of immigration permission; and
- are a genuine entrepreneur.
Provided the extension application is successful, the applicant and their Dependants should be granted immigration permission for a further two years.
It is important to note that, in most instances, the deadline to apply for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) extension is 5 April 2023.
Applicants may be eligible to apply for ILR:
- once they have held immigration permission as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrant for five years; or
- once they have held immigration permission as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrant for three years if they have:
- created the equivalent of 10 new full-time jobs for settled workers in the UK that have existed for at least 12 months; or
- established a new business that had an income of at least £5m over a three year period or increased the income of an established business by at least £5m over a three year period.
In order to obtain ILR, the applicant will need to meet the residence requirements, which are that they must not have been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any rolling 12 month period during the three or five year qualifying period for ILR.
It is important to note that Dependants must wait at least five years before they can apply for ILR and may also be required to meet the residence requirements at the ILR stage. Furthermore, for a Dependant under the age of 18 years to obtain ILR, both parents must also obtain, or already possess, ILR.
The applicant and their Dependants over the age of 18 years will also need to meet the English language requirement and pass the Life in the UK Test.
It is important to note that, in most instances, the deadline to apply for ILR under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category is 5 April 2025.
Once the applicant, and/or their Dependants, have been present in the UK for at least five continuous years and have held ILR for at least one year, they may be eligible to apply for British citizenship and, subsequently, a British passport. The requirements are set out below.
The applicant/their Dependant must:
- be of sound mind and good character such that, for instance, they do not have any serious or recent criminal record and has not been in breach of any UK immigration laws;
- intend to have their (main) home in the UK; and
- meet the following stricter residence requirements, which are that they have not:
- spent more than 450 days in total outside the UK during the five years prior to applying for British citizenship; and
- spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 months prior to applying for British citizenship.
Please note that, in certain circumstances, an applicant/their Dependant may still be granted British citizenship if they have excess absences, provided the absences were due to business related travel or due to compassionate or compelling circumstances and they can show that they have established themselves, their family and a substantial part of their estate in the UK.
Although this route is now closed for new applications, the Home Office has introduced the Start-up and Innovator categories for individuals looking to set up businesses in the UK, which are open to new applicants. Please see the following link for our client bulletin providing an overview of these categories.
For those who are in the UK under the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category, it is important to note the deadlines to apply for an extension and/or ILR under this route. If you do not meet the requirements for the relevant application before these dates, and wish to remain in the UK, you will need to apply for UK immigration permission under another category.