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McGill & Co is a Scottish immigration law firm specialising in UK immigration, nationality and refugee law.

Closure of the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa & the Start Up Category

19 June 2019 Grace McGill Blog

International students will be familiar with the strict rules governing what they can and cannot do during their visa term in the UK for example, the general prohibition on self employment, work related activity and starting a business. The Graduate entrepreneur visa route provided graduates (although there were certain exemptions) with the opportunity of pursuing employment if officially endorsed as having a genuine and credible business idea by:

Applicants were also required:   

  • to have a UK-recognised bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD awarded before your date of endorsement;
  • to have £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK, or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK held for 90 days;
  • to meet the English language requirement;
  • to have permission to remain in the UK from your financial sponsor if they’re a Government or an international scholarship agency which has paid your course fees and living costs in the past 12 months.

You must be have been endorsed before 5 April 2019 to be eligible to apply. The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route is closed to new applicants. Read the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) guidance if its still an option you are actively pursuing.

With the closure of the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route, the primary route available for individuals who wish to puruse their own business in the UK for the first time is the Start Up category, previously covered in our recent blog posts - here and here.

In order to qualify under this category, applicants need a business idea that is innovative, scalable and viable. The idea must be supported by an endorsing body  and a grant of leave under this category is for 2 years which does not lead to settlement. It is important to note that the 2 year time limit for the length of stay will include any time already granted under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route. Thus if you are effectively at the time out stage by the 2 year period, you will need to make an application under the Innovator route (the follow on from the Start-up visa).

So what is an endorsing body and what does it do?

In order to obtain leave to remain in the Start up category, an applicant must be endorsed by an endorsing body; the present list can be found  here. Many of these are higher education institutions, whilst the remainder are accelerator programs. They may have their own criteria , quite separate form the Immigration rules which simply state at 5.2 of Appendix W:

The endorsement letter must confirm both of the following:

(a) The applicant’s business venture meets all of the requirements in the table below:




The applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.

The applicant has, or is actively developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.

There is evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national markets.

(b) The endorsing body is reasonably satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time in the UK on developing business ventures.

NB for those previously granted under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category the requirement in (a) does not apply if the applicant’s last grant of leave was in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category, and the endorsement is from the same endorsing body as the endorsement which led to that grant of leave. Instead, the endorsement letter must confirm that the applicant’s business venture is genuine and credible.


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