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Switching from Tier 4 (General) Student into Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

From 13 December 2012, Tier 4 (General) Student migrants will no longer be permitted to switch directly into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category on the basis of having access to £200,000 to invest in a UK business. Switching will only be possible if the Tier 4 (General) Student is able to show that they have access to at least £50,000 funding from a specified source (registered venture capital firms, UK Government or Devolved Administration Departments or listed seed funding competitions).

Given the impending restrictions on switching from the Tier 4 (General) Student category into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category, Tier 4 (General) Students will need to consider other options for extending their stay in the UK.  One option is to apply for leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur).

The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category

The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category is for graduates who have been identified by UK Higher Educations Institutions as having developed world class innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills. The purpose of the category is to allow such individuals to extend their stay in the UK after graduation in order to create one or more businesses in the UK.

Leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) will be granted for a total period of two years. After the two year period, an application can then be made to the UK Border Agency for leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).  This is a category that can lead to settlement.

The requirements for a successful application for leave to remain in the UK as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) are set out within paragraph 245FA of the Immigration Rules.

The rules confirm that a total of 95 points are required and will be awarded as follows: 75 points for attributes, 10 points for meeting the English language requirement and 10 points for having sufficient funds available.

Attributes

A total of 75 points will be awarded for meeting the requirements under Appendix A, paragraph 68. The requirements are as follows:

  • The applicant must be endorsed by a UK Higher Educational institution which is either approved by UKBA as a Highly Trusted educational institution under Tier 4 of the Points Based System, or is an A-rated sponsor under Tiers 2 or 5 of the Points Based System, and has an established process and competence for identifying, nurturing and developing entrepreneurs among its undergraduate and postgraduate population (25 points)
  • If leave to remain is held in a category other than Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), the endorsement must confirm that during the 12 months before the date of endorsement, the institution awarded the applicant with a UK recognised Bachelor degree, Master’s degree or PhD; or
  • If leave to remain is held as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), the endorsement is being issued by the same institution (25 points)
  • The endorsement must state that the applicant has been assessed and it is considered that:
  • The applicant has a genuine, credible and innovative business idea;
  • The applicant will spend the majority of his working time developing business ventures;
  • If the applicant's previous grant of leave was as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur), satisfactory progress has been made in developing his business since that leave was granted and will, on the balance of probabilities, qualify for leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrant within the next 12 months (25 points).

The UK Border Agency has limited the total number of Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) endorsements for the periods 6 April 2012 to 5 April 2013 and 6 April 2013 to 5 April 2014 to 1000 endorsements.

The Applicant is required to contact their educational institution directly for a request for an endorsement. The institution will provide an endorsement which must contain specified information as set out in paragraph 70 of Appendix A, and must be dated within 3 months of the application being submitted to the UK Border Agency.

English language

If an applicant is able to meet the requirements for an endorsement, he or she will automatically meet the English language requirement since it is necessary for the applicant to have been awarded either a Bachelor, Masters’ or PhD that was taught in English.

Maintenance Funds

The immigration rules require applicants for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to have held £900 for 90 consecutive days immediately prior to the date of application. This requirement must be met by providing bank statements which meet the strict requirements of the rules.

In addition to scoring maximum points in each of the above categories, the applicant must also not fall for refusal of leave to remain under the general grounds for refusal. Also, the applicant must not have overstayed their current leave to remain by any period more than 28 days.

Successful applications

If your application is successful, you will be granted an extension of stay as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) for 12 months initially. After the initial 12 months, it is possible to apply for an extension of stay for a further year. Leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) can only be granted for a maximum period of two years. After having leave to remain for two years it is then possible to apply for leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).

In conclusion, although Tier 4 (General) Student migrants will no longer be permitted to switch directly into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category on the basis of having access to £200,000 to invest in a UK business from 13 December 2012, switching into the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category will be possible and this route has the advantage of offering a potential path to settlement after 7 years, via a further switch into the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) category.

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