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Start-ups, Innovators, Entrepreneurs & Investors

Blacks Solicitors’ Immigration team specialise in helping entrepreneurs and investors obtain Visas when establishing a business or making an investment in the UK.

Changes to the Immigration Rules, which took effect from 29 March 2019, introduced new Start-up and Innovator Visas, which will replace the old Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur and Tier 1 Investor categories (although the older routes will remain open for individuals who apply prior to the cut-off point for entry onto the old schemes).


The Start-up category is for those looking to establish a new business for the first time in the UK.

Under this route, and unlike with the old Graduate Entrepreneur route, applicants will not need to be graduates and will not need to have secured any initial funding.

Successful applicants will be granted two years’ leave, which is the maximum time which can be spent in this category. As with the Graduate Entrepreneur route, a Start-up Visa doesn’t lead directly to settlement in the UK, although the person can switch onto the Innovator route.

Applicants will need to be endorsed by UK trusted bodies and the endorsement will confirm that the Applicant’s business venture meets Home Office definitions of ‘innovation’, ‘viability’, and ‘scalability’.

Endorsing bodies must stay in contact with those they have endorsed at certain intervals – ‘checkpoints’ – and feed back to the Home Office, where appropriate.


The Innovator category is intended for more experienced business people.

As well as receiving an endorsement, applicants will normally need £50,000 to invest in their business from any legitimate source (reduced from £200,000 for most applicants in the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category).

Successful applicants will be granted three years’ leave and there is no maximum time permitted in this category.

The Innovator category does lead to settlement and Innovators may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after three years’ continuous residence in the UK (rather than the standard five years) provided that they satisfy at least two points on a list of criteria relating to investment and business growth.

Again, applicants will need to be endorsed by UK trusted bodies and the endorsement will confirm that the applicant’s business venture meets Home Office definitions of ‘innovation’, ‘viability’, and ‘scalability’.

Endorsing bodies must stay in contact with those they have endorsed at certain intervals – ‘checkpoints’ – and feedback to the Home Office, where appropriate.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs

The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa is for non-EU graduates who have been endorsed by a higher education institution, or by the Department for International Trade, as having developed genuine and credible business ideas to establish a business in the UK. A period of one year’s leave is granted in this category.

The current Graduate Entrepreneur route is for individuals who want to set up or run a business in the UK.

A key requirement is having access to at least £200,000 in funds to be invested in a UK business, or just £50,000 if the money is from certain specified funding sources.

The applicants must meet the Home Office’s ‘genuine entrepreneur’ requirements and submit a business plan.

Under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur route, individuals can apply for ‘accelerated settlement’ after three years’ leave in this, subject to meeting additional criteria relating to business activity.

Tier 1 Investors

The Tier 1 Investor route is for individuals who have at least £2m to invest in the UK.

This route leads to settlement, and ‘accelerated settlement’ after two or three years if the investment is £5m or £10m respectively.

Changes to this route from 29 March 2019, mean funds must be held for at least two years prior to applying. In addition, applicants will no longer be able to invest through UK government bonds.


For more information about any of the above, or to find out how we can help you, please email or call Blacks’ Immigration team today on 0113 322 2842.

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  • I was recently referred to Louis MacWilliam of Blacks Solicitors with relation to a visa application to live/work in the UK. Louis was extremely thorough and always kept in touch throughout the entire process. I could not recommend Louis or the team at Blacks more highly.

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