Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to be replaced by “Start-Up” and “Innovator” routes

Entrepreneur visa replaced by Innovator visa

Since the 29th of March 2019 the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa application process has been closed for all applicants. You can no longer apply for this visa unless you are applying for an extension, which will be possible until the 5th of April 2023, or settlement, which will be possible until the 5th of April 2025.

The Entrepreneur Visa has now been replaced with an “Innovator Visa”. The Innovator category is intended for more experienced businesspeople.

Innovator visa requirements

  • Endorsing Body

All applicants for entry clearance, leave to remain, or indefinite leave to remain must have been endorsed in this category by an endorsing body listed on the government website;

  • Innovation, Viability and Scalability

The three main endorsement criteria are innovation, viability and scalability and in this category the applicants are expected to show that they already have the necessary skills. 

As the Immigration Rules Appendix W: Immigration Rules for Workers Part W6.3 states:

  • Innovation means that the applicant has a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage.
  • Viability means that the applicant has the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business.
  • Scalability means that there is evidence of structured planning and of the potential for creating jobs in the future.
  • Funds

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

  • English language requirement

The applicant must have also demonstrate a B2 level of English language ability; this is a slightly higher level than previously required for the Entrepreneur visa.

Option for settlement

Innovators will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after 3 years of continuous residence in the UK as innovators, provided that they satisfy at least two of a list of criteria relating to how much money they have invested, how much the business has grown and/or how many jobs they have created.

Start-up visa replacing Graduate Entrepreneur

The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) route is still currently available, however will only be open to new applicants until the 5th of July 2019. The new Start-up category has been introduced, which is an expanded version of the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur).

Main changes

This route is for those starting a new business for the first time in the UK. What is interesting is that applicants will not need to be graduates anymore and will not need to have secured any initial funding. Further good news is that the successful applicants will be granted 2 years leave (doubled from 1 year).

Endorsing Body and other requirements

Again all applicants for entry clearance or leave to remain must have been endorsed in this category by an endorsing body listed on the government website;

Additionally, the applicant would have to meet the Innovation, Viability and Scalability requirement that was explained above, however, start-ups can show that they are “developing” them; unlike Innovators, who need to show that they already have the necessary skills. The applicant must also have a B2 level of English language ability, so again a slightly higher level than previously required for the Entrepreneur (Graduate) visa.

Options for settlement

Although a start-up visa “does not lead directly to settlement in the UK,” the person will be able to progress into the Innovator category in order to continue developing their businesses and, as was explained above, this route does lead to settlement.


At the first sight the rules seem to have been relaxed slightly, as the amount of funds needed to apply for the Entrepreneur Visa (now Innovator visa) has been significantly decreased, from £200,000 to £50,000, and the Start-up visa no longer has a graduate requirement. In reality, they have not necessarily relaxed, as now when applying for a visa, you must show that your business is innovative, and you must have a genuine and original business plan, which means you cannot simply buy an old shop and invest in country.

Moreover, you will first of all need to find an endorsing body that would accept your business idea. Thus, your application will initially not be made to the Home Office, but rather to the endorsing body. Even if successful at this stage, later on, you still must keep in regular contact with the endorsing body. So, at the moment, in my opinion, it means less certainty for applicants, as if your endorsement is withdrawn then you cannot settle, and you cannot continue with your business.

Further, as there are currently only 24 endorsing bodies, specialising in certain areas, the options to apply for a visa are also limited, as your business plan must match with the views of the endorsing body.

Furthermore, there is the possibility that an endorsing body closes down, which would affect any businesses that they had previously endorsed. At the moment there appears to be a high level of risk for new applicants. Hopefully, soon there will be further guidance and the Home Office will address these and any other issues that arise.