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Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme

What is the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme?

The Home Office offers a number of international graduates the opportunity (on an annual basis) to apply for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme, nationally. In order to be accepted onto Solent's Tier 1 scheme, you must first have been accepted onto our Graduate Entrepreneurship Programme (GEP). This will mean that you will have to present your business plan to one of the timetabled GEP panels.

Please note that we will not endorse you if you have not been through our GEP.

This academic year (2015/2016) Southampton Solent University was successful in securing five places in consultation with the Home Office. The University has therefore pledged to support five international students who wish to stay in the UK (when they would otherwise return to their home countries) to develop their ideas into sustainable UK-based businesses.

The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa allows those graduates with sustainable business ideas the opportunity to remain in the UK, provided they fulfil the Home Office criteria. For a period of 12 months the successful candidates must commit themselves to turning their idea into commercial reality.

For its part, Solent University (as sponsor) undertakes to offer training and mentoring support where applicable, and to monitor progression on behalf of the Home Office. As such, a member of the University’s Enterprise team must meet the student every three months to check that progress has been made, and offer support as and when required. At the end of the year, if the idea is still viable and progress has been made, participants have the opportunity to apply for an additional year, assuming they still comply with Home Office requirements and can demonstrate that their business is on track to be turning over £50k by the end of the second year.

The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme welcomes international and non-EU applicants, from all subjects and disciplines. However, the applicant should be aware that priority might be given to those who have achieved either a first or 2.1 BA/BSc (Hons) degree or masters qualification. 

How to apply for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme

  1. Check your eligibility to apply before you consider making an application. Applicants considering this scheme should allow at least three months before their existing visa is due to expire to begin the process.
  2. Read the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) policy carefully and make sure that you have understood all the responsibilities expected of you. 

    Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) policy
  3. Once you have been through your GEP panel and have been accepted, contact Caroline Barfoot in Employability and Enterprise at to arrange an initial consultation. Before the consultation, ensure that you have filled in and forwarded the Tier 1 Business Application Form. You should also bring with you a copy of your passport, course results and existing visa documentation; this information will be kept securely by the University and only used for the purposes of your application.

    Tier 1 Business Application form
  4. If you are successful at the panel stage the University will give you a formal letter of endorsement on University headed stationery.  On this letter will be a secure reference number allocated by the Home Office to the University.
  5. You will be asked to complete a declaration of intent. This is your pledge to indicate that you are prepared to meet all the requirements of the Home Office and meet the University for progress reports on a regular basis.
  6. Gather up your letter of endorsement and formal visa application form (and any other supporting information required) and forward the application documentation to the Home Office at least 2-4 weeks before your visa deadline, to avoid any unforeseen complications.

In time you will be contacted by the Home Office with the result of your application; if successful you will be issued with a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, a copy of which you must submit to the University.

You should be aware that the notification process may take some time as some times of year are busier for the Home Office than others. You should be aware that sending a completed application form and receiving a letter of endorsement is not a guarantee of success. The Home Office will be weighing up other factors (such as your financial liquidity over the last three months) and their decision is FINAL and cannot be influenced by the University.

Your responsibilities as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur

Southampton Solent University takes its duties very seriously. There are certain responsibilities that we, Southampton Solent University (as the sponsor) must comply with and we do need your support with this. For instance you must inform us immediately if your contact details change as we need to know how to get hold of you quickly if the Home Office needs to contact you.

We are obliged to regularly review your progress on behalf of the Home Office, so failure to attend these scheduled sessions may jeopardise your chances of receiving a further endorsement from us at the end the first year. As sponsors we are duty-bound to inform any perceived infringements of your duties to the Home Office.

These responsibilities are clearly stated in the declaration of intent (step 6).

Tips to ensure a successful application

  • Be patient. Obtaining a visa may take several weeks. This probably does not mean that there is anything wrong with your application – rather perhaps, that some months are busier than others (with more claims for the Home Office to process).
  • Don’t leave your application to the last minute! You will appreciate that steps 1-6 above will all take some time and diligence to process. You need to leave some time for the University to discuss your business application internally and prepare your letter of endorsement. The visa application form is quite long and needs time to fill in accurately. Therefore, applicants considering this scheme should allow at least three months before their existing visa is due to expire to begin the process.
    The optimum time to apply for the scheme is mid-June (by which time your exams might well be finished!) through to mid-September at which time we inform the Home Office how many places we would like to support on the scheme for the forthcoming academic year.
  • Give yourself time to develop your idea. A well-planned and thought out idea is much more likely to receive the University’s endorsement. If you need help with Business Planning visit our daily drop-in advice sessions at Mountbatten Library. If you already have an idea or are progressing towards a finished business plan then book an appointment.  Remember it must be your idea (or someone else’s but only if it is a new start-up company).

Good luck with your Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa application.

Page last updated on Tuesday 26 July 2016 at 11.53am.


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