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Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa

The Home Office offers a number of international graduates the opportunity to apply for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme. In order to be accepted onto Solent's Tier 1 scheme, you should have a genuine, innovative and credible business idea and a UK-recognised graduate qualification such as BA (Hons), MA or PhD awarded by Solent University. You must also be prepared to pitch your business idea to a panel within the University to judge the viability of your business.

The University aims to support international students who wish to stay in the UK to develop their ideas into sustainable UK-based businesses.  This is limited to five students per year between 1 April and 31 March.  We would also expect Tier 1 graduate entrepreneurs to attend the University’s business start-up workshops that are run on a regular basis to help in the preparation of the graduate’s business plan and presentation. Anyone seeking a Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa is also required to meet with a University business adviser. This can be organised through Solent Futures.

The role of the University

The University (as sponsor) will offer support and monitor progression on behalf of the Home Office. If successful in your application, you will be required to attend a quarterly meeting with the Head of Employability and Student Enterprise and the administration assistant for Solent Futures to check that progress has been made on your business. At the end of the year, if the idea is still viable and progressing, participants have the discretionary option to apply for a further year. They still need to comply with Home Office requirements and be able to demonstrate that their business is on track.

How to apply for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa

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. Read the Government's Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) policy carefully and make sure that you have understood all the responsibilities expected of you.

At this point you will need to complete a Tier 1 business application form which you can request by emailing You will then need to complete it and bring it with you to meet one of our enterprise staff.

2. Visit Solent Futures (RM001) and ask to see a member of staff that deals with enterprise and make it clear that you wish to be considered as a Tier 1 candidate.  After an initial meeting with our staff member, you will then be asked to have a consultation with the Head of Employability and Student Enterprise. The head is the person responsible for Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs on behalf of the Home Office together with the official administrator, and is also in contact with the Home Office. Please bring with you your passport, your degree certificate and existing visa documentation. These documents will be photocopied and held securely by the University and only used for the purposes of your application.

3. Provided the Head of Employability and Student Enterprise approves the progression of your application, our staff will be able to advise and guide you to produce a detailed, professional business plan which can then be used to pitch to a panel who will judge the viability of your business idea as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur.

4. Before the pitching panel, you will need to provide your business plan including a financial forecast at least one week before the panel date. You will also need to prepare a time limited presentation for presentation to the panel.

5. 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 which needs to be quoted on all correspondence with the Home Office including the application.

6. 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.  You will also need to sign a letter of consent. This involves reading all the guidelines that are attached and giving us permission to share any information about you that the Home Office may ask of us concerning your Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa.

7. You may make an appointment with the International Student Advisor through the Student Hub or call in to see her during the drop in sessions (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 10am – 11:30am) for help and advice with the Home Office application form.  Your letter of endorsement and the formal visa application form (and any other supporting information required from the list below) should be sent to the Home Office together with the fee at least 2-4 weeks before your visa deadline.

8. You can either apply in the UK (if you have valid Tier 4 leave) or abroad after you graduate. Before you apply, please read the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Guidelines

To apply outside the UK, you must apply online and will need to have your biometrics taken at a Visa Application Centre. If the Home Office grants your visa, they will add a temporary entry clearance stamp in your passport so you can enter the UK. You must collect your Biometrics Residence Permit (Visa) within 10 days of arriving in the UK from a local post office.

To apply inside the UK you will need to apply online at UK Visas & Immigration.

You will need to provide the following documents with your visa application all in pdf format as detailed in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Policy:

  • Original degree or masters certificate
  • A letter of endorsement from Solent University issued in the past 3 months
  • Bank statements showing £945 in savings if applying from inside the UK or £1,890 if applying from outside the UK - you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days before you apply.
  • Current passport and one passport sized photo
  • Tuberculosis test results if applying from a country where it is required.
  • Immigration Health Surcharge confirmation reference number 
  • If applicable – permission from your financial sponsor to remain in the UK  

You will not be able to use your parent(s) or guardian(s) bank statements, any documents evidencing funds must be in your name.

For Tier 1, there are no ‘low-risk’ nationalities. Every applicant must submit all the required documentation.

Visa processing times in the UK is up to 8 weeks and overseas vary at different application centres.      

  • Applying inside the UK (switching from Tier 4) - £493
  • Applying outside the UK (Entry Clearance) - £363
    (amounts correct as of 5 November 2018)

You can bring dependants to the UK with you. Dependants must apply using the dependant’s application form and read the dependant guidance for further information.

You cannot gain access to public funds, work as doctor or dentist, professional sportsperson (or coach) or settle in the UK.


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 Biometric Card, at which point you need to go to RM033 and ask the administrator to take a copy to be kept in your file.  At this point your quarterly meetings will be arranged and Solent Futures will email you with all the dates and times.  You will need to acknowledge and confirm your agreement to these dates and times or arrange alternatives where necessary.


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. 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

  • Please 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.
  • Failure to attend your scheduled progress reviews without contact will result in the Home Office being notified which may jeopardise your chances of receiving a further endorsement at the end of the first year. 
  • As sponsors, we are duty-bound to inform any perceived infringements of your duties to the Home Office.

Tips to ensure a successful application

  • Be patient. Obtaining a visa may take several weeks. 
  • Don’t leave your application to the last minute! Allow at least three months before your existing visa is due to expire to begin the process. The visa application form is quite long and needs time to fill in accurately. 
  • 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 in RM001.


Page last updated on Tuesday 5 February 2019 at 12.14pm.


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