This episode has added significance for me as I spend a great deal of time advising individuals who want to come into the UK to set up their own business and this often this involves discussing the "Genuine Entrepreneur" test. This is not like a reality TV show where candidates compete for a visa (although if that makes it to air next year I want my share of the royalties!) but rather it is a subjective assessment by the Home Office. Whilst this is usually a paper exercise the Home Office does sometimes interview candidates to help with their assessment.
The Home Office is not interested in the same factors as Lord Sugar and his team of experts. It doesn't want to know if a business will make millions in its first five years but rather wishes to ensure that an applicant genuinely intends to invest in a UK business. However, just like in the Apprentice, it's easy to go wrong. So, with that in mind, here are my top tips for passing the Genuine Entrepreneur Test:
1) Submit the right documents
There is no list of required documents for the Genuine Entrepreneur Test but the Home Office guidance contains some helpful suggestions. The Home Office will look at a candidate's background to make sure they have sufficient knowledge to run a business and will consider if the applicant has carried out research into their proposed business.
I advise clients to submit a detailed business plan and a CV with their application as otherwise it is very difficult for the Home Office to carry out their assessment. If an applicant has carried out any market research, this should also be provided along with details of any potential contracts the business has already won or tendered for.
2) Know your audience
The Home Office does not have a team like Lord Sugar's hardened business professionals ready to assess an application. Instead it has a team of immigration officials who assess applications and are unlikely to have ever been involved in the industry an applicant intends to specialise in.
As a result it is really important to make a business plan clear and easy to understand. When I advise clients who are preparing their applications I suggest the supporting documents cover these key questions:
What will the business do?
Why does the applicant think it will be successful?
How is the applicant qualified to run this business?
How will the funds invested into the business be spent?
How will the applicant meet the requirements for an extension of an Entrepreneur visa in 3 years time?
If the answers to these questions are not clear then the Home Office may have doubts about whether an applicant is a genuine entrepreneur and could refuse the application.
3) Know the law
This might seem straightforward but it is very important to know what a business needs to do to avoid breaking the law. If an applicant intends to set up an investment firm but does not know how it will be regulated, the Home Office is unlikely to be impressed (and nor will Lord Sugar!).
Knowing if a business needs to be regulated is not the only legality an applicant should know. Anecdotally I have heard of an application being refused because the applicant did not know the level of the national minimum wage, even though their proposed business model would have paid all staff well in excess of the minimum wage. Despite the fact this was not a real concern for them, Home Office refused the application. If interviewed by the Home Office the applicant should be able to answer questions about the basics of employment and tax law or at least indicate which professional adviser would be assisting with that part of the business.
4) Know the business
It is vital that an applicant can demonstrate, either through the papers submitted or at interview, an understanding of how the business will operate and their role in it.
Even if the applicant demonstrates sufficient funds to invest in the business and there is a clear business plan for how to use these funds, the Home Office will refuse the application if it does not think the applicant will be involved in the running of the business. This does not fit neatly with the Immigration Rules themselves and the traditional role of an entrepreneur who will often invest but not be involved in the running of the business.
Applying for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa is a very technical process and the Immigration Rules can be difficult to navigate. We have expertise in working with entrepreneurs to ensure they meet the requirements of the Rules and provide the correct evidence to satisfy the Home Office that they are genuine entrepreneurs.
If you would like advice about applying for an Entrepreneur visa please get in touch on the details below.