As the report suggests and as our own experience makes only too evident, the UK's immigration system can be tough for would-be businesspeople to navigate. Making a successful entrepreneurial visa application is no mean feat, even with a solid business plan. We have put together this list of some of our best hints and tips to help you maximise your chances of success; whether you are a budding young entrepreneur or an old hand wishing to enter the UK's markets.
#1 Get the small things right
Unbelievable as it may seem, we have seen multiple applications rejected on the basis of the seemingly trivial ground of not having correctly sized passport photographs. We have also seen applications returned due to issues with the fee, so if you are paying by card then make sure your details are correct. The strict approach taken to these applications means it is likely that if there are any minor points upon which your application can be refused, it probably will be refused. Make sure you don't provide any reasons for an easy refusal of this nature.
#2 Have the right evidence
The key reason for most visa applications being turned down in our experience, not only in the entrepreneurial category but across the board, is failure to provide the correct specified evidence. Under the modern Immigration Rules, making a successful application is not just about meeting the rules; it is also about showing that you can meet the rules in a certain, pre-set way. Have a good read through the guidance on what evidence you need to provide, and give Morton Fraser a ring if you have any difficulties interpreting the requirements.
#3 Make your business plan clear and accessible for a non-expert reader
One of the controversies around the new 'Genuine Entrepreneur' test, by which the Home Office assess your credibility as a real entrepreneur, is that business plans are assessed by Home Office officials who are apparently without any real-world business experience. With the Government desperate to attract high-quality investment and jobs, the reasons for its decision to hand the task of assessing the business prospects of applications to inexperienced civil servants rather than those who know their way around a business proposal are unknown. In the meantime, you should make sure your business plan is clear and easily understood by someone not only outside your own field but who does not work in business either.
#4 Double check the rules relating to your type of application
With the closure of the Post Study Work visa route, many applicants are looking to switch into an entrepreneurial visa. Slightly different rules apply when switching from the Post-Study Work route, including a requirement to show that your business is already trading and has contracts in place. We have recently been approached by applicants who have been refused because their company did not have any formal contracts in place when they applied or because the company advertising did not mention them by name, and they were therefore unable to show they were already up and running.
Likewise, if you are applying as part of an entrepreneurial team then slightly different rules may apply to you, and there are further specific requirements if you are using money which you have already invested in your business as part of your investment total.
#5 Prepare well in advance
Although in theory you could set up a business and begin trading tomorrow, obtaining all the right evidence for an entrepreneur visa application takes time and is no last minute activity. If your business requires evidence that it is already trading, such as contracts, then you should ensure these are ready in time in the right format. Documents and letters from official bodies can take some time to procure. Make sure you leave enough time to get all of these items ready, particularly if you are already in the UK on another type of visa which is coming up for expiry.
#6 Watch out for property investment
The amount that you invest cannot include any money invested in property development or property management; nor can it include residential property. Grey areas arise when an entrepreneur wishes to buy property for mixed use, such as premises which they intend to live above. If this applies to you then you need to have the residential part of your property evaluated by a surveyor and detract the value of this portion of the property from your total investment sum. Be particularly careful to watch for pitfalls if the purchase of property is involved in your application.
We hope that these hints and tips are useful to you in your application for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa. Morton Fraser's immigration team is able to provide clear advice on how to ensure your application succeeds, and if you have come across difficulties then we advise you on the best way forward and provide expert representation at the Tribunal if necessary.