Under the UK Tier 1 scheme for high value migrants, the Entrepreneur visa was designed to entice foreign entrepreneurial talent and investment to Britain.
While government intention may have been to welcome international entrepreneurs through this route, figures relating to the number of entrepreneur visas actually being granted are raising concerns that the UK may not be as ‘open for business’ as it purports to be. In the last quarter of 2017, 48% of entrepreneur visa applications were refused.
The reasons for entrepreneur visas being rejected in such high numbers could be attributable to a number of factors. While it is tempting to point the finger at overly officious Home Office caseworkers, flawed decision-making or processing errors, this is overlooking a more obvious cause.
The quality and substance of applications themselves are not always up to scratch. Submissions containing mistakes, omissions and oversights will not be treated favourably by the Home Office. Any indication of a lack of preparation will impact whether the caseworker grants or refuses the application.
A strong entrepreneur visa application will typically take around six months to compile. I can safely say from experience there are no shortcuts. Here are some issues we frequently come across with refused entrepreneur visa applications:
1. Failing to engage with the application process
Applicants are expected to give full commitment to the application process. This is easier said than done for business owners, running multiple enterprises and juggling suppliers, customers and employees. But if you are serious about applying for the visa, you will need to invest your time to get it right.
Understand what the Home Office is looking for in successful applications and what will be expected of you.
Take nothing for granted. A PhD or 30 years’ expertise in your field, while impressive, are not sufficient in themselves to satisfy eligibility where the application demonstrates a lack of research or engagement.
2. Lack of evidence
The supporting evidence you are expected to compile and submit with your application is extensive. This will mean spending time requesting and collating documents from various sources and third parties — banks, accountants, investment managers.
The documents must be valid, fit for purpose in evidencing your eligibility and they must be in the specified format. For example, print-outs will not be accepted; documents must in most cases be in original form or certified copies.
If your application is ultimately refused, any challenge to the decision is likely to be by Judicial Review. This is a review of all the documents you originally presented to the Home Office in your application, to assess whether the Secretary of State’s refusal was reasonable. This clearly emphasizes the importance of getting your documentation right.
3. Presenting a weak business case
You need to submit a compelling business case that proves your plans are viable. There is no prescribed format for the business case but there are some fundamentals that should be adhered to.
The business case has to be original and it has to relate specifically to the proposed enterprise. It cannot be used for multiple entrepreneur visa applications, nor can it be a duplication or copy of an existing document.
Research the market, the competition, the operational elements. Be thorough. Showcase your ideas and demonstrate comprehensive knowledge and consideration of your proposal.
It’s also worth assuming the Home Office caseworker will have little or no experience of your market or indeed of running a business, so ensure you are clear and explain yourself well.
4. Failing to prepare for your visa interview
After submitting your application, the next step is to attend the visa interview. If you fail to attend the interview, your application will almost certainly be refused.
During the interview you will be asked a series of questions relating to your business plan and application. This is your opportunity to explain your submission directly to the caseworker who will be making the decision on your case.
Research or take advice on the type of questions you could be asked. Know your business plan inside out. There really is no substitute for preparation.
It’s all in the prep work!
Successful entrepreneur visa applications are well researched and comprehensive in their supporting evidence. It is a demanding process and not one entrepreneurs should enter into lightly.
Commit fully to the application process, get your documents and application right and show the Home Office that you are serious about your business.