Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa guidelines

These guidelines outline the regulations and processes governed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) rules for sponsoring a graduate under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) scheme as applied at Nottingham Trent University.


The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur (GE) scheme allows graduates from outside of the EU/EEA to remain in the UK for 1 year (with the potential to extend to up to 2 years) to develop innovative business ideas

Nottingham Trent University is a UKVI recognised sponsor under the Tier 1 (GE) scheme and has been allocated a very limited number of sponsored places by The Home Office for international graduates who wish to apply for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) programme. To apply students or graduates must first submit an application to The Hive, the University’s Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.

In line with UKVI guidance to institutions, NTU will assess all applications against the criteria that the business idea must be genuine, credible and innovative. Also, it must not involve property development or property management nor work as a doctor or dentist in training, nor a professional sportsperson or sports coach.

Applicants should have a genuine, innovative and credible business idea and a UK-recognised graduate qualification such as BA or BSc (Hons), MA or PhD awarded by Nottingham Trent University.

Students/graduates will be required to undergo an assessment to determine the credibility of their proposed business. You must also be prepared to pitch your business idea to the Hive who will assess the viability of your business idea against the Tier 1 (GE) criteria. The decision of the panel is final and there is no appeal procedure.

This policy document is current and up-to-date at the time of publishing but will be reviewed annually and is subject to change

The role of the University

If endorsed, The Hive will offer business support and will monitor progression on behalf of the Home Office. If successful in your application, you will normally be expected to attend The Hive’s business start-up workshops which are run on a regular basis throughout the year to help in the development of the business. You will also be required to attend regular meetings with the Hive to check that progress has been made on your business.

At the end of the year, participants should be able to demonstrate that the business is still viable and progressing on track, and has the requisite £50k contribution by the end of the first year to enable you to transfer to the Tier 1 Visa. If that target has not been reached but significant progress towards it has been made, then the University has the discretion to extend for a further year.

How to apply for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa

Check your eligibility to apply before you consider making an application. Applicants 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, Guidelines and Supporting Documents carefully before applying and make sure that you have understood whether you qualify and all the responsibilities expected of you.

Guidance on applications under Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) - GOV.UK

If you meet the criteria, then at this point you will need to complete the Hive Enquiry Form.

Apply to the Hive and make it clear that you wish to be considered as a Tier 1 candidate by completing all the questions on the Form. You may have an initial meeting with a staff member, but you will then be invited to a more formal meeting at The Hive.

During this interview, the viability of your business plan/concept will be assessed.  If you are successful the Hive will provide you with a formal letter of endorsement on University headed stationary to accompany your visa application. This must be made within 3 months from the date of letter.

Before applying, you must have 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.

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 (GE) visa, there are no ‘low-risk’ nationalities. Every applicant must submit all the required documentation.

Applicants will generally only be permitted to apply once to The Hive with a single business idea.  The decision of the panel is final. There is no appeal process.


If The Hive endorses your business idea then once you have submitted your application to The Home Office they will respond with the result of your application. If successful, you will be issued with a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa Biometric Card, and details of the subsequent actions you need to take. At this point you should notify the Hive who will agree with you as to your next steps.


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

  • 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.
  • Failure to attend your scheduled progress reviews with The Hive without contact will result in the Home Office being notified, which may jeopardise your chances of 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

  • 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.
  • Students should have maintained a good engagement record with the University during their academic studies and the sooner you have engaged in Enterprise activities and with The Hive will only benefit your application.
  • Give yourself time to develop your idea. A well-planned and thought out idea evidenced by appropriate research, is much more likely to receive the University’s endorsement.
  • You will be expected to demonstrate that you have the entrepreneurial skills and commitment to develop the business.

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants to the scheme must:

  • Have graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s Degree, or PhD within the immediate 2 years preceding the date of application; and have maintained a good engagement record with the University during their academic studies.
  • The university will NOT accept applications from students/graduates or postdocs from other universities
  • Have sufficient English language skills (both written and spoken) to meet the required standard for conducting business in the UK, and meet the requirements in the Government guidelines
  • Have been accepted by the Hive, therefore confirming that they have a genuine, credible and innovative business idea, and have agreed to attend the appropriate Hive start up programme of support and agreed to regular contact during the year.
  • A genuine, credible and innovative business idea is one that:-
  • Will make good use of the graduate’s skills and add to the UK economy, rather than being a routine business which will merely compete with other existing local traders.
  • Evidences demand through a sound plan, clear market research to demonstrate market opportunity and realistic costings and financial planning
  • ‘Credible’ means it must be more than just an idea – you must demonstrate that you’ve tested and validated the key assumptions and critical success factors of your business idea
  • You must be able to demonstrate why this business needs to be based in the UK and cannot operate from your home country
  • The university will not endorse applications for:-
  • Franchising where applicants have not had to develop their own plan, and will be working to someone else’s business plan.
  • Taking over an existing business to re-invigorate the business, which was originally based on someone else’s business plan.
  • Employment as an operator, for an overseas agent for example.
  • A partnership in which the graduate has not made a significant input to the business plan development (i.e. equal to the other partners).
  • An employment opportunity where the graduate is more likely to be working on or for someone else’s idea.
  • The graduate does not demonstrate the entrepreneurial skills and commitment to drive the creation and development of the business.
  • Self-employment or sole traders where the applicant is providing freelancing or fee-for-service consultation services,
  • A business that will compete directly with existing traders. Working as a consultant, for example, is unlikely to meet the requirements.
  • Applicants to set up businesses in the following sectors:-
    • One’s that could operates online from any base (eg Apps/platforms/websites/online stores)
    • Alcohol / smoking / tobacco //gambling
    • Dating/social media
    • Housing/property rentals/ construction / renovation
    • Property consultancy/management
    • Any business that does not have significant growth potential
    • Any business which we consider may bring the University’s reputation into disrepute
    • Any business which is a franchise/subsidiary/transfer/extension/replica of an existing business whether in the UK or overseas.

Withdrawal of Sponsorship

  • The University may withdraw sponsorship in the following circumstances:
  • Failure to notify the University of any change in your circumstance;
  • Failure to progress the business as agreed;
  • Missing any of the agreed contact points
  • Should you change (or plan to change) your business model from the one shared with the University at point of application without informing the University.
  • Should you fail to spend the majority of your working time developing your business.
  • If the University is, at any time, not satisfied with the progress being made on the business idea, or your compliance with the visa regulations, it may choose to withdraw endorsement with immediate effect.  There will be no right of appeal following this decision being made.
  • The University will endeavour to work proactively with the individual to resolve issues before deciding to withdraw their sponsorship of the visa.

In addition:

  • If you are applying within the UK you must be switching into this visa category from a Tier 4 student visa. You must apply to switch prior to the expiry of your current visa.
  • You cannot previously have been granted immigration leave in the UK under Tier 1 (Post Study Work), the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme, International Graduates Scheme or Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme.
  • At the end of the year covered by the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa you will be expected to have attained the levels of business sustainability and financial targets set by the UKVI to enable you to transfer onto the full Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa.
    • In the event that you have made substantial progress in the year, but might not have quite achieved the £50,000 funding in the business necessary to transfer, then  the University has the option to consider endorsing a second year under the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to enable you to reach the target
  • If at the end of the first year on the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa you have not made sufficient and substantial progress with the business idea towards the target then your visa will not be renewed and you will have to return to your country of origin.

What are the visa compliance requirements?

  • You cannot start or work on your business whilst you are a student. You can only start after you have received notification of your qualifications and been approved by The Hive for your visa application. The Tier 4 visa does not allow you to work on a self-employed basis at any time.
  • Although you will be expected to spend most of your time setting up the business, the work conditions of this visa do allow you to take employment working for another employer for up to 20 hours per week.
  • You will be assigned a University contact who you will be required to meet once every 3-4 months to discuss the progress of your business. The University contact will also determine whether the business is making satisfactory progress in order for you to be supported for a further 12 months.

The Hive - November 2018

Still need help?

The Hive
+44 (0)115 848 4354