In a bid to attract foreign entrepreneurial talent, the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has endorsed a number of major ‘seed competitions’. This enables the DIT to award funding to companies – monies that are recognised by the Home Office as ‘available’ for Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa applications.
The money awarded from these competitions is considered available funds and can be counted towards the £50,000 needed to support a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application. Winning a seed competition, enhances the chances of a Tier 1 Entrepreneur applicant meeting the ‘genuine entrepreneur’ requirements because these types of competitions tend to apply strict eligibility policies for selecting a winner.
Aside from offering funding, seed fund competitions provide invaluable entrepreneur training, which aids start-up growth. A number of seed funding competitions exist that are endorsed by the DIT, including:
#1 – TechStars London
TechStars defines itself as the number 1 start-up accelerator in the world. However, they are very selective – despite thousands of companies applying each year, they only invest money and time in about 10 companies per program location.
#2 – Oxygen Accelerator
Oxygen Accelerator is a tech accelerator. A 13-week intensive mentor led bootcamp, followed by 13 weeks of nurture that culminates with a series of investor days where they help you pitch to a large, carefully selected group of Angel investors, VCs and Private Equity groups for next stage funding. They receive applications from all over the world and hand-pick the very best 10 teams to work with per programme.
#3 – Seedcamp
Seedcamp describes itself as ‘an early-stage micro seed investment and mentoring programme’, which makes investment decisions several times throughout the year based on the winners of its events.
Seedcamp was created to kickstart the entrepreneurial community in Europe by connecting next generation developers and entrepreneurs with over 600 mentors from a network of company builders; including seed investors, serial entrepreneurs, product experts, HR and PR specialists, marketers, lawyers, recruiters, journalists and venture capitalists.
Following investment, a new Seedcamp company is included in an intensive year-long programme of events focusing on all the aspects of a company’s development.
Applying for a Tier 1 entrepreneur visa
Winning £50,000 from a seed funding competition entitles you to apply for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. However, you can secure funds via a venture capital firm that’s registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or a UK government department making funds available for the purpose of establishing or expanding a UK business.
If you’ve invested £50,000 in a UK business, you’re also eligible to apply. However, these funds must have been invested less than 12 months before you make a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application. Additionally, if you’re switching from another UK visa, or if you’ve already had a UK visa, the funding rules are different.
Applying as a former Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
You can apply if you have a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa and want to switch your visa. Your funding can come from any source and you can rely on investments from up to 24 months before your Tier 1 Entrepreneur application.
Apply as a former Tier 1 Post-Study Worker
Switching from a Tier 1 Post-Study Worker visa enables you to apply with funding from:
Equally, you can submit an application using your own funds or money from a venture capital firm if you have been either:
Involved in running one or more UK companies since before 11 July, 2014
Working in a job on the list of occupations at the regulated qualifications framework level 4 or above since before 11 July, 2014
Meanwhile, you can rely on investments from up to 12 months before your Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application.
Applying as a former Tier 1 (General)
Changing from a Tier 1 General visa has similar criteria to switching from a Tier 1 Post-Study Worker visa, except when applying using money from a venture capital firm, for which you must have been:
Involved in running one or more UK businesses since before 6 April, 2015 (not 11 July, 2014)
Working in a job on the list of occupations at the RQF level 4 or above since before 6 April, 2015 (not 11 July, 2014)
Additionally, you can’t apply using money from any other source, including your own money. However, you can rely on investments from up to 12 months before your Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application.
Applying as a former Tier 4 student
You could potentially make an application for a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, provided you’re already in the UK and you’re a Tier 4 visa holder. You can secure funding via:
A UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition endorsed by the DIT
A UK government department making funds available for the purpose of setting up or expanding a UK business
However, securing finance from other sources is not permitted. Investment funds cannot come from your own money, third party monies or via a UK venture capital firm. Meanwhile, funds must be held in the UK when applying for leave to remain. You can rely on investments from up to 12 months before your Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application.
Further information, help, and advice for Tier 1 visa applicants
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