If you’re considering a UK business visa, learning about other people’s experiences is helpful. For those unfamiliar with me or my work: I started my business in the UK as a 22-year-old international graduate on a business visa. 

After successful extensions and further UK business visas, I obtained permanent residency in the UK (Indefinite Leave to Remain). This was all through my initial business: StudyFlats.

Firstly, allow me to elaborate that this is the old visa system and many aspects of this article may not be relevant today. Nor is this any form of immigration advice and it is solely my personal experience. 

I received two endorsements from Newcastle University for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa (the former version of the current Start-Up Visa). 

I subsequently obtained a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa (T1E). The latter was the former version of the current Innovator Visa), although with different requirements. 

As part of the T1E visa extension requirements, the two below were the primary;

  • Invest a minimum of £50,000 into my business(es)
  • Create the equivalent of 2 full-time jobs for at least 12 months 

Whilst they may seem relatively straightforward (though demanding), it was, in fact, quite the opposite. 

The manner in which the two requirements above were required to be demonstrated to the Home Office was quite complicated. For instance, your proof of investment or job creation would not be acceptable via bank statements/payment proof alone. 

I was required to enrol my staff on PAYE (provided by HMRC). Plus, the investment proof was subject to stringent requirements. 

The investment aspect on whether the money was invested via share capital or director’s loan. 

Below are just “some” examples of the concerns that I had;

  1. Obtaining endorsements

As stated, I received two endorsements from Newcastle University for my start-up, StudyFlats. 

Generally speaking, the process of obtaining endorsements can be long and complex. However, it is difficult to define a universal set of problems on this note. This is because endorsing institutions each have their own requirements. 

This is the case even under the current UK business visa system. 

  1. Compliance with employment legislation 

This was very confusing and strict to adhere to. 

One example was when I wanted to rent an office space (as remote working was not yet the norm in 2019). 

I discovered that, by law, each person is entitled to a minimum space of 11 cubic metres. 

As I in fact was employing 4 people (instead of 2), this required plenty of time and consideration. Read more about this on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

  1. Investment requirements

As mentioned earlier, the investment aspect itself was quite tricky. 

An example of this was that the director’s remuneration could not be counted as an investment. 

Moreover, deciding an investment structure (share capital vs. director’s loan) could have future ramifications if StudyFlats were to raise investment. 

  1. Job creation & management

Employing staff as a solo founder/director is tricky enough.

Combine the latter with strict immigration requirements and the degree of complexity is limitless. This is particularly with strict employment laws being in force. 

Tip: there are lots of “P” forms that you will need to learn about. Therefore, I suggest cracking on with pre-emptive research if you’re planning to recruit staff. 

  1. Being an effective founder

Last, but certainly not least, the biggest struggle was just managing and growing the company. 

Do a simple search about entrepreneurship challenges and you will come across SO much material, and perhaps millions of problems. 

Entrepreneurship is a tough journey. However, it can be extremely difficult when pursued in the business framework. 

This is not to discourage founders. If you have a viable idea/business that you believe in, you will overcome the challenges. If I could do it, then so can you!

In short, UK business visas can be complex…..

However, with the right mindset, management and direction you can overcome the complexity. 

As stated, the current UK business visa system does substantially differ from the Tier 1 Entrepreneur route. 

Need help with a UK business visa endorsement?

As you have probably seen through my countless disclaimers (another aspect of being an entrepreneur in the UK), I am not an immigration advisor.

However, I am a business consultant who can help you map the right idea and also help with your business planning. 

Better business planning and awareness will maximise your chance of getting an endorsement. And that’s why I’m here!

Get in touch with me today for a free 1:1 introductory call. 

About My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats which I scaled to over 30 UK cities. I currently help other entrepreneurs and businesses of all size with the digital marketing strategy around SEO, copywriting and content. For more info, please visit here.