Visas and immigration operational guidance – guidance

Endorse a graduate: Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

How UK higher education institutions can support Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa applications.

To endorse a graduate, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) must add you to the list of authorised higher education institutions. To become an authorised higher education institution (HEI) you must be a Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor or a A-rated Tier 2 or 5 sponsor.

UKVI will annually invite HEIs to become authorised.

Endorse a graduate

To receive an endorsement from you, the graduate must have been awarded a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD before their Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) application. In some cases you may be able to endorse a post-doctoral researcher who is switching from Tier 2. Find out more in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) policy guidance.

Before endorsing a graduate you must ensure that the graduate:

  • has a genuine, credible and innovative business idea
  • will spend the majority of their working time on developing this idea

Endorsement reference number and endorsement letter

You must provide the graduate you are endorsing with an endorsement letter which contains an endorsement reference number. You will be provided with a list of endorsement reference numbers to use when you become an endorsing body.

You can find details of what information the endorsement should contain and a template letter in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) policy guidance.

How many graduates you can endorse

Authorised HEIs can endorse graduates within their allocated places. UKVI sets an annual limit for all HEIs each year. In 2015 to 2016 UKVI set a limit of 1,900 places:

  • 1,900 general endorsement places – for HEIs to allocate to graduates in any subject

How long does an endorsement remain valid?

Your endorsements will remain valid for 3 months after the date the letter is issued. If the graduate does not make a valid application within 3 months of the date of your endorsement letter, the endorsement is cancelled.

Meet your responsibilities

After endorsing a graduate, you must:

  • keep evidence of your endorsement selection process
  • maintain contact with the graduate and assess their progress at regular intervals (at least quarterly)

You must contact UKVI if:

  • the graduate does not stay in contact, or misses one of their progress reviews without your authorisation
  • you have evidence that the graduate is breaking the conditions of their leave
  • a graduate is no longer in the UK or if they are no longer here under Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

If you don’t meet your responsibilities, you may be withdrawn from the scheme and be unable to endorse graduate entrepreneurs until the next full financial year.

Extend an endorsement

You’ll need to provide a new endorsement letter for graduates who are applying to extend their Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) leave. Your endorsement letter must confirm that you’re satisfied with the progress the graduate has made in developing their business ideas.

Endorsements for graduates who are applying to extend their leave don’t count towards your annual allocation of endorsement places. For extensions, you should use the same endorsement reference number you allocated to the graduate when they successfully applied for their initial application.

You can find details of what information the extension endorsement should contain and a template letter in the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) policy guidance.