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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/special-visitor-prospective-entrepreneurs-vat29/special-visitor-prospective-entrepreneurs-vat29
1. VAT29.1 What is a prospective entrepreneur?
A new special visitor category has been created to enable individuals to come to secure funding in order to set up or run a business in the UK with a view to meeting the financial criteria under tier 1 entrepreneur route within 6 months. If they meet the tier 1 entrepreneur requirements they may apply to switch into this category within 6 months, otherwise they will have to leave the UK.
Prospective entrepreneurs must meet the requirements for the Immigration Rules.
2. VAT29.2 What are the key requirements for prospective entrepreneurs?
Under paragraph 56N to 56Q of the Immigration Rules, a prospective entrepreneur must:
- be primarily seeking entry as prospective entrepreneur for a period not exceeding 6 months, to secure funding in order to join, set up or take over and be actively involved in the running of a business in the UK
- hold a valid United Kingdom entry clearance for entry in this capacity
- intend to leave the United Kingdom on the expiry of his leave to enter if he is not able to meet the requirements for an extension of stay through switching into the tier 1 entrepreneur route
- provide an original, signed letter on headed paper supporting the application from one or more FSA registered venture capitalists, one or more government departments or one or more UKTI endorsed entrepreneurial seed funding competitions, which must include the information specified in this guidance
- maintain and accommodate himself adequately out of resources available to him or be maintained and accommodated by relatives or friends without recourse to public funds or taking employment
- intend to carry out a permissible activity as specified in this guidance (see VAT 29.4).
They must not:
- intend to take employment
- intend to produce goods or provide services within the United Kingdom, including the selling of goods or services direct to members of the public
- intend to undertake a course of study
- be a child under the age of 18
- intend to marry or form a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership
- intend to receive private medical treatment
- be in transit to a country outside the common travel area.
3. VAT29.3 What evidence must be provided?
The applicant must satisfy the UKBA’s evidence requirements by providing:
- a letter from one or more FSA-registered venture capitalists* supporting the application, and / or
- a letter from one or more UK government departments supporting the application, and / or
a letter from one or more UK entrepreneurial seed funding competitions which is listed as endorsed on the UK Trade and Investment website.
- A definition for venture capitalists can be found on the Business Link website. Venture Capitalists must be regulated as venture capitalists by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). See the FSA website.
** Please see Gov.uk website for information on UK Government Departments.
Each letter of support must:
- be an original document and not a copy
- be on the institution’s official headed paper
- have been issued and signed by an authorised official of that institution, and
- have been produced within the three months immediately before the date of application.
The letter must contain the following:
- a description of the nature of the individual or organisation supporting the application
- a description of the background and nature of the proposed business
- a description of the applicant’s suitability to be involved with the proposed business
- a commitment by the individual(s) or organisation(s) supporting the applicant to make a decision to provide a minimum of £50,000 funding for the proposed business within 6 months of the applicant entering the UK (which would allow the applicant to meet the criteria for a tier 1 entrepreneur visa). If more than one individual and / or organisation supports the applicant, each amount proposed may be smaller than £50,000, provided that the total amount is a minimum of £50,000
- a commitment by the individual or organisation supporting the applicant that the proposed business will be set up and run from the UK
- details of a contact name, telephone number and e-mail address at the supporting organisation, and
- confirmation that the individual or organisation supporting the applicant is content to be contacted if needed.
A template is included at the end of the guidance (annex A) for the convenience of applicants who wish to use it.
4. VAT29.4 Could the applicant qualify as a business visitor?
If the applicant is unable to satisfy the criteria and requirements for the prospective entrepreneur visa he may be able to enter the UK using a business visitor visa. The applicant would not, however, be allowed to switch in-country into the tier 1 entrepreneur route.
5. VAT29.5 What activities are permissible for a prospective entrepreneur?
The applicant’s primary motive must be to secure funding in order to join, set up or take over, and be actively involved in the running of a business in the UK. Other permissible activities alongside this include:
- attending meetings (which may be arranged when in the UK), including interviews that have been arranged before coming to the UK, or conferences
- attending trade fairs provided this is restricted to promotional work and does not involve selling direct to members of the public
- arranging deals, negotiating or signing trade agreements, contracts etc.
- undertaking fact finding missions
- conducting site visits
- speak at a one-off conference which is not organised as a commercial concern and the conference is a ‘one-off’
- purchasing, checking details of or examining goods, and
- recruiting staff in relation to the proposed business activity which is the object of the visa obtained.
It is also reasonable to expect those coming to the UK as prospective entrepreneurs to want to make use of their laptops / smartphones whilst here. Provided this is solely to keep up to date with their workload abroad, or to liaise with contacts in the UK, the UK Visas and Immigration would not consider this as ‘work’ for the purposes of the Immigration Rules.
However, prospective entrepreneurs are not permitted to:
- undertake activities permitted under the sports or entertainer visitor visas (excepting those that are permitted within the prospective entrepreneur visa)
- undertake activities permitted under the business visitor visa, apart from those set out in the guidance for the prospective entrepreneur visa (see above)., or
- undertake any work beyond the permissible activities described above.
6. VAT29.6 Is entry clearance mandatory for prospective entrepreneurs?
Yes. Entry clearance is mandatory.
7. VAT29.7 What is the maximum stay in the UK?
In line with general visitors the maximum permitted stay as a prospective entrepreneur is six months. It is envisaged that successful entrepreneurs will qualify as tier 1 entrepreneurs and switch into that category in-country. If they do not qualify as Tier 1 Entrepreneurs then they must leave the UK at the end of their leave.
8. VAT29.8 Entry clearance endorsement
Entry clearance should be endorsed C: special visitor - prospective entrepreneur. LTE 6 months, code 3
9. VAT29.9 Do prospective entrepreneurs have full rights of appeal?
No. Prospective entrepreneurs only have limited appeal rights.
10. VAT29.10 Entry clearance for spouses / partners and dependants
Entry clearance is only mandatory for visa national family members. All family members applying for entry clearance must qualify for entry in their own right, for example, as a general or child visitor.