Avoid These Errors When Applying for a U.K. Entrepreneur Visa
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
The entrepreneur visa was intended to enable Britain to compete globally for foreign entrepreneurial talent and investment, aimed at individuals from non-EEA countries with sufficient funds either to invest in starting a new company or to take over the running of an existing enterprise in the U.K.
However there are concerns about the high percentage of entrepreneur applications currently being refused by the Home Office. Out of 1,918 U.K. entrepreneur visa applications decided in the last quarter of 2017, 923 (48 percent) were denied.
While the online immigration forums bemoan overly officious Home Office caseworkers, flawed decision-making or process errors, from my experience, this is neither helpful nor does it represent the full picture as to why so many entrepreneur applications are refused.
Many of the common grounds for refusal are as a direct result of the quality and substance of the application itself. Mistakes, omissions, oversights and a general lack of preparation will impact whether an application is accepted. Uncomfortable to hear perhaps, but applicants should in most cases be doing more to improve their prospects of making a successful visa application.
1. Not demonstrating commitment to the process
Applicants are expected to fully engage with the application process.
Of course, the reality for business owners is this is easier said than done. Between running multiple enterprises and juggling suppliers, customers and employees, dealings with the U.K. Home Office are just another demand on you.
But, if you are truly serious about applying for the visa, you will need to invest your time.
Understand what the Home Office is looking for in successful applications and what will be expected of you. Take nothing for granted. A PhD or 30 years' expertise in your field, while impressive, are not sufficient to satisfy eligibility where the application demonstrates a lack of research or engagement.
The Home Office will show no sympathy for applications that fall short of the required standards and where the applicant has not demonstrated interest and commitment in the process.
2. Shortcutting evidence gathering
A strong entrepreneur visa application will typically take around six months to compile. I can safely say from experience there are no shortcuts to the process.
The supporting evidence you are expected to compile and submit with your application is extensive. But, the required documentation is the required documentation. This will mean spending time sourcing and collating documents from various sources and third parties -- banks, accountants, investment managers.
Documents must be valid, fit for purpose in evidencing your eligibility and they must be in the specified format. For example, print-outs will not be accepted; documents must in most cases be in original form or certified copies.
If your application is ultimately refused, any challenge to the decision is likely to be by Judicial Review. This is a review of all the documents you originally presented to the Home Office in your application, to assess whether the Secretary of State's refusal was reasonable. This clearly emphasizes the importance of getting your documentation right.
3. A business case that isn't clear and original
An area of close scrutiny will be the business itself. Whether you are starting up in the U.K. or intend to take over an existing business, the burden is on you to prove that your plans are viable. To do this, you need to submit a compelling business case.
There is no prescribed format for the business case. Much will be determined by the nature of the business in question. However, there are some fundamentals that should be adhered to.
The business case has to be original and it has to relate specifically to the proposed enterprise. It cannot be used for multiple entrepreneur visa applications, nor can it be a duplication or copy of an existing document (do not copy and paste from the internet!).
It's also worth assuming the Home Office caseworker will have no experience of your market or indeed of running a business, so ensure you are clear and explain yourself well.
Research is key. Research the market, the competition, the operational elements. Be thorough. Showcase your ideas and demonstrate comprehensive knowledge and consideration of your proposal.
4. Not practicing your interview responses
After submitting your application, the next step is to attend the visa interview. If you fail to attend the interview, your application will almost certainly be refused.
During the interview you will be asked a series of questions relating to your business plan and application. This is your opportunity to explain your submission directly to the caseworker who will be making the decision on your case.
Research or take advice on the type of questions you could be asked. Know your business plan inside out. There really is no substitute for preparation.
5. Not double -- and triple -- checking your application
During the final stages, it's worth getting the application thoroughly reviewed by an objective third party. You are looking for a critical eye to check you haven't missed or overlooked anything that could jeopardize your application.
It's all in the prep work!
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." I couldn't say it better myself. Successful entrepreneur visa applications are well researched and comprehensive in their supporting evidence. It is a demanding process and not one entrepreneurs should enter into lightly.
Commit fully to the process, get your documents and application right and show the Home Office that you really do mean business.