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Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa

The University of Sunderland is one of the UK Higher Education Institutions authorised to endorse a limited number of Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visas per year. There is a formal application process and you need to contact the University’s Enterprise Place team a minimum three months prior to your student visa expiry date if you intend to apply.

European Regional Development Fund

The University of Sunderland is one of the UK Higher Education Institutions authorised to endorse a limited number of Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visas per year. There is a formal application process and you need to contact the University’s Enterprise Place team a minimum three months prior to your student visa expiry date if you intend to apply.

What does the University require from a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa application?

  • A genuine, credible and sustainable business idea
  • A completed application form
  • A business plan (including realistic cash flow forecast)
  • You must have graduated from the University of Sunderland with a Bachelor’s degree, Masters degree or PhD within the immediate 12 months preceding the date of application
  • Potential applicants are required to engage with the Enterprise Place for a minimum of three months prior to submitting their application. This includes attending one to one advice sessions and completing the Enterprise Place Start Up Skills course (course dates permitting)


Your application will be reviewed by senior managers from the University and discussed at a panel; this may take some weeks to process so you should allow plenty of time before your current visa expires.  As a minimum your business plan should demonstrate:

  • Research that demonstrates the idea is a viable proposition
  • The market is clearly understood, defined and demonstrates demand for the product or service
  • Realistic cash flow analysis
  • Detail on who will be involved and how you will deliver your product or service
  • It may be necessary for you to attend an interview or deliver a presentation on your business plan

What happens next?

If your application is successful and the panel decides that your business plan is genuine, credible and sustainable, you will be offered a unique reference number, which will be shared with the UK Visa and Immigration Service (UKVI). You should then take the unique reference number to UKVI and apply for your visa. 

The University has no further involvement with the visa application process. You are unable to set up your business or trade in any way until you receive your Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa from UKVI.

Information on the visa application eligibility from the UK Visa and Immigration website

To be eligible to apply for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa you will need all of the following:

  • A UK-recognised bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD awarded before your date of endorsement
  • Endorsement from an authorised UK higher education institution issued in the past 3 months
  • £945 in savings - this is to prove you can support yourself and you must have had this in your bank account for 90 days prior to applying
  • To meet the English language requirement
  • Permission to remain in the UK from your financial sponsor if they’re a government or an international scholarship agency and have paid your course fees and living costs in the past 12 month

You can’t apply with any of the following:

  • Foundation degrees
  • Honorary degrees
  • Qualifications awarded in the UK by overseas awarding bodies
  • Qualifications undertaken at overseas campuses of UK institutions
  • Professional and vocational qualifications
  • Postgraduate certificates or diplomas


What happens once you have obtained your  Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa?

The University can offer you support through membership of The Enterprise Place whilst you are researching your idea alongside your studies and also once you have obtained your Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa. This membership provides you with access to the Enterprise Place office facilities in Hope Street Xchange, one to one business advice from a range of experts, access to enterprise and networking events and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Once you have obtained your Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa, the University will expect you to be working on your business idea on a full-time basis and to be in regular contact with the Enterprise Place team. As part of your membership to the Enterprise Place you will be asked to submit monthly reports on your business progress. You will also have regular review meetings with University staff including Enterprise and Innovation managers and the International Gateway team from the University who will assess the development of your business.

If you want to continue with your business after 12 months you will need to request an extension endorsement letter from the University. You will have a further meeting with an Enterprise Place manager who will decide if sufficient progress has been made and if you have engaged fully with The Enterprise Place. Following this you will meet with the International Gateway team to ensure your application to extend, supporting documents and maintenance funds (of £945) are in order. You may be given a further 12-month endorsement if significant progress with your business can be demonstrated. You will then need to apply for the extension to your visa from UKVI ensuring you meet all of their criteria including the maintenance fund of £945.