UK Tier 1 entrepreneur visa coveted by South Africans

In the midst of political and economic woes in their homeland, more South Africans are targeting the UK’s Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa in a bid to invest their way to UK citizenship. According to Sable International managing director, Gary Kockott, there has been a surge in demand for the visa.

However, a better option for many may be the Tier 2 (General) Visa, which allows skilled workers to work for a UK employer with a Tier 2 Sponsorship License, and eventually gain legal permanent residence. 

In an exclusive interview with Gareth van Zyl of Biz News, Kockott was quizzed about why South Africans are keen to apply for UK business visas. Kockott attributes increased interest in the UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa to ‘rampant corruption, state capture, a series of cuts and an imminent recession’ in South Africa.

In order to qualify for the visa, applicants must invest a minimum of £200,000 into a new or existing business in the UK. The initial visa is granted for just over three years and allows family members to accompany the primary visa holder.

After three years, and provided visa holders meet certain criteria, they can apply to extend the validity of the visa to five years. Upon being in the UK for five years, visa holders are eligible for indefinite leave to remain, which after 12 months qualifies a person to apply for UK citizenship.

Interest in Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa has grown over last 8 - 9 months

According to Kockott, South Africans are looking to emigrate amid growing political and economic unrest in the country. In particular, the last 8 – 9 months have seen a sharp rise in the number of South African citizens enquiring about the Tier 1 visa.

Kockott believes that the UK would actively welcome South African investors and business people, stating that ‘Britain is actively seeking foreign direct investment, hence the reason they offer a selection of Tier 1 investor visas, including the entrepreneur visa.’

South Africans are selling up their assets to raise the £200,000 minimum investment fee, according to Kockott, with individuals looking to move their wealth offshore while seeking second citizenship.

However, the Tier 1 visa category has proven to be problematic for some applicants. Recently, Neha Shahid Chaudhry, an award-winning graduate had her Tier 1 visa renewal application rejected by the Home Office on a technicality.

Despite generating £100,000 of investment for her smart walking stick for Parkinson’s disease sufferers, she was ordered to leave the UK. Meanwhile, the Tier 1 Post-Study Work Visa was scrapped in 2012, despite protests from academic and business leaders.

Scotland in particular has lobbied heavily for the Post-Study Work Visa to be reintroduced in the wake of Brexit, but proposals to reinstate it were rejected by the Home Office. Kockott conceded that South African investors and businesspeople will have to jump through hoops to obtain a Tier 1 visa, but advised that applicants seek specialist help.

Further information, help, and advice for Tier 1 visa applicants

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