Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa Interview Guidance and Sample Questions

06-March-2018 5:24
in UK Immigration Business Plans
by Admin


Continuous Business Planning helps over 100 Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa applicants per year with the business plan they will submit as part of their Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa application and are retained as trusted business advisors for the clients of dozens of different immigration lawyers and consultants both in the UK and around the world.  Consequently, we enjoy a unique vantage point from which we can see changes to the visa application process as they occur.  One of the main changes we have seen to the process in recent years is the increased use of an interview with the applicant as part of the "genuine entrepreneur" test.     

Before the introduction of the "genuine entrepreneur" test in January 2013 and for about two years afterward, a well-prepared business plan that provided all the information that the caseworker was looking for to make a determination about the applicant would usually be enough and no interview would be required unless the caseworker had specific questions for which they needed either clarification or more information.  However, it has become apparent, especially in the last twelve months or so, that an interview with the applicant is now the rule rather than the exception.  

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa currently has one of the highest refusal rates of any comparable visa scheme in the world, with 48% of the applications submitted in 2017 having been refused according to recently published Government statistics.  In my experience working with clients, one of several reasons that applications are being refused at such a rate is that the applicant is inadequately prepared for the interview.  What they believe will be a benign conversation in which they will be asked for a few clarifying details is now in most cases a 45-minute cross-examination in which the caseworker is actively looking for disparities between the information supplied as part of the application and the responses given to their carefully prepared interview questions.  Any significant disparity may be pounced upon as evidence that the applicant is not a "genuine entrepreneur" and used as a reason for visa refusal.     

Consequently, it has become increasingly important that the clients we work with are thoroughly familiar with the business plans we have created for them and are fully equipped to explain and defend them in their own words in the likely event that they are called for an interview.  To that end, we provide the following comprehensive list of potential interview questions to clients so that they can prepare themselves thoroughly for their interview as soon as they receive an interview date. 

We detail these questions below in the hope that individuals looking for help preparing for their Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) interview will be able to use this resource as the basis of their preparation efforts.  While the questions asked at each interview tend to be different, we have received feedback from dozens of clients that have been interviewed and have thus been able to identify the areas that are likely to be addressed in some form in the interview.  The responses to the questions on this list are not meant to be memorised but, hopefully, this list of potential questions will be useful to help applicants gauge what to expect in their interview before they attend.

Background Questions 

Most interviews start with general questions about the applicant's background, their connection to the UK and the series of events that have led them to this point of applying for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa for this particular business.  It is critically important to establish yourself as a credible entrepreneur that has the necessary skills and experience to implement the business plan submitted as part of the application.  Possible questions for this section of the interview include:

  • Why do you want to start this business in particular?
  • Why have you chosen the UK for your business? Did you consider other countries as alternatives?
  • In which part of the U.K. do you plan to set up your business? Why have you have chosen this area over others?
  • Can you give me a brief history of your immigration status while you’ve been in the UK?
  • What due-diligence have you performed in regard to starting a business in the UK?
  • Do you have any professional advisers? What are their roles?
  • What will your role be in the business?
  • What is your current job?
  • What have you done so far to set up the business? 
  • What previous employment and business experience do you have that will enable you to successfully fulfill this role in your business?
  • What educational and professional qualifications do you have that are relevant to your business?
  • What ‘soft’ transferrable skills do you think you have that are relevant?

Business Plan

Having a detailed, structured and credible business plan is essential to both your entrepreneur visa interview and application. In your interview, you could potentially be asked to speak in-depth about any area of your business plan, so knowing it inside out is essential.  Possible questions for this section of the interview include:

  • Who wrote your business plan?  If you used a consultant, how did you come to engage their services?
  • What is the nature of your business?
  • Do you have a business website? If so, what is the website address?
  • Who are your customers and what goods or services does your business provide them?
  • Have you already incorporated or set up your business?  If so, when? 
  • Does the nature of your business require you to have registered with an appropriate authority? If so, what regulatory bodies have you registered with?
  • What evidence do you have that your goods or services are required?
  • What steps will you need to make to get your business to the point where it can start trading?  What are the first things you will do once you arrive in the UK?
  • What kind of premises will you acquire/let and what will be the approximate size?
  • Will you buy or lease your premises?  If lease, what will be the estimated rental cost?
  • What health and safety requirements do you have in place at the premises?
  • What sort of Insurance and how much coverage do you require for your business? 
  • How many members of staff are required in order to start your business?  What will their roles be?  How much will you pay them?
  • Do you have any idea about the local business rates for the business premises you require?
  • How will you budget for the payment of the appropriate taxes?  VAT? PAYE? Corporation Tax?
  • What is the VAT threshold for this year?  What is the employer's role in PAYE scheme?  What is the current rate of Corporation Tax?
  • Where do you see yourself and your business in three years time?
  • Who are your main competitors in the UK?
  • What advantage or unique selling point do you have over your competitors?
  • What threats have you identified to your business succeeding?

Funding for your Business

All interviews will touch upon how you intend to fund this enterprise, what specifically the money will be used for, the way the investment has been structured and your expectations in terms of a return on investment.  Possible questions for this section of the interview include:

  • What are your startup costs?
  • Where did you get the money to invest in the business?
  • What understanding do you have towards the investment with the investor?
  • Will dividend payments or loan repayments be made before or after the company accounts are published?
  • How much money has been invested in your company to date?
  • Can you provide a detailed breakdown of how and when you invested the money into your company?
  • Is any money that is yet to be invested held in the UK or overseas?
  • How will this investment be accounted for one it has been received by the company?  Director's loan?  Equity investment?  If it is a director's loan, what are the terms of the loan?
  • What return on investment do you anticipate you will receive?  Over what time period? 
  • How will you get your money back at the end of the holding period required by the visa?  Business sale?  Special dividend?  

Staffing Plan

The interviewer will be trying to build a picture of what your functioning business will look like, so it's likely that they will want to know about your employment plans.  In preparation for this type of question, ensure that you understand the exact roles you'll be looking to fill once in the U.K., including their titles, responsibilities, and duties as well as their position on your workforce hierarchy.  Possible questions for this section of the interview include:

  • Is anyone else involved in your business? What are their roles? What is their contribution?
  • How will your team grow over the course of the next three years?  What positions do you intend to create?  Why?
  • What salaries will you pay for for your staff?  How did you arrive at these figures? 
  • Will you need a manager and how much will you pay them?  
  • What is the minimum wage in the UK?
  • How specifically do you intend to fill any job positions that are currently vacant?
  • What qualifications do they need to carry out their duties?
  • Were any of your employees known to you before you employed them?
  • Can you explain what rights your employees are entitled to under employment law? For example, what are their statutory holiday and pension entitlements?

Existing Contracts/Clients

The interviewer will normally want to know how far you have already gone down the path of starting this business.  To establish this, they will usually ask about actual and prospective clients.  Possible questions for this section of the interview include:       

  • How many clients do you have and what are their names?
  • What are the terms of any contract that might exist between you?
  • Can you provide a detailed description of the services you either have provided or will provide to your clients?
  • If you have already completed work for clients, what was the outcome of the work you carried out?

Financial Projections

Interviewers invariably focus on financial projections as a means of determining the viability of the business and the credibility of the entrepreneur.  It is important here to strike a balance between having sufficient optimism in the financial future of this venture that it would make good business sense to come to move to the UK to pursue this opportunity and undermining your credibility by being overly optimistic to the point of being a fantasist.  Possible questions for this section of the interview include:

  • Please explain the increase in revenue and profit between years 1, 2 and 3?
  • How confident are you that the business will generate profits in the first year?
  • How are you going to increase your profitability?
  • How much profit will you make per sale?
  • How will you cover unexpected additional running costs for your business?
  • What is your plan should sales fall behind the projections in this plan?
  • What specific sales and marketing activities do you plan to undertake to achieve these sales projections?
  • What will you do if the business fails?  What is your Plan B?

Of course, having a business plan that was written by an experienced visa business plan writing professional with the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa process in mind will be critical to your success.  A conventional business plan written by the applicant themselves or by a consultant without detailed knowledge of the vagaries of the Tier 1 visa process will simply not cover these things.  For instance, where justifications need to be made for certain choices, a good Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) business plan should cover these points.  Where there is a need to establish a link between the applicant's background and the business, a well written Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) business plan will clearly elaborate on the link.  If the business plan provides all the answers, it is fine to make references to the business plan during the interview, which means that choosing a business plan writer who understands the questions that Entry Clearance officers may ask during the visa determination process is very important and will place an applicant at a huge advantage over an applicant with a conventional business plan.

If you are preparing for your Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) interview, please do not make the mistake of going to that interview unprepared.  Hopefully, by taking the time to master the information contained in your business plan and other supporting documents to the point where you can answer these questions without hesitation and without contradicting what is written in the documents that you have submitted, you will be able to face the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) interview with confidence and clearly convey that you are a "genuine entrepreneur".  If you need help with a visa business plan or need help preparing for a forthcoming interview, please do not hesitate to reach out to us and we'll be happy to help you in any way we can.