For international students with a great business idea, universities in London can sponsor students to remain in the UK via a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa. The visa enables them to stay in the UK for up to two years to set up their business*. Study London spoke to Indian graduate Mustafa Khanwala, recently shortlisted for the Mayor of London’s International Student Innovation Award, about the visa process and his time in London.
Mustafa and his co-founder, Tanvi Bhardwaj, started their business MishiPay whilst Mustafa was studying for an MSc in Engineering with Finance at UCL (University College London). Described as ‘smart shopping technology’, MishiPay uses theft-proof technology to enable customers waiting in shops to scan, pay and leave – and avoid the queues.
Supported by UCL’s Innovation and Enterprise Department – who work with students and staff to encourage a spirit of enterprise, create links with the outside world and accelerate UCL’s innovation and impact – Mustafa successfully applied for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa after finishing his masters in September 2015. The additional year in the UK enabled Mustafa to focus on MishiPay and build up his business after which he was successfully awarded an endorsement by TechCity UK for the five year Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa.
Commenting on the visa process, Mustafa said: “Getting the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa gave me time to develop MishiPay, bring Tanvi on board as a Co-Founder, build the team up and take the business much further than just an idea. The two years of the Graduate Entrepreneur visa are really just for that – to prove the viability of your business plan until you can either raise enough investment to get a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa or gain enough recognition and merit to get the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa.
“First things first though, it’s important to get the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa which can be easier than the other Tier 1 routes and can give you that leeway without adding financial or other constraints. I think it is a brilliant first route for all international students considering starting an innovative business. However, the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) application has specific requirements. First, you need endorsement by your university that you have a genuine and credible business idea. In most universities, you also need to clearly demonstrate how innovative your business idea is and how it will create value. Certain universities may have an extra procedure or two. For instance, at UCL, we first speak to a student business advisor. If they find the idea credible, they set a date to pitch in front of a panel. The panel will then assess the visa application based on a business plan document and the business pitch you give in front of them. Tanvi, who applied for the same visa at the University of Manchester, went through a similar process.
“Each university only receives a quota of 20 endorsements a year from the government and so it can be competitive. I’d encourage students to take the process very seriously and definitely come up with the best business plan and pitch at the time. It is very good practice anyway, as you will no doubt need to do similar presentations to investors and customers in the future.”
Commenting on the support he received from UCL, Mustafa said: “Being a student at UCL was very beneficial – not just because of what I learnt in my degree and the contacts I made – but also because of the support from UCL’s Innovation and Enterprise staff. I also used the MakeSpace at UCL’s Institute of Making – a workshop space with a range of tools and machinery that are free to use and amazing for prototyping new inventions.”
Anna B. Sexton, Business Acceleration Advisor at UCL Innovation and Enterprise, provides advice and guidance to UCL students who are seeking to start and grow their own businesses.
Anna said: “We’re always happy to support students like Mustafa. Our team at BaseKX co-working space works to inspire students to activate their entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial skills so they can apply them, whether starting a business, as an employee or dealing with the challenges of everyday life. Our mission is to help and support as many of our students, staff and recent alumni as we can through advising them how best to turn the seeds of their ideas into viable, resilient and sustainable businesses. We offer a wide range of interactive, experiential training programmes designed to develop their entrepreneurial mind-set, gain confidence to pitch and learn the practical business nuts and bolts needed to succeed via enterprise bootcamps, masterclass workshops and entrepreneurship guest lectures. To help scale businesses we offer a range of high profile enterprise competitions, investment ready workshops and access to our thriving co-working space.”
Mustafa was thrilled when he received the good news about his visa application. “It really made my day and my parents and family were delighted as well! When you are building something innovative and starting a new company, you need to put every ounce of effort and focus into it. There is almost no time to think or worry about anything else. However, if you have the looming issue of a visa over your head, that gets very difficult; on the one hand you want to fully focus on your business but on the other, you will not be able to continue doing your business here unless you get this sorted out. I was just so relieved!” he said.
Find out more about Mustafa in our International Student Innovation video. See our website for more information about options for international students to stay in the UK after their studies.
* The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa is open to talented students who are developing a world-class business idea. International students need to be identified and sponsored by their university as having the potential to create their own business in the UK. Students can apply for permission to stay in the UK for an initial period of one year. If the endorsing university agrees to sponsor after this, students can apply again and may be granted further leave for another year. For more information about the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, see the UK Home Office website.
A clear vision for every child – how my London experience is helping me change the world for the better
For Tanzanian-Indian student, Priya Morjaria, accessible eye care for every child is essential. Priya’s experience studying in London is helping her to make this a reality in parts of the world that need it the most. Study London caught up with Priya at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to find out […]
This week we were at Goldmsiths, University of London catching up with Indian student Rhea Bhandari. In this interview Rhea talks about what inspired her to study Design in London, her advice for other Indian students wanting to study in London, and her aspirations for the future. How did you choose your course and university? […]
German student Katie studied Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, UAL. Here she shares her advice to prospective students thinking about studying in London. How did you choose your course and university? I was studying on a foundation course at Camberwell College of Arts when we had some faculty from the Graphic Design course at […]
As a student in London, your accommodation plays a big part in your overall student experience. Your living environment is very important as you need to feel comfortable and safe to enjoy your time at university. There are three popular accommodation options for international students in London. University Halls of Residence The majority of universities […]
Starting life at university, especially in a new city or country, can be incredibly exciting. However, it is inevitable that, at some point, you will feel homesick. It is estimated that up to 70% of people will suffer homesickness and is perfectly normal. Here is our helpful guide about how to deal with homesickness so […]
With the deadline for our new International Student Innovation Award fast approaching, the Study London team has been out and about scouting for talent at some of the capital’s recent graduate shows. We’ve seen some excellent innovative ideas from the degree shows at the AA School of Architecture; the University of the Arts London at […]
We are delighted to have worked with Student.Com in creating this video with a simple message. To students from all over the globe, there is one thing you need to know, #LondonIsOpen
We have invited our money expert, Peter Miles of UniZest, to share his advice to international students studying in the UK. We have all experienced that sinking feeling you get when you realise that you have managed to spend rather more money than you anticipated, leaving you extremely short of cash and worried about making […]
Many international students feel nervous at the prospect of unfamiliar life when coming to study in the UK. Whilst this is perfectly normal, nerves should not be the overarching emotion when embarking on an exciting new chapter of your life. Thorough preparation is often the best strategy to conquer these nerves. By being aware of […]