The UK is a fantastic place to do business. As one of the world’s leading economies, the UK offers a huge array of options for those who want to start a business. For those from abroad, the options available mean that the UK is a great target location for getting an entrepreneurial pursuit off of the ground. As well as having a marketplace that prizes innovation, the UK has a straightforward visa system that gives opportunities to foreign-based entrepreneurs looking to make the UK their home.
In essence, there are two ways for immigrants to come to the UK in order to pursue business opportunities: these are to either come as an entrepreneur and launch a brand new business or to come as an investor and get involved in a business that is already running. In the following sections, we will look at the differences for would-be visa holders looking at both of the two main routes into the UK for business-minded individuals. We will explain the options for each, and help you to decide which route you are going to take.
Starting A Business With An Entrepreneurial Idea
The UK has great options for those who have an entrepreneurial idea. As a country that highly prizes innovation, the UK is always keen to bring in talented individuals and give them the space to get their big idea off the ground. To allow this to happen, the UK has two main visa routes which we will layout below:
The Start-Up Visa
The Start-Up Visa was created as a way to allow inexperienced entrepreneurs the opportunity to come to the UK to get their business off of the ground. There is no minimum investment capital required, but you will need to gain an endorsement from an approved body before your application can be considered. These approved bodies include many higher educational institutions and also several business-minded bodies such as accelerators. By using an endorsement system, UK Visas and Immigration can be certain that your idea has been well thought out and has a strong chance of success.
Once your endorsement has been given, you will be able to apply for a visa that will give you up to 2 years stay in the UK to get your business off of the ground. You will not be able to extend this visa, but if your business takes off, you will be able to upgrade it to an Innovator Visa that you can use to remain in the UK and eventually settle in the UK if you so wish.
The Innovator Visa
Like the Start-Up Visa, the Innovator Visa requires businesses to gain an endorsement from an approved body such as a higher education institution or a business-minded endorsing body. The main difference between the two visa routes for entrepreneurs is that you require £50,000 worth of seed funding if you wish to come to the UK on the Innovator Visa. This is because the Innovator Visa is for an initial period of 3 years, and can be extended to the point where you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after 5 years. This is a significant benefit over the Start-Up Visa as you do not need to upgrade your visa after its initial period.
Both of the UK’s entrepreneurial visa routes are suitable for a variety of businesses. Endorsement, though, can be an issue. You will need to have a very strong business idea to gain an endorsement. If you have previously studied in the UK, it may be an idea to find out whether your former higher educational institution is on the approved bodies list, as many are keen to help former students. If you did not study in the UK, you will need to gain an endorsement from one of the business-minded bodies. This may not actually be such a bad idea as many of these are “accelerators” who can help you to not only make the most of your business idea but also help you to make helpful contacts and even offer access to financing.
Taking over a business as an investor
Another, less common, way for would-be immigrants to get involved in a UK business is by coming to the UK on the Tier 1 Investor Visa. This visa allows holders to invest in a UK business by either utilizing loan capital or share purchase as an investment vehicle to satisfy the requirements of the visa. There is, however, a downside: you will need at least £2m in investable capital in order to apply for the visa. If you are in this position, the Tier 1 Investor Visa is a great option, as it allows you to invest, work and live freely in the UK for an initial period of 3 years. You can also extend the visa and settle in the UK after 5 years. If you have significantly more capital, you can even settle in the UK earlier (if you have £5m you can settle in 3 years and you can settle in just 2 years if you have more than £10m to invest).
Key Takeaways For Entrepreneurs Looking At The UK As A Target Business Location
Whether you are looking to set up an entrepreneurial pursuit or are looking to invest, the UK is a great place to do business. There are excellent visa options for a variety of business ideas, and lots of help and financing available once you are here. The UK is a great place to do business, and one of the world’s most welcoming locations for business-minded immigrants. So, if you feel you have what it takes to start a business in the UK, then get in touch with one of our expert immigration lawyers, who will be more than happy to help you.