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Entrepreneur Visa UK

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Since the closure of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, there is no longer a single, dedicated entrepreneur visa for the UK. Instead, applicants should take advice on their circumstances to determine which of the current immigration routes are open to you to come to the UK to pursue commercial opportunities.

For example, if you would like to set up or run a UK business, you might be eligible to apply for either a Start up visa or an Innovator visa. As an overseas business owner, you may also be able to deploy representatives to set up a branch in the UK under the UK Expansion Worker visa.

In this guide, we look at each of these different types of entrepreneur visas for the UK, from what they allow and who they are aimed at, to the eligibility requirements that must be met. We also look at how people already in the UK on an existing Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa may be able to extend their stay in the UK.

 

UK Start up route

The Start up route is specifically aimed at those looking to set up a business in the UK for the first time. The business must be new, where you cannot join a business that is already trading, and you must not have previously established any other business in the UK. You must also meet the other eligibility requirements under this route.

To be eligible for a Start up visa, you must be able to show that your business idea is:

 

Innovative

You must have an original business idea, different to anything else on the market, that will meet new or existing market needs and/or create a competitive advantage

 

Viable

The idea must be realistic and achievable given your available resources, and you have or are in the process of developing, the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business

 

Scalable

The business has potential for both job creation and growth.

You will first need to be endorsed by an authorised body that is either a business with a track record of supporting UK entrepreneurs or a UK higher education institution. The endorsing body will assess your application to ensure that the business idea is innovative, viable and scalable. You must also meet both an English language and financial requirement.

Under the financial requirement, if you are making an application for entry clearance from overseas, or have been in the UK no more than 12 months at the date when you apply, you must have funds of at least £1,270. If you are switching from a different route and have been lawfully living in the UK for 12 months or more, you will meet the financial requirement and do not need to show funds. Where applicable, you must show that you have held the required level of funds for a 28 day period, unless your endorsing body can confirm that you have been awarded funding of at least this amount. Under the English language requirement, you must show at least level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

The cost of applying for a Start up visa is £378 from outside the UK, and £508 to switch to this route inside the UK. You will also be required to pay the immigration health surcharge, set at £624 per year of stay, to enable you to access the UK’s National Health Service. If your application is successful, you will be allowed to stay in the UK for 2 years, and although this cannot be extended, you may then be eligible to switch to the Innovator visa.

The Start up visa is ideal for first-time business owners looking to establish an innovative business in the UK, and who need to work to support themselves while developing their idea. This is because a Start up visa-holder can work in another job in the UK, at the same time as working for their business, to give them the means to support themselves in the early stages. Establishing a successful business in the UK can also provide new entrepreneurs with the ability to apply for the Innovator visa in due course, which is a route to settlement.

 

UK Innovator route

The Innovator route is for those seeking to establish a business in the UK based on an innovative, viable and scalable business idea that they have generated, or to which they have significantly contributed, and who will have a hands-on role in running the business.

As with a Start up visa, you will need endorsement from either a UK higher education provider or a business with a history of supporting UK-based entrepreneurs, and you must meet the financial and English language requirements. If you are applying for an Innovator visa on the basis of a new idea, you will also be expected to have funds of at least £50,000 to invest, as well as playing a key role in the day-to-day management and development of that business.

When switching from a Start up visa, proof of investment funds will not be needed, although you must be able to demonstrate that your business is active, trading and sustainable, and that significant progress has been made, based on the original business plan, since its inception.

The cost of applying for an Innovator visa is £1,036 from outside the UK, and £1,292 to switch from another visa inside the UK. You will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge. If your application is successful, an Innovator visa will be granted for 3 years, and can be extended an unlimited number of times. An application for settlement can also be made after 3 years.

The Innovator visa is essentially designed for experienced entrepreneurs looking to set up or run a business in the UK, and who have at least £50,000 in funds to invest and the time to dedicate to their business venture through day-to-day involvement.

 

UK Expansion Worker route

A UK Expansion Worker visa is to help owners of an overseas business that has not yet started trading in the UK to set up a UK branch. This will allow you to send either a senior or specialist worker to the UK to help you establish a commercial presence. This is one of a number of new routes under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) umbrella, recently introduced in the wake of Brexit to provide greater flexibility for those looking to invest in the UK economy.

To be eligible for a GBM visa under the Expansion Worker route, the applicant must have worked for your overseas business as either a senior manager or specialist employee for at least 12 months. As a sponsored route, you must also issue them with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), setting out the minimum skill and salary requirements for their prospective role in the UK. This means that you must have in place a sponsorship licence approved by the UK Home Office to sponsor under this route.

The cost of applying for a UK Expansion Worker visa is £259, from either overseas or within the UK. The visa applicant will also be liable to pay the healthcare surcharge and, where applicable, must have funds of at least £1,270 to show that they can support themselves. As the sponsor of a UK Expansion Worker, you will be required to pay a £21 fee to issue an CoS, while the cost of applying for a Home Office approved sponsorship licence will be £536.

If the application for a UK Expansion Worker visa is successful, your UK representative will be granted a visa for a period of just 12 months, although this can be extended for a further 12 months. However, the maximum permitted length of stay on this visa is 2 years. This GBM route will not provide the visa-holder with a path to settlement in the UK, although they may be eligible to apply for leave to remain under a different immigration route.

 

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route extension 

The Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa is now closed to new entrants. However, if you have already been granted leave on this route, you can still apply for an extension of stay. You may also be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, providing you with lawful permanent residency.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants making an extension application will be subject to a genuine entrepreneur test. This means that the Home Office must be satisfied that you:

  • have established, taken over or been appointed a director of one or more genuine UK businesses, and have genuinely operated that business or businesses
  • have invested at least £200,000 in cash (or £50,000 if points were awarded for £50,000 funding or investment in your last grant of leave) into one or more genuine businesses in the UK, or have been responsible for that investment being made by one or more third parties
  • have registered your business, either with HMRC if self-employed, or with Companies House as a director of a UK company or member of a UK partnership, within 6 months of being granted permission to stay in the UK under this route
  • can evidence that you have been self-employed, working as a director of a business or a member of a partnership 3 months before you apply
  • have created the equivalent of at least two brand new full time jobs for settled workers in a new or existing business or businesses, and these jobs must have existed for at least 12 months during your most recent grant of leave
  • intend to continue operating one or more genuine businesses in the UK, and
  • do not intend to take employment other than working for the UK business or businesses which you have established, taken over or joined.

To be eligible to extend your visa as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant, you will therefore need evidence that you have registered your business, invested your funds and created at least two full time jobs for resident workers. You must also be able to show that you can continue to support yourself in the UK. If you are applying from overseas, you must have at least £3,310 of personal savings, lowered to £945 of savings if you are applying from inside the UK. In either case, you must have held the required level of funds for a consecutive 90 day period.

To extend your visa, you must apply prior to expiry of your existing visa. You must also take into account the closing dates for extension or settlement applications under this route, where existing Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants who have not held leave as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) can apply to extend their stay before 6 April 2023, or to settle before 6 April 2025. Applicants who have previously held leave as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) before switching into Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) can apply to extend their stay before 6 July 2025, and to settle after switching into Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) before 6 July 2027.

The cost of applying for an extension as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant is £1,292 if you apply when you are in the UK, and £1,036 if you apply when you are outside the UK. If your application is successful, an extension will normally be granted for 2 years. You can apply to settle in the UK after 5 years on this route. Accelerated settlement is also available within 3 years for the most successful entrepreneurs who create the equivalent of ten or more full-time jobs or a gross income from business activity of at least £5 million.

 

Need assistance?

As an overseas entrepreneur looking to start a UK business, or an overseas business owner looking to establish a commercial presence in the UK, expert advice from an immigration specialist can help ensure you have explored all options for an entrepreneur visa for the UK to inform your decision on the best available route in your particular circumstances.

DavidsonMorris are UK business immigration specialists. We advise entrepreneurs on visa routes to pursue UK-based business opportunities, providing expert application support and guidance on the complex evidential requirements to maximise your chances of a successful outcome. Contact us for advice.

 

Entrepreneur visa UK FAQs

What is an Entrepreneur visa in UK?

You can no longer apply for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, but there are various other visa options to choose from as an entrepreneur, including the Start up visa, the Innovator visa and the UK Expansion Worker visa.

How much money is needed for UK business visa?

The amount of money that you will need for a UK business visa will depend on the category of visa sought, for example, for an Innovator visa, you will need at least £50,000 to invest in a new venture.

How much money do I need to invest to get permanent residency in UK?

To obtain permanent residency in the UK as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant, you must have invested either £200,000 or £50,000 cash into one or more UK businesses, depending on the level of funds your initial application was based on.

How do entrepreneurs get visas?

To obtain an Entrepreneur visa UK, you will need to submit an online application, pay the relevant fee and provide evidence that you meet the requirements of the route, eg, the Start Up route or the Innovator route.

Last updated: 9 August 2022

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