To set up business in the UK as a foreign national of a non-EEA country, you will need to apply for the relevant entrepreneur visa.
Recent rule changes are seeing the closure of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa (with effect from 29th March 2019) and the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa route (as of 6th July 2019), and the introduction of the new Innovator visa and Start up visa as of 29th March 2019.
Whichever route you opt for, it’s important not to overlook the basics; ensure you meet the relevant eligibility criteria and submit an application that has been completed fully and correctly with comprehensive supporting documents.
Which entrepreneur visa is for you?
The Innovator route is aimed at experienced business owners who wish to come to Britain to make an investment in a UK-based business venture.
The Start Up visa on the other hand is for individuals looking to set up their first business in the UK.
Both routes stipulate criteria to be met and require applicants to secure endorsement for their business idea from an approved institution or body before they can apply to the Home Office for the visa.
Criteria for an Entrepreneur visa UK
The Entrepreneur visa is open for new applications until 29th March 2019. Under the points based system you must meet the full requirements of the Immigration Rules and score a minimum number of points determined by your Entrepreneur visa UK application. The awarding of points will be conditional on you providing documentary evidence in support.
For an Entrepreneur visa UK application, you must score:
- at least 75 points for attributes (Appendix A of the Immigration Rules)
- 10 points for English language (Appendix B of the Immigration Rules)
- 10 points for maintenance (funds) (Appendix C of the Immigration Rules)
Points will only be awarded for your business if it is a UK business. To be treated as a UK business it must satisfy the following requirements:
- it is trading within the UK economy
- it has a registered office (or head office) in the UK, except where you are registered with HMRC as self-employed and do not have a business office
- it has a UK bank account
- it is subject to UK taxation
To make an initial application under this category, you must demonstrate you have access to investment funds of £200,000, disposable and under your control to invest in your UK business. The funds must be held in one or more regulated financial institutions in the UK.
If you are making a combined application, the £200,000 can be relied on for a team application. You cannot however rely on the same funds for different applications.
A lesser investment sum of £50,000 can be relied on if your investment funds come from an FCA-registered venture capital firm investment, UK government department or DIT-endorsed seed fund, or if you have already invested the £50,000 fund less than 12 months before you make an application.
Skills & capabilities
Your application will need evidence you have the skills, qualifications and experience necessary to establish a viable business in the UK.
English language requirement
Unless you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, you will need to satisfy the Home Office of your knowledge of English. This can be achieved by providing evidence of an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors degree, masters degree or PhD. Otherwise, you will need to pass an approved English test at level C1 prior to submitting your application.
You will need to satisfy the Home Office of your ability to support yourself on arrival in the UK without use of state benefits. If you are outside the UK seeking entry clearance you must have at least £3,310 of personal savings, which you must have held for 90 consecutive days prior to the date of your application. If you are in the UK seeking further leave to remain, you must have at least £945 of personal savings.
If you are applying for entry clearance as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) applicant, you must also provide an overseas criminal record certificate for any country you have been present in continuously or cumulatively for 12 months or more, in the 10 years prior to your application.
Making an Entrepreneur visa UK application
If you are applying from outside the UK, you must apply online. As part of your application you will be required to provide what is known as biometric information, ie; your fingerprints and a digital photograph of your face. This can be done at a visa application centre and will enable you to obtain a biometric residence permit.
The application fee for an Entrepreneur visa UK will depend on your situation, where you are and how you apply. In the event that your application is refused your fee may not be refundable, so it is always best to seek expert legal advice prior to submitting your application.
Your business plan will be a critical element in your application for an Entrepreneur visa in the UK.
Remember that the document will be read and assessed by a Home Office caseworker, and it is safest to assume that they will have little first-hand knowledge of the sector you propose to operate in. You will need to prepare and submit a document which explains your business idea with sufficient clarity and detail to satisfy the caseworker that your idea is viable and has the potential to meet your projections.
Tier 1 Entrepreneur Interview
Having submitted your application, it is likely that you will be required to attend an interview. During the interview you will be expected to answer questions about yourself and your business. The caseworker will for example want to understand about your skills and qualifications, and that they will be relevant to your proposed enterprise. They will also discuss in detail your business plan, to assess whether you will be engaging in genuine business activity and that the plan presents a viable proposition.
Alternatives to the Entrepreneur visa UK
A new Start Up visa is planned to be introduced in Spring 2019, intended to open up opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs to come to the UK. Initial proposals indicate the new visa will be aimed at a broader category of individual than the existing Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa category, which was exclusively for graduates.
Should I seek legal advice about my Entrepreneur visa UK application?
If you are planning to establish, join or take over one or more businesses in the UK, take advice on all the UK immigration options open to you. The rules for an Entrepreneur visa UK application can be complex and challenging to interpret for individual circumstances, and the consequences of a failed application can be costly and cause significant inconvenience. Even where you meet all of the conditions of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category, there may be other reasons why your application may be refused under the general grounds for refusal.
DavidsonMorris specialise in all aspects of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur applications. We advise individuals from across the globe on making successful Home Office applications, as well as advising on refused applications and applications to extend existing Entrepreneur visas. We can assist with joint Entrepreneur visa applications as well as visa applications for any dependants you wish to join you in the UK and any subsequent applications to settle in the UK. If you have a question about the UK Entrepreneur visa, contact us.