Which UK business visa?
If you’re looking to start up a business in Britain, there are a number of types of UK business visa that may be available to you.
Each visa is different, so it’s recommended you take advice on your specific circumstances to ensure you consider all the options relevant to your needs and that you satisfy the eligibility criteria before embarking on the application process.
The main types of business visa for non-EEA nationals include:
UK Start Up Visa
The UK Start Up Visa is a new and welcome addition to current UK business visa options.
The new route is aimed at non-EEA nationals looking to set up their first business in the UK. It is available to both graduates and non-graduates, and is hoped to encourage more foreign entrepreneurs to come to the UK and contribute to the British economy, with particular ambitions to accelerate growth in sectors such as tech.
As with its predecessor Tier 1 graduate entrepreneur visa, the start up visa requires endorsement of the applicant and the business idea from an approved endorsing body, including business organisations as well as universities.
UK Innovator Visa
Replacing the now-closed Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, the Innovator Visa is for experienced business people.
Applicants will need a minimum of £50,000 available to invest in their business. They must secure endorsement from an authorised business body, who will assess the application against the visa criteria of innovation; viability; scalability. The applicant must also show their credibility and commitment to the venture – visa holders will only be permitted to work in the UK on the relevant business.
Leave under the innovator route will be granted for 3 years at a time, with no maximum time limit placed on visa holders under this category.
Tier 1 Investor visa
A Tier 1 Investor visa requires £2,000,000 or more into approved UK investments, such as government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies.
Investor visa holders can also work, study or engage in business activities in the UK.
To apply for a Tier 1 Investor visa, applicants must be from outside the EEA and Switzerland, and show they have at least £2 million available to invest in specified UK investments. The investment funds must either belong to the applicant, their spouse or civil partner and they must be held in one or more regulated financial institutions and be available to be transferred to and invested in the UK. The source of funds must also be evidenced.
An initial Tier 1 Investor visa lasts for a total of 3 years and 4 months. Holders of the Tier 1 Investor visa may apply for a tier 1 investor visa extension to extend their stay for a further 2 years under Tier 1. Subsequent settlement options in the UK, including fast-tracked indefinite leave to remain, may also become available.
You will be required to collate and submit extensive documentation to evidence your investment activity during the course of your stay in the UK.
Problems may arise with your extension application where you or your professional advisers have not kept sufficient or adequate records of your investment and related activity covering the period of your Tier 1 visa. In which case, seek advice on how you can most effectively approach the extension process.
Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa
The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa is closing to new applications on 5th July 2019. It is succeeded by the Start Up visa.
The Graduate Entrepreneur visa permits international graduates to extend their stay in the UK after graduation to establish one or more businesses. You are permitted to set up as either a sole trader, partnership or limited company.
To be eligible to apply for the graduate entrepreneur visa, the applicant must you must be from outside the EEA and Switzerland and must secure endorsement from a UK higher education institution, if it is an authorised endorsing agent, or by the Department for International Trade (DIT).
Applicants are required to hold a UK-recognised higher education qualification such as a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s or PhD and they must meet the English language requirements.
If the applicant can evidence endorsement, they must then make the application to the Home Office and provide relevant supporting documentation in support of their application. The type of documents will be dependent on whether you have been endorsed by a higher education institution or by DIT.
Applicants will also be required to have access to sufficient maintenance funds. The level of funds required depends on where you are applying from; at least £1,890 if applying from outside the UK, and at least £945 for those applying from within. In both circumstances, you must have had access to the funds for 3 continuous months or more.
Under the visa, you are permitted to stay in the UK for up to 1 year. An extension is available on application for a further year. However, this is not a route to UK settlement.
Switching visa categories
If you are already in the UK on a valid visa, you may be looking to switch to a visa which allows you to remain in the UK to set up your own business or make substantial investment here.
Under the current UK immigration rules, it is possible to switch from Tier 2 to the Tier 1 investor visa– provided you meet the relevant eligibility criteria.
It may be possible to switch to the Innovator and Start up routes if you are in the UK lawfully under one of the following categories:
- Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
- Tier 2
- Visitor (Prospective Entrepreneur)
Start up visa holders may also apply to switch to the Innovator route to continue their leave in the UK.
The application processes and requirements for switching visa category can be complex, and the timing of an application and additional complicating factors such as the Tier 2 cooling-off period will also require consideration.
Advice on applying for a UK Business visa – we can help!
If you have a business idea or are looking to invest in an existing UK business, please contact us to discuss the full eligibility criteria and the options available to secure a UK business visa.
We can also advise on employment-based work visas such as the Tier 2 visa and other visas and schemes for your circumstances