The UK’s immigration system is complex and is undergoing regular changes. This can make it difficult for entrepreneurs and business people to know how they can set up their businesses in the UK. Whilst the government is advertising Britain as “open for business” in the hope of attracting the “best and brightest” to the UK, it can be confusing to understand the different options for moving your business to the UK.

In this blog we look at some of the main visas available for entrepreneurs and business people, and the eligibility requirements for each.

Innovator Visa:

This visa allows individuals to set up a business in the UK. The first step is to get endorsement from an approved body which assesses whether the business idea is viable, scalable, and innovative. The applicant needs to have £50,000 available in investment funds for the business and must meet the required standard of English. The individual must also have personal funds of £945 held in their bank for 90 days prior to their application.

This visa allows for an initial stay of 3 years, which can be extended for a further 3 years (indefinitely), and indefinite leave to remain can be applied for after 5 years in total (or quicker in some circumstances).

Whilst on this visa, an individual cannot do work outside the work they do in their own business, this is contrasted with the Start Up visa (below) which allows the holder to work outside their business to support themselves.

The fee for this visa is currently £1,021 for applicants outside the UK and the NHS surcharge of £400 per year of the visa is payable upfront at the time of applying.

Start Up Visa:

This visa is similar to the Innovator visa except it does not require the individual to have £50,000 funding. Endorsement is still required, as are the English language and maintenance funds like the Innovator visa. The other main difference is that this visa is for a limited period of 2 years, after which the applicant can apply to switch into the Innovator category if they have secured sufficient funding. This visa allows for the holder to take employment whilst working on their business.

The fee for this visa is currently £363 for applicants outside the UK and the NHS surcharge is applicable.

Representative of an Overseas Business Visa:

This visa is for the sole representative of an overseas company planning to set up a UK branch or a wholly owned subsidiary for an overseas parent company.

The individual must be a senior employee who can make decisions for the company in the UK. There must be a clear business plan for the company in the UK and the overseas company must be establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary or registering a branch in the UK which is in the same business activity as the parent company.

The applicant must show they have sufficient English language skills and enough funds to support themselves and any family members in the UK.

The visa can be granted for an initial period of up to 3 years, which can be extended for a further 2 years, and then can lead to indefinite leave to remain.

The fee for this visa is currently £610, and again the NHS surcharge applies.

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent:

This visa is for individuals who are considered to be world leaders or future world leaders in science, medicine, engineering, humanities, arts and culture, and tech. This visa allows the holder to work or set up a business in the UK.

The applicant needs endorsement from an endorsing body before they can apply for the visa. Different bodies cover the different areas and each has their own criteria which must be met for endorsement.

The visa can be for up to 5 years in the first instance (or for a shorter period and can be extended for up to another 5 years). Applications for indefinite leave to remain can be made after 5 years on this visa.

There is no English language requirement for this visa, nor maintenance requirement.

There are two fees for this visa. For the endorsement stage the fee is £456. The visa fee, once endorsement is obtained, is £152. The NHS Surcharge is also applicable.

This visa is undergoing some changes in future and potentially becoming the ”Global Talent visa”. It could mean that it is slightly easier to obtain; currently it is limited to 2,000 a year but this has never been met. Whilst it is tough to get endorsement, it is highly beneficial for those who can obtain this visa.

With Brexit on the horizon, and the Innovator and Start Up visas in their infancy, it is highly likely more changes will happen in future. Should you be considering setting up your business in the UK, you should take advice from our immigration team who can help you understand your options as well as put you in touch with contacts who can assist you in each step of your business journey.

Call the team at Farleys Solicitors today on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry through our online contact form.