Visa Options for Foreign Entrepreneurs Starting Business in the UK

As of March 2019, the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa program was officially closed.  In its place, two new immigration schemes were established — Innovator and Start-up — both of which involve the challenge of receiving an official endorsement from a recognised UK body.

Now more than ever, ensuring you fully understand the requirements of the new UK Innovator Visa could hold the key to your successful entry to the UK market.

The New UK Innovator Visa

We recently published a detailed post outlining the primary terms and conditions that must be satisfied under the new UK Innovator Visa scheme. As with most prior visas for international business owners and entrepreneurs, qualification criteria under the new scheme center primarily on proof of innovation, viability, and scalability.

The biggest difference being that with the UK Innovator Visa, it is now also necessary to obtain formal endorsement from an officially recognised body.  According to the official text of the new immigration rules, the body endorsing your application must be ‘reasonably satisfied that you will spend much of your working time in Britain developing business ventures.’

This, for many prospective entrepreneurs and investors, is already proving problematic.

Alternative Options for Entrepreneurs

Accessing qualified legal support at the earliest possible stage can significantly improve the likelihood of your business receiving official endorsement.  However, there may be instances where for any given reason, endorsement is out of the question.

In which case, it’s important to understand the alternative options available for entrepreneurs. Each of which has its own pros and cons, though could pave the way for successful entry into the UK business market.

The Sole Representative Visa

One of the most popular and accessible alternative options is to register as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business. This particular system has been around for more than a decade, established to enable businesses already operating overseas to send a representative to the UK and open and register a branch or subsidiary.

Under the terms of the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business scheme:

  • The headquarters of the business must be outside the United Kingdom
  • The business must not already have a commercial presence in the UK
  • The branch established in the UK must perform the same type of business as its overseas HQ
  • The individual sent to the UK on behalf of the business must be a direct employee of the business, have enough knowledge and authority to establish the UK branch, not be a majority shareholder and meet the minimum basic English language requirements.
  • The representative must also be able to demonstrate sufficient financial stability to accommodate themselves and their dependants, without claiming benefits

An initial visa of three years will be granted if the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business application is successful, which can then be extended upon providing evidence that the business is successful and of value to the UK market.

Indefinite leave to remain may also be granted, which will be extended to family members joining or accompanying the applicant.

If you have any questions about the potential benefits of the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business or would like to discuss your eligibility before applying, book your obligation-free consultation with Aristone Solicitors today.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

Another possible alternative for international entrepreneurs and innovators is the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. 

According to the official text of the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, this popular pathway is open for individuals who are considered exceptional and renowned in fields such as:

  • science
  • engineering
  • humanities
  • medicine
  • digital technology
  • the arts
  • fashion
  • architecture
  • film and television

As with the new UK Innovator Visa, Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa applicants must also receive formal endorsement from a recognised body or organisation, which are as follows:

  • Arts Council England – for the arts and culture
  • British Academy – for humanities and social sciences
  • Royal Academy of Engineering – for engineering
  • Royal Society – for natural sciences and medical science research
  • Tech Nation– for applicants in digital technology

Applications under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa scheme are assessed almost entirely on the basis of the applicant’s skills, knowledge, capabilities and background in their field.  Upon receiving an Exceptional Talent visa, the holder is permitted to establish a business in the UK, working on a self-employed or employed basis.

Tier 2 Sponsorship

Contrary to popular belief, the Tier 2 Sponsorship pathway isn’t reserved exclusively for employees. There are certain instances in which it is also open to consultants, contractors, shareholders and even business owners.

However, entry to the UK business market under this particular pathway can be quite complex. Fulfilling basic eligibility requirements and obtaining sponsorship can present significant challenges, which is why expert legal support and representation is recommended from the earliest possible stage.

Tier 1 (Investor)

The fourth and final alternative option is the Tier 1 (Investor) pathway, which is open exclusively to entrepreneurs with significant wealth at their disposal. The main requirement that must be fulfilled under the Tier 1 (Investor) is the capital of at least £2 million at the time of the application.

The money can belong to the applicant, their spouse or as joint funds held by the two partners, which must have been held for a minimum of two years. If the application is successful, it must also be possible to immediately transfer the funds to the UK.

If you have a minimum of £2 million at your disposal, this is one of the quickest and easiest ways of gaining access to the UK as an entrepreneur or investor.

Call Aristone Solicitors

Understanding your eligibility or otherwise under the various pathways available holds the key to your successful entry to the UK market. Whether planning ahead or in need of help with an urgent application, we’re standing by with the support and representation you need. Book your obligation-free initial consultation with Aristone Solicitors today, or e-mail anytime and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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