Smart UK visa options for entrepreneurs and businesses

No doubt, the UK is a highly attractive market for overseas businesses. But it also has an immigration regime that has become increasingly challenging in recent years.

Since the UK’s exit from the EU, various UK immigration routes have been overhauled, with more changes expected in the near future. It is therefore important to stay up-to-date about current visa options and what the future holds. Why not add this blog to your newsfeed by turning on the notification bell and being the first to get all our updates.

For entrepreneurs and businesses based outside the UK, there are various immigration routes that can potentially be used, depending on the circumstances. Different routes are available depending on whether a business already has an established presence in the UK. Whether the aim is to set up a new business in the UK or a business based abroad wants to establish a UK branch or subsidiary, you have viable options to choose from.

Current UK visa options for overseas entrepreneurs and businesses

  • Start-up visasFrom 13 April 2023 this route is only available to those who hold a valid Start-up endorsement issued before the 13 April 2023. From 13 July 2023 the Start-up route will be closed to all new applications.

Simply put, start-up visas are a potential option where someone is planning to start an “innovative” business in the UK. Note the word in emphasis, please. Yes, the business must be “different from anything else on the market” and the business or business idea will need to be endorsed by an authorised endorsing body.

Start-up visas are aimed at entrepreneurs who wish to establish a business in the UK for the first time and the business should not yet have started trading. You do not need to have secured initial funding to apply.

Note that a start-up visa is a one-off visa, valid for 2 years and it does not provide a direct route to indefinite leave to remain. However, you can potentially extend your stay in the UK when a start-up visa is due to expire by applying for further leave to remain in the Innovator Founder visa category.

Also note that you will need to meet other basic eligibility requirements, including being at least 18 years old, having the required standard of English, and being able to prove you have sufficient personal savings to support yourself in the UK.

  • Innovator Founder visa

Innovator Founder visa is similar to a start-up visa in that they are intended for those who wish to start an innovative business in the UK and the business or its idea must be endorsed by an authorised endorsing body.

Key differences are that innovator visas are aimed at experienced business people, you must have at least £50,000 in investment funds and you will be able to stay in the UK for 3 years with the option to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of this time.

As with a start-up visa, you must meet other basic eligibility requirements.

  • Representative of an overseas business visasA person applying as a Representative of an Overseas Business must either be a Media Representative or applying for an extension or settlement as a Sole Representative as this route is closed for entry clearance applications for those that are not representing a Media organisation.

The representative of an overseas business visa is aimed at people who are employed by an overseas business and wish to move to the UK to set up a UK branch of the company or a wholly owned subsidiary. They can also be used by employees of newspapers, news agencies, or broadcasters who are being posted to the UK on a long-term basis.

This type of visa allows you to stay in the UK for up to 3 years initially, which can be extended for another 2 years depending on the circumstances.

You cannot work for yourself or for any other business while in the UK on a representative of an overseas business visa.

This route has been discontinued but those already on it can apply for extend and settle permanently in the UK.

  • The Global Business Mobility route

The Home Office announced this new immigration route for global businesses in Spring 2022. This new type of visa is aimed at overseas businesses with an existing presence in the UK as well as those that wish to establish a presence here.

The Global Business Mobility visa is available for firms without an established UK presence that needs to bring people to the UK who are:

  • Supplying a service in the UK in line with UK trade agreements
  • A ‘UK expansion worker’ entering the UK to establish a UK presence for the business
  • Secondment workers employed in high-value contracts or investments

It can also be used for firms with established UK presences that need to bring in people from overseas who are:

  • Senior and/or specialist workers required to meet specific business needs
  • Graduate trainees taking part in a recognised graduate training programme
  • Secondment workers employed in high-value contracts or investments

It is expected that the new Global Business Mobility visa would act as a replacement for the representative of an overseas business visa and intra-company visas.

For expert advice on UK visa options for entrepreneurs and businesses, or any other aspect of immigration advice you seek. Please contact for further information.

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