How to Start a Business as an Immigrant in the UK

A beautiful country UK with beautiful sky scrapers and sea surrounded by.

The UK is a great place to open a business. To be successful, non-UK business owners would need to navigate additional legal requirements, in addition to the existing tax, registration and licence regulations.

UK Business Immigration Requirements

First, you must obtain the right immigration status to start your business in the UK. Some visas do not allow foreigners to start and run a business. Only those that are specifically designed for this purpose or permit it, will be allowed.

A student visa, for example, does not grant permission to start a business. This visa and similar visa holders must be converted to qualified visas.

How do entrepreneurs apply for a visa?

There are four options for immigrants who want to open a UK business:

– Innovator Visa

– Start-up Visa

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– Global Talent Visa

– UK Sole Representative of a Business Overseas Visa

Notice: The UK Home Office has stopped issuing the Entrepreneur Visa and Investor Visa (tier 1) until further notice.

Let’s explain each visa in more detail:

Innovator Visa

Innovator Visas are for foreign entrepreneurs who have developed innovative business ideas and can be approved by an authorized body.

To obtain an Innovator Visa, you must have an investment fund of at least £50,000, unless your business was already established and endorsed under a different visa, or you’ve changed to another business with the approval of the endorsing body.

Innovator Visa holders are allowed to remain in the UK for up to three year. You can also extend your visa for up three more years provided you fulfill the eligibility criteria. What’s more, you may obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after three years, opening up the possibility of acquiring British Citizenship.

Get a Start-up Visa

The Start-Up visa is a visa route that’s available to new entrepreneurs looking to start a business but who don’t have the necessary resources for applying for the Innovator Visa described above.

To apply for the Start-Up Visa you must provide evidence that your business idea is new (you can’t join an already established business) and innovative (it must be something different from what the market offers), with growth potential. A UK university or other organization that supports UK businesspeople must endorse you.

You’re not required to have an investment fund as is the case with the Innovator Visa, making this the perfect choice for individuals who are short on budget. However, this visa is only valid for two years, can’t be extended and won’t allow you to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain. You can apply for an Innovator Visa if you want to be granted ILR status.

Global Talent Visa

Global talent visas are for international talents who have been approved by endorsing organizations in science, engineering and medicine. While it’s not specifically a “business visa” it enables you to work, be self-employed or set up your own company. This visa is available to anyone who has received a qualifying award.

You can stay for up to five years in the UK under the Global Talent Visa. The possibility exists of applying for an extended visa. Depending on your field of work, you can apply for Indefinite Leave To Remain.

UK Asle Representative for a Business Overseas Visa

This visa is available to co-owners or employees of foreign organizations who are looking to establish a UK branch. To be considered a “Sole Representative”, you must not be a majority owner or controller of the mother company.

To be deemed eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain as a Sole Representative of an overseas business, you must spend five continuous years in the UK, provided that you’ve worked full-time for the business’ UK branch/subsidiary.

How to apply for a UK Business Visa

If you are applying for visas from the UK, all applications should be made online at least three months before your travel date. Likewise, you’d also need to provide the following documentation:

– Valid passport or identity document

– Bank statements and other financial records showing that you have sufficient funds to sustain yourself.

– Proof that you have sufficient knowledge of English (approved English test, degree taught in English issued by an approved institution, etc.) You must not be from an English-speaking area unless this is the case.

– A negative tuberculosis test if you’re from a country considered high-risk

Apart from the documents outlined above, you must accompany your petition with the information and documentation that’s proper to the visa type you’re requesting (evidence of investment fund, endorsement letter, evidence of prize or award, etc.)

You will need to prove your identity by either scheduling an appointment at the visa application centre or using the “UK Immigration: ID Check” app.

The average decision time for applicants from other countries is three weeks, and it takes eight months to decide if they are in the UK.

Can I register and start a UK business as an immigrant in order to be able to work there?

Once you’ve obtained your visa and settled in the UK, you may register your business as an immigrant. First, choose the best legal structure for your model and business. A:

1. As a sole trader you are fully responsible (no distinction is made between you and the venture).

2. Partenariat, in which partners share their profits and liabilities.

3. Legally seperating yourself from your business as a limited company.

Each structure has its advantages and drawbacks. As it protects their personal assets, many entrepreneurs choose to set up limited companies. Although it is easier to run a small company than a large one, there are additional tasks that must be done.

Sole traders and partners, provided that they exceed the £1,000 tax-free allowance, need to:

– Register with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)

– Register for VAT (Value Added Tax) whenever applicable

Companies House must be registered if you wish to create a limited-company.

Assessing Taxes

Each January, sole traders and their partners need to file a Self Assessment tax return. This should contain business earnings and expenses as well as any other tax-deductible incomes. The business isn’t an independent legal entity.

Both limited- and partnership companies must prepare a company tax return. The owners also need to file their Self-Assesments. These would include any salaries or dividends received by the company.

If the business’s annual turnover exceeds £85,000, you’d have to also pay the VAT (value added tax) which should be applied to the purchase price of certain products or services (in the event that they’re not exempt).


If you’re planning to establish a small business, you wouldn’t ordinarily require a business licence. You might check this website.’sTo find out if you might need one, use the licence finder

Even small businesses might need licences to use background music, CCTV, or provide alcohol.

Most small businesses licenses can be granted by the local authority. National authorities can also control financial services, nurseries and professional firms that are of national significance.


Businesses should be familiar with UK employment law when hiring staff. It is applicable to all roles in the organization.

The following instruments are essential legislation.

– Employment Rights Act 1996

– National Minimum Wage Act 1998

– Employment Relations Act 1999

– Equality Act 2010

– Maternity and Parental Leave etc. 1998 Regulations

– Part-Time Workers Regulations 2000

The UK’s employment law can seem overwhelming to new companies. With that said, you must pay very close attention to employees’ statutory rights such as maternity, holiday, and redundancy pay. You should also take anti-discrimination and disciplinary laws seriously. They could lead to serious issues down the line.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Do I require a permit to employ foreign workers?

You may need a sponsorship licence in order to hire foreign employees.

– A skilled worker

– A seasonal worker

– An international sportsperson

– A charity worker

– A health or care worker

– A worker on government-authorised exchange

– A creative worker

– A worker under a category of Global Business Mobility visa (UK Expansion worker, secondment worker, service supplier, etc.)

Employers who are applying for such visa types will require a certificate of sponsorship from you.

Do I need Indefinite Leave of Remain as a Business Owner before applying for British Citizenship?

You would have to earn ILR status and remain in the UK legally for another 12 months before thinking of applying for British citizenship (unless you’re married to a British citizen, in which case you don’t need to abide by the 12-month rule).

Do I have to apply for a Spouse Visa in order to open a business?

There are currently no restrictions on the types of work that residents under a spouse visa may perform, meaning that they’ll be able to start a business or be self-employed if they wish, without the need to switch to a specific visa for those purposes.

Entrepreneurship Life’s first article was How to Start a Business as an immigrant in Britain.

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