For those who wish to start a business, manage an existing business, or be self-employed in the UK, they can apply for a UK Tier 1 visa. There are two UK entrepreneur visa programs. The choice depends on whether the businessperson has access to free and clear funds in the minimum amount of either £50,000 (equivalent to approximately US$70,775) or £200,000 (equivalent to approximately US$283,100).
Foreigners are Welcome to Apply for the UK Business Visa
In order to be eligible for the UK Tier 1 visa a person must reside outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA includes the countries that make up the European Union (EU), plus four other countries that are part of Europe, but are not in the EU.
The countries of the EEA include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Cyprus, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.
Citizens of any of the countries on this list, which are part of the EEA, are free to live, work, and start or run a business in the UK, without the need for any visa. Citizens from other parts of the world need to get a UK business visa, if they wish to operate a business in the UK.
Overview of the UK Tier 1 Visa
The UK entrepreneur visa allows a businessperson to stay in the UK for up to three years and four months for those who apply from outside the UK. After this initial period, an application is possible to extend the stay for another two years (three years, if changing visa categories from another tier level).
Once a person has been in the UK for five years on a UK business visa, application is possible to extend the stay indefinitely. This legal term for this is “indefinite leave to remain.”
The amount of fees to pay is different depending on if a person is in the UK or outside of the UK when applying for the Tier 1 visa. Outside the UK, the fee is £1,204. Those from Macedonia and Turkey get a discount and pay only £1,149. Visas for dependents, such as a spouse or children are £1,204 for each person. Applying from inside the UK makes the fee £963. Those from Macedonia and Turkey get a discount and pay only £908. Visas for dependents, such as a spouse or children are £963 for each person. In addition to these fees, there is a healthcare surcharge to pay. There is a convenient fee calculator to add up the total fees easily.
Under a UK entrepreneur visa, a person may start or run one or more businesses, including being self-employed, as long as he or she meets the self-employment requirements. If a person is unsure about self-employment status, there is a software tool to help make the determination of employment status. A person can bring along family members.
Activities Not Permitted
On a Tier 1 business visa, a person cannot work for others as an employee. Moreover, they cannot access public assistance funds.
There are two programs, one for £50,000 and the other for £200,000. The eligibility requirements for the £50,000 program are that the investment funds must come from a UK competition for seed funding, a registered UK venture capital firm, or a UK governmental program that supports business development.
The eligibility requirements for the £200,000 program are that the funds may be those of the individual applying for the Tier 1 visa, the entrepreneur’s money, money invested by third parties, or money from a joint account with a partner or spouse, as long as they are not applying for a Tier 1 visa as well. It is permissible to share investment funds with one other Tier 1 business visa applicant, as long as the funds are for only one business. For both programs, the funds must be in one or more regulated financial organizations. The funds must be available for investment in the business.
In addition to the investment funds required, a person applying for Tier 1 visa must demonstrate proficiency in the English language, unless they come from a country where English is the common language. English language tests are required for those who do not come from an English-speaking country.
Potential applicants from a business visa need to have 95 points of the points-based requirements. Achieving the correct amount of points comes from having the proper investment funds, funds to sustain oneself, and English proficiency. The UK NARIC certifies these point values. An applicant must be at least 16 years old.
Submit the following documents along with the appropriate fees with the application:
- A passport that is current and not expired
- Proof of investment funds
- Business plan
- Proof of funds for personal support (investment funds cannot be used for personal support)
- Proof of passing the English language proficiency requirement
- The results of a test for tuberculosis
- A criminal record report from all countries where a person lived for more than 12 months in the past ten years
Any document not in English needs to have a certified translation. Documents must be originals, unless otherwise noted.
Causes for Application Denial
The most common causes for denial of an application for a business visa are incomplete or incorrect documentation. Other things that cause problems include that the proof of investment funds and/or the funds for personal use are not verifiable.
Other causes for denial include, previously being an illegal immigrant, making false statements or misrepresentations in the documents, using false documents, being convicted of certain crimes, and having a criminal record.
A conviction of a criminal offense with imprisonment for more than four years is an automatic denial. So is any conviction, even if serving no jail time, if the conviction created a criminal record in the past 24 months. A conviction of between twelve months to four years is also a denial unless 15 years have passed since the conviction. For less than twelve months imprisonment, seven years must have passed from the time of the conviction.
For those who qualify, the business visa is an excellent way to immigrate to the UK. The UK has an open-door policy for entrepreneurs from all over the world to come to the UK and start a new business or invest in and manage an existing business.