Since 2011 the Entrepreneur Visa UK has been offered to international business executives in order to attract the best global talent to the country and make the UK business scene as diverse and inclusive as possible.
With countries across the world trying to strengthen their economies by attracting new investment, it’s a buyer’s market for entrepreneurs looking to get started in a new country.
Understanding what’s the Entrepreneur Visa UK?
The visa is intended for any individual intending to establish a business in the UK or take over an existing business. This includes businesses where the applicant is the only employee or self-employed individuals who sell goods or services.
People on this visa have ‘no recourse to public funds’; that is, they are not entitled to housing benefit, child benefit or income support.
Tier One Visa
The Entrepreneur Visa UK is a Tier One visa, which means it is intended for high-value workers who are investors, entrepreneurs or leaders in their field.
The visa last longer than a typical employee Visa, has a relatively fast processing time and is one of the easiest routes to permanent residence in the UK.
This year the UK Home Office announced it intended to make the visa process faster and smoother for entrepreneurs and decided to open it up to a wider range of applicants, making this is a great time to apply.
Is it worth it?
If you’re thinking of establishing a business abroad, the UK is a good choice for a number of reasons.
Much of the unnecessary paperwork that was slowing businesses down has been abolished so that you can now incorporate a business in a few hours for only £14.
UK is a good place for business
The UK has great communications infrastructure, an established business community, a pool of potential customers, and strong trade links with Europe and the rest of the world.
Residency permit to live in the UK
Individuals who reside in the country under the Entrepreneur Visa UK receive residence permits for themselves and their family.
Read more about the benefits of having a residency in the UK.
Free healthcare and education
They are entitled to free healthcare under the NHS and free education for all children under 18. If you’re looking to settle in Britain permanently then there is a straightforward path from the visa to permanent residence and then citizenship.
Who can apply?
As mentioned above, the Entrepreneur Visa UK aims to provide a chance for high-value professionals who want to expand their business in the UK and Europe.
The Entrepreneur Visa UK is not suited to people who might need to work to support themselves while they launch their business since working in any business other than your own is forbidden by the terms of the visa.
Members of EU are not (by far) required to have a Visa
It’s also an unnecessary step for nationals of countries which belong to the European Economic Area. These individuals are already entitled to establish a business in the UK, although this may change after Brexit.
If you’re looking for a way to live and do business in Europe, it might also be useful to know what’s the difference between residency and citizenship by investment.
What are the requirements?
You can apply for the Entrepreneur Visa UK with as little as £50,000 in investment funds, provided the money comes from one of the following sources:
- a seed funding competition approved by the Department for International Trade;
- a venture capital firm registered with the Financial Conduct Authority;
- a UK government department.
The visa application can be made up to twelve months after the funds have been invested.
Investing your own money
If you’re investing your own money or that of a spouse or relying on a private investor, then you will need a minimum of £200,000 in investment funds.
If you are running the business with a partner then you can form an ‘entrepreneurial team’ and apply for an Entrepreneur Visa UK for two separate people sharing the same £200,000 investment.
The funds must be held in a regulated financial institution in the UK, and be available for the business to use for overheads.
Are all types of investment eligible for the scheme?
Investments that are not easily accessible or mature after a fixed period are not eligible for the scheme.
You must prove you can support yourself
You also need a lump sum to support yourself while you run the business. If you are applying from within the UK the minimum is £945; if from another country you’ll need at least £3,310.
Good knowledge of the language is also a must
You must also pass an approved English language test with at least a B1 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference.
The language test may be waived if you have an undergraduate degree or equivalent academic qualification that was taught in English.
You do not have to prove your level of English if you’re a national of a country where English is commonly spoken such as Australia, Jamaica or the USA.
How does the process work?
The earliest you can apply for the visa is three months before you intend to travel to the country.
Note that a decision takes around three weeks, which makes for a pretty tight application window. It’s best to get all your paperwork together and make sure everything is in order before you apply.
Application fees are between £966 and £1277 depending on your country of origin and where and how you choose to apply. If you’re living outside the UK you must either apply online or in person at the British Embassy.
The documents you will need to submit as part of your application are
- a current passport or other valid travel identification;
- evidence of the investment funds available to you;
- a business plan;
- proof that you meet the English language requirement;
- a health certificate;
- a criminal record certificate.
You may need to be interviewed
As part of the process, you may need to be interviewed, either in the UK or at the British Embassy in your country.
It’s necessary to have a solid business strategy (and plan)
The Home Office will not grant an Entrepreneur Visa UK unless they believe you are a genuine entrepreneur.
They may ask your reasons for choosing to establish a business in the UK, your experience in the industry, and the details of your business plan.
The UK Entrepreneur Visa may be extended up to 5 years
Once you have been granted a visa you can stay in the UK for a maximum of 3 years and 4 months.
There’s also an option to extend the visa by another two years.
After living in the UK for five years you will be eligible to apply for permanent residence, known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’.
Visa Extension for family members
Family members can apply for a dependent Visa to come to the country with you. Currently, only your spouse, children under 18, or children over 18 if they are in the UK as a dependant can accompany you.
In addition to the £945 needed for the Entrepreneur Visa UK, you must have savings of £1,890 for each dependant. If you’re applying from outside the UK or £630 for each dependant if you’re already in the UK.
Other requirements for family members
Adult family members must provide a criminal record certificate for any country they have lived in for more than 12 months in the last ten years.
They also have to pay a healthcare surcharge of £200 for each year of their visa.
If your family members are applying from outside the UK they must get their fingerprints and photo taken at a visa application centre for their biometric residence permit.
Graduate Entrepreneur Visa UK
There is a variation on the Entrepreneur Visa UK called the Graduate Entrepreneur Visa.
This scheme is aimed at graduates who have been endorsed as having a genuine and credible business idea by either the Department for International Trade or a UK Higher Education Institution.
You will need to have a UK-recognised bachelor’s degree or higher, speak English to at least B1 level and have £1,890 in savings in order to support yourself, but unlike the Entrepreneur Visa UK, there is no minimum investment required.
See also the effect of Brexit on Asian investors.