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A guide on how to start a business in the UK

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Published   02:08 PM 22 April 2021
Updated    02:10 PM 22 April 2021

The United Kingdom (UK) is often seen as an attractive place to start a business, but there are challenges for foreign nationals. Here’s our guide on how to start a business in the United Kingdom (UK) as a foreigner.

There are specific visas available for foreign nationals who want to start a United Kingdom (UK) business. And while EU citizens were previously free to live and work in the United Kingdom (UK) without a visa, Brexit means that they’re now subject to the same rules as non-EU citizens.

But it’s not impossible for foreign nationals to set up a business in the country – read about your options below.

Starting a business in the United Kingdom (UK) as a foreigner

You can get going with the following steps:

1. Think about whether you need a United Kingdom (UK) visa. EU nationals who were living in the United Kingdom (UK) before 1 January 2021 may be able to apply for the EU Settlement program, but most foreign nationals will need to apply for a work visa before they can set up a business. You can read more information on visas below.

2. Apply for the correct visa if required. If you do need a visa, you should apply ahead of time. Visas for entrepreneurs include the Start-up visa and Innovator visa.

3. Consider your business's legal structure. Once you’re legally allowed to start a business in the United Kingdom (UK) as a foreigner, you can actually get going. If you already know what your business will do, your first step is to decide on a legal structure.

4. If you’re setting up a limited company, you need to incorporate your business. This involves registering with Companies House.

you're incorporated, and whatever your structure, self-employed people need to register as a Self-Assessment taxpayer with HMRC.

What if EU citizens want to start a United Kingdom (UK) business?

The Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020, so new rules started on 1 January 2021.

This means that people from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein who now want to start a business here will have to apply for a visa, in the same way as non-EU citizens.

The exception is if you or a close family member started living in the United Kingdom (UK) before 1 January 2021. If that’s the case, you might be able to apply for the program. This is free, but the deadline to apply is 30 June 2021.

What are investor, business development and talent visas?

Foreign nationals can’t apply for the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa anymore, as it’s been replaced by the Innovator and Start-up visas.

You’ll usually get a decision on your visa within three weeks, if you’re applying from outside the United Kingdom (UK).

Innovator visa

This visa is similar to the Innovator visa in that you need to have an innovative business idea that’s different to anything else on the market.

There’s no investment funding requirement, but you have to prove you’ve had at least GBP 1,270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before you apply for (or switch to) this visa.

Plus, you need to be endorsed by an authorized body that’s either a United Kingdom (UK) higher education institution or a business organization that supports United Kingdom (UK) entrepreneurs.

You can only stay for two years and can’t extend the visa, although you may be able to switch to an Innovator visa.

The English language requirement is the same as the Innovator visa (level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale).

Fees are dramatically lower than the Innovator visa, at GBP 363 to apply or GBP 493 to switch, and there’s the same GBP 55 reduction for eligible countries too.

Global Talent visa

You can apply for a Global Talent visa if you’re a leader, or potential leader, in:

  • academia or research
  • arts and culture
  • digital technology

Your application has to be endorsed by a relevant authority with expertise in your field. While the Home Office handles this for you, how you apply depends on your field.

People on a Global Talent visa can be self-employed or directors of companies and can live and work in the United Kingdom (UK) for up to five years at a time.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa

As of March 2019, Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa program no longer available, although those currently in the United Kingdom (UK) with this visa can apply to extend theirs.

You’ll need to be eligible and fulfil certain criteria. You should:

  • have invested at least GBP 200,000 in a (UK) business (excluding any commercial property or director's loan), or GBP 50,000 if your initial application was based on having funds from an approved funding source
  • have registered as a director or as self-employed no more than six months after you were given permission to stay in the United Kingdom (UK) under the original visa
  • prove you’ve been self-employed, a member of a partnership or working as a director of a business three months before you apply
  • have created at least two full-time jobs that have existed for at least 12 months
How to make a decision what to do

The United Kingdom (UK) visas are one of the world’s most popular programs. Our team is available to talk through your situation and to advise on your options concerning permanent residency through investment in the United Kingdom (UK).

For more information on Permanent Residency through Investment in the United Kingdom program, please click here .

For more news about the United Kingdom program, please click here .

Fill out our Free Assessment to find out if you qualify for any of the immigration programs offered.

Source: Simply Business

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