Here at Goodwille we have been helping some of the hottest startups from around the world to successfully expand and do business in the UK. During the early phases, many of our clients choose to relocate key personnel from their Head Office to the UK, to support with the initial setup & growth phases. Whilst we are not immigration lawyers, we have summarised some of the Visas clients choose to use to help them gain access to the UK market which do not require sponsorship from a Home Office approved licenced sponsor in the UK.

1. START-UP VISA

The start-up visa is ideal for entrepreneurs who have an innovative, viable and high-potential business idea, which is scalable in the future. Critically this business idea must be different from anything else in the market, and clearly it must be a new idea and not part of a business which is already trading. For this particular visa there is no investment required – so no need to invest a big amount of money in your business! The business idea must be assessed and endorsed by an authorised body listed on the government website, where you must receive an endorsement letter with an appraisal of your business and idea.

The start-up visa is valid for 2 years and cannot be extended. However, if your business becomes a success, is endorsed, and you are hands on daily with it, then it is possible to switch to an Innovator visa.

Find out more about the start-up visa here.

2. INNOVATOR VISA

The innovator visa is for the experienced entrepreneur with either a good business idea or existing overseas business, which they want to expand to the UK market, however it must be something which is completely different from anything else in the market. Like the start-up visa, you will be assessed against the same criteria, viability, innovativeness and scalability.  Furthermore, this visa requires you to have access to £50,000 of investment funds that you will invest in the new business, while still needing the endorsement letter from an authorised body. The innovator visa is valid for 3 years, and can be extended multiple times, but you may be able to apply for settlement in the UK once you have been in the UK for 3 years.

Find out more about the innovator visa here.

3. REPRESENTATIVE OF AN OVERSEAS BUSINESS VISA

Compared to the start-up and innovator visa, the representative of an overseas business visa is more of a work visa. The representative must be the sole representative of an overseas business – which is planning on establishing itself in the UK, through either a branch or a subsidiary. Critically the business may not already exist in the UK or have anyone else in the UK carrying out any work for the business. The company therefore sends you to the UK (in a role as a top manager, for example) to establish and run the UK operations. To apply as a sole representative, you need to be employed outside the UK by an active business. Furthermore, you also need to have the right skills, experience and knowledge to carry out the role. Your intention should be to establish “the overseas business” first presence in the UK, either as a branch or subsidiary. If your employer already has been working on establishing a UK branch or subsidiary, you can replace a previous sole representative.

The representative visa is valid for 3 years and can be extended for another 2 years. If you have lived legally in the UK after 5 years, you are then able to apply for settlement and later naturalisation + British passport.

Find out more about the representative of an overseas business visa here.

The 5 common points between Start-up, Innovator and Representative visas:

  • Allows you to live and work in the UK
  • You must manage and grow your own business
  • You must speak English at a required level
  • You cannot have a criminal record or have ill health
  • The UK government is not going to support you or your family – therefore, you must have required funds to maintain/accommodate yourself and your family at the same time as you grow your business

4. GLOBAL TALENT VISA/TECH NATION VISA

If you are a leader/potential leader in one of the following fields: academia/research, arts and culture or digital technology you can apply for a Global Talent visa to work in the UK. You can either apply if you have applied for an endorsement to prove that you are a leader/potential leader, or if you have won an eligible award.

You may have heard about the Tech Nation visa before, which enables the best tech talent from all over the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector. The Tech Nation Visa is officially known as the Global Talent Visa since it is under the digital technology field. So, if you are looking to apply for the Tech Nation visa – you basically apply for the Global Talent Visa!

The Tech Nation visa is for founders and employees with Tech or Business backgrounds, also in tech sub-sectors like fintech, Al, cyber, games etc. Eligibility is based on the individuals unique background, skills and achievements so far. Tech Nation is the official Home Office designated endorsing body authorised to review endorsement applications from individuals with skills in digital technology, and those who want to work in the UK under the Global Talent Visa.  

Of course, there are some eligibility criteria, which the applicant has to meet. There are two routes, “Exceptional Talent” or “Exceptional Promise” and as an applicant, you have to meet one mandatory and two optional requirements within the two categories. You can read about all the eligibility criteria here.

Find out more about the global talent and tech nation visa here.

If you are in the process of expanding your business from overseas to the UK through a subsidiary or a branch, and you need support on how to manage the ongoing statutory and regulatory compliance of doing business in the UK, please do not hesitate to contact us.