Establishing a Tech Business in the UK: Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa route
In the past decade, the UK has become one of the most attractive destinations for setting-up Tech businesses. Easy access to global consumers and business partners, fewer restrictions on doing business, tax reliefs and access to investment funding and a pool of talented professionals have made London a leading digital hub.
Overseas Entrepreneurs heading to the UK to grab their share of the dynamic digital market will be pleased to learn that the UK immigration regulations contain provisions designed exactly to cater for their objectives.
If you would like to invest in the UK by setting up, joining or taking over, and being actively involved in the running of one or more businesses, the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is the most suitable route to secure permission to stay and do business.
For a successful visa application, an applicant must meet a number of requirements of the UK Immigration rules. Below we summarise the general provisions specific to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category. However, care must be taken when preparing the visa application and we suggest that you seek professional advice to maximise the chances of a favourable visa decision.
Under the requirements of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category, an applicant must demonstrate access to the required cash funds:
- £200,000; or
- £50,000 made available by one or more of the following:
- a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition endorsed by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI);
- a UK government department making funds available for the purpose of setting up or expanding a UK business;
- a venture capital firm registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
If some of the monies have already been invested into a UK business within 12 months prior to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application, the invested amount can be used to count towards the required level of funding.
Up to two people can share the same investment fund with one other and form an Entrepreneurial team. Both individuals will need to meet all other requirements of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category.
Entrepreneurs must show to the UK Visa and Immigration authorities that they are genuinely intending to establish, take over or join one or more businesses in the UK and make the required investment of the funds which are genuinely available for this purpose. Furthermore, applicants must not intend to take employment in the UK other than working in their business.
It is now a legal requirement to produce a comprehensive business plan in support of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application. In addition to the business plan, the authorities will look at the personal circumstances of each individual entrepreneur to assess suitability such as their education, professional experience, immigration history and previous activity in the UK, credibility of a business plan, source of funds and market research. It is not uncommon for an applicant to be called in for an interview with an Immigration officer as a part of the application process.
The UK government believes that ability to speak English to a competent level promotes success in the UK labour market and assists in integration into the UK. Therefore, applicants under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category must show that they have a good knowledge of English.
Unless, the applicant is a citizen of one of the majority English speaking countries (in which case no additional evidence is necessary), the knowledge of the English language can be proved by either:
- passing an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening;
- having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD (degrees obtained in majority English speaking countries are deemed to be accepted)
Entrepreneurs coming to the UK must be able to financially support themselves without use of benefits provided by the state. In addition to the investment funds, applicants must show that they possess a sufficient level of cash savings held in their personal account for 90 days as below:
- £3,310 – for those applying from outside of the UK;
- £945 – for those applying to extend their stay in the UK.
Conditions of Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa
Visas are granted subject to a number of conditions, which entrepreneurs need to demonstrate they have met on an application for extension of stay and Indefinite leave to remain (see below). The main conditions specific to the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category are:
- register as a director or as self-employed within 6 months of the initial visa being granted and work for 3 months immediately prior to an application to extend the visa
- create at least 2 full time jobs for at least 12 months
- invest £200,000 in cash (or £50,000 subject to the source of funds)
How long can Tier 1 Entrepreneurs stay in the UK
Initial Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas are issued for 3 years and 4 months to successful applicants who applied from overseas. The status can be extended for another 2 years from within the UK, providing the conditions for extension are met. On completion of 5 years of residency and subject to compliance with the conditions of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category, visa holders can apply to remain in the UK indefinitely.
Indefinite Leave to Remain
Successful entrepreneurs may apply to remain in the UK indefinitely and subsequently apply to become British citizens. The Tier 1 Entrepreneur category allows for both standard and accelerated routes to settlement in the UK. Under a standard route, entrepreneurs may apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain on completion of 5 years of residency under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa. The accelerated route – entrepreneurs can apply to remain in the UK indefinitely after 3 years of residency under the Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa, if:
- the business created at least 10 full-time jobs; or
- the business generated an income of at least £5 million.
Where to get help
At IBB Solicitors, our experienced legal experts can provide advice on Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa applications, company formation and governance, corporate and commercial transactions, and all other legal aspects of setting up, joining or taking over and running a UK business. For more information please visit http://www.ibblaw.co.uk/service/immigration or contact us today on firstname.lastname@example.org or 03456 381381 to see how we can help you with your immigration matter.