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United Kingdom, Visa Routes for Migrant Entrepreneurs by Ana Postolovska

The Role of UK Immigration

The UK’s immigration system is constantly evolving in line with its steadfast and burgeoning economy. Upon consideration of the entirety of the Brexit process; the persistent rivalry between May and Corbyn, the rise of the present prime minister Boris Johnson and the elongated negotiations with Ministers of the European Parliament (MEPs), the UK has had its fair share of political tomfoolery.

Yet, despite all these irksome implications, the UK has maintained an accomplished economy. It’s secured status of being the sixth-largest economy globally, with GDP at $2.74 trillion (2019), having a low unemployment rate of 3.7% (2019) and a high rank of 0.920 (2018) on the Human Development Index, it is an attractive location to invest. What is another profound achievement is the implementation of the new points-based immigration system effective from 29th March 2020. With the perspective of solely attracting overseas skilled and specialist labour to further its high wage and highly productive economy, the UK is a haven for investment opportunities and business development.

Visa Routes:

In March 2019, the Home Office abolished the traditional ‘Entrepreneur Visa’ and replaced it with two new and revitalised visa routes for overseas non-EEA nationals and business professionals who wish to establish their business and ideas in the UK.

ArcelorMittal Orbit by artist Anish Kapoor in Olympic Park, London in 2012

1. The Start-Up Visa

This type of visa is for individuals who are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and wish to set up a business in the UK for the first time. Individuals may commence the process of setting up their own business prior to obtaining this visa but it cannot start trading until applications are approved.

This visa is valid for up to 2 years and is not subject to extension. In this time, individuals will spend most of their time developing their businesses. However, they are also permitted to work elsewhere in addition to this with the aim of supporting themselves financially in the UK.

At the end of the two-year visa duration, individuals can switch to the Innovator visa. Individuals who wish to switch to the Start-Up visa from another visa category must meet the eligibility requirements and either be on:

i) Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

ii) Any Tier 2 visa

iii) Tier 4 (General) student visa

iv) Standard visitor visa

2. The Innovator Visa

This type of visa is for individuals who are from outside EEA or Switzerland, are experienced in setting up business structures and ventures and who wish to set up a business in the UK.

You can stay in the UK for up to 3 years. This visa is subject to extension and you can extend it as many times as you wish. However, individuals are not permitted to take on other courses of employment in their visa duration as they must solely focus on their business development.

Should individuals wish to settle in the UK, they will be eligible to apply for an ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ (ILR) on condition you have stayed in the UK for the full 3 years of this visa.

Should you wish to switch to a Innovator visa, you must meet the stated eligibility criteria and be on one of the following visa categories:

i) Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

ii) Tier 1 (Entrepreneur Visa)

iii) Start-Up Visa

iv) Any Tier 2 visa

v) Standard visitor visa


To qualify for both visa categories, you must satisfy the following criteria:

You have been endorsed by an authorised body

You can show that your business is:

i) a brand-new idea

ii) original and advanced- different from others on the market

iii) practical with potential for growth and expansion

You are at least 18 years of age

You meet the English language requirements

For a Start-Up visa, you must also show you have enough personal savings to sustain yourself in the UK. The minimum monetary threshold is £945.00 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days prior to your application.

For an Innovator visa, you must also show you have the minimum monetary threshold of £945.00 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days prior to your application as well as at least £50,000 in investment funds. The investment funds requirement will be precluded if your business is already set up and has been endorsed for a premature visa.

Family members:

Dependants (family members) can accompany these business individuals to the UK on both visa categories. They must apply online either as a dependent partner or dependent child. Individuals must also have £630 in savings for each dependant, in addition to the personal savings for each visa stipulated above.

The Role of Endorsing Bodies:

These visa routes are directed solely to individuals who wish to fulfil their business ideas and establish this in the UK. It is crucial that applicants seek approval of their business ideas from an authorised endorsing body. This must be a Home Office approved endorsing body.

Applicants must demonstrate evidence of this approval by way of issuance of an endorsement letter from the endorsing body. When endorsing bodies assess the business ideas of applicants, they must view that the business ideas are innovative, viable, scalable, and meet all the standard requirements for each visa route. Provided applicants’ businesses and ideas meet all the requirements and the endorsing body is satisfied, they will grant approval of its set up and subsequently issue an endorsement letter to successful applicants.

How We Can Help

We are a law firm renowned for our provision of specialist legal services to clients both nationally and worldwide. Although we cater for an array of legal sectors, we are immigration law mavens. Through our many years of experience, we have refined knowledge and understanding of immigration law, ensuring that clients’ visa applications are handled, completed, and submitted with ease, efficiency, and excellence.

How we assist our clients with their visa applications is nothing short of dedication and undivided commitment to them throughout the entire process. As a boutique-style law firm, we tailor the provision of our legal assistance to each individual client uniquely. This personal touch is always applied when we assist individuals with presenting business ideas to endorsing bodies, facilitating procedures between individuals and the endorsing bodies as well as providing updated and continual guidance up until the point of obtaining the required endorsement letter. Undoubtedly, we supply matchless help to those who require assistance with their visa applications and wish to enter the UK.

author : Ana Postolovska / Hudson McKenzie, UK


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