Investor Visas for the United Kingdom
Constantly ranking as one of most influential economic and geopolitical countries in the world, the United Kingdom provides a wealth of investor opportunities for those seeking residency. In fact, the British Government was one of the first to enact immigration frameworks for investment-based visas. While regulations for immigration pathways for investors to the United Kingdom are not static, there are several core investor-based visa-categories that are worth digging into to.
Innovator Visa for the United Kingdom
The Innovator Visa for the United Kingdom is one of the most common immigration pathways for entrepreneurs and investors. There are several notable benefits to obtaining this visa, including:
- The Ability to establish a new business or several businesses
- Eligibility to obtain work authorization for your business (this includes being employed as a director, or self-employed as a member of a business partnership) and legally work in the United Kingdom
- Multiple-Entry Visa for traveling in/out of the UK
- Apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) if you’ve lived in the UK for 3 years and meet the other eligibility requirements
What does it mean to be an “innovative business”? How is “innovative business” defined for the Tier-I visa program?
In order to qualify as an innovative business, it is necessary that your business proposal be unique. Providing core supporting documentation that your business venture is different from anything else on the market is critical to success. This involves creating strong 5-year business plans tailored to meet the innovative business requirements, comprehensive market surveys, and other key documentation.
In addition, this business venture needs to be approved and endorsed by a UK-based “endorsing body” — these entities are typically venture capital funds, angel investor groups and bossiness incubators.
It is also important to note that through the innovator visa you cannot join a business that is already in operation
Working in the United Kingdom with an Innovator Visa
The main applicant cannot work for any other business or be employed by another company in the United Kingdom. By law, the main applicant is limited to being “employed” by their own UK business. You cannot be considered an employee or hired by another company on the innovator visa. This said, you may want to consult a qualified UK Solicitor (i.e. lawyer) that has experience in this area, as carefully structured high-level contracts between client businesses and other companies to perform work may still meet the eligibility requirements.
What is an “endorsing body” for the UK innovative & start-up visas?
In order to qualify for the UK Innovator Visa, your business venture must be approved by a qualified endorsing body. There are currently over 50+ endorsing bodies within the UK, and these range from angel investor groups to business incubators. In fact, finding the right endorsing body is equivalent to finding an invaluable business partner.
Each endorsing body has their own unique application process and submission requirements. Those seriously considering the UK innovator visa are encouraged to speak with our UK-based advisors and learn more about the strategies for approaching and applying to these endorsing bodies.
The U.K. Startup Visa Program
The Start-Up Visa for the United Kingdom is a proven entry-level immigration pathway for the United Kingdom. There are definitely similarities with the innovator visa, but some major differences as well. UK Start-Up Visa Benefits:
- Establish a new business or several businesses
- Obtain work authorization for your business AND work for another company
- Ability to remain in the UK for 2-years
- Multiple-Entry Visa for traveling in/out of the UK
Apply to transition from the Start-Up visa to the Innovator Visa
One common immigration strategy is to start with the U.K. startup visa and transition into the innovator visa. There are various benefits for both short and long-term planning, and a qualified U.K. immigration solicitor should be able to effectively map out your roadmap.
Generally, in order to qualify for the Innovator Visa you need to meet some basic requirements, including: (a) proof that your company is operational and maintains business activity; (b) that the main-applicant is involved with the business on a daily basis as a manager or director of the company; and (c) that the endorsing UK entity has approved this immigration objective.
Overall, the threshold for getting endorsements for the Start-Up visa is easier, however, the submission process is still critical and oftentimes complex to navigate.
You must have more than an "idea" to qualify for the U.K. Start-Up Visa
While having a clear vision for your investment is valuable, it is required by British immigration regulations that your business idea be considered “novel” — in other words, this must be a new idea that does not already exist in the UK. Similar to the Innovator Visa, you must provide core supporting documentation to convince the UK immigration authorities that your business idea is both original and has viable potential for growth.
Supporting documentation needed for the UK Start-Up Visa
Overall, this type of application must contain key documentary evidence that supports the originality of your business idea. Core documents may include: Five-Year Business Plan with financial projections, comprehensive market analysis, letters of recommendations, proof of funding and operational viability and much more.
Other Investor Related Immigration Pathways for the United Kingdom
For business owners, entrepreneurs and investors there are several U.K. visa categories that may apply. In addition to the Innovator and Startup Visas outlined above you, may want to explore the following:
U.K. Investor Visa - Tier One
The UK Investor Visa provides freedom and flexibility to live in the United Kingdom.
The U.K. Investor Visa is the UK Residency by Investment program. Overall, the Tier One category requires a £2 million investment into a qualifying investment vehicle within the United Kingdom.
Some common examples include a UK Business or UK Financial Instruments such as stocks & bonds
- Any nationality may apply
- Must demonstrate legal source of funds for your investment
- No serious criminal records
- Investment into a qualifying U.K. entity or financial instrument
- Free healthcare
- Short-processing times
- Direct pathway for British Citizenship
- Access to the U.K. education system for children under-18
- Work authorization for main-applicant and spouse
Who is eligible for the UK Investor Visa?
You are eligible for the UK investor Visa IF: (1) you seek to invest £2,000,000 or more in the UK; (2) You are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland; and (3) You meet other eligibility requirements described in the FAQ section.
Proving the source of funds for the UK Investor Visa?
It is required that you clearly demonstrate that the funds belong to you or dependents in the application. Generally an applicant must be able to demonstrate: (1) total net-worth and how much money you have; (2) where your funds came from (if you’ve held the money for less than 2-years); and (3) that the funds can be transferred to the UK.
In addition, upon placing the funds into a UK account it is required for the Financial Institution to carry out "due-diligence” and anti-money laundering checks.
Overseas Representative Visa for the United Kingdom
The Overseas Representative Visa for working in the UK
This visa category provides an immigration pathway for those seeking to establish a business in the United Kingdom. The UK business must maintain a corporate connection with the foreign business enterprise (i.e. branch, subsidiary) and the applicant must be considered the “overseas representative” of the UK office.
Eligibility for the Overseas Representative Visa
- Any nationality may apply
- The applicant must "represent" a qualifying foreign entity
- A qualifying parent, branch or affiliate entity must be formed in the United Kingdom
- This visa is also available for employees of a foreign newspaper or media broadcasting organization
Benefits of the Overseas Representative Visa
- Free national healthcare
- No minimum investment requirements
- Dependent spouses can obtain work-authorization
- Free education in the United Kingdom for children under-18
- Short processing times of the visa
The Overseas Representative Visa provides an immigration pathways for businesses seeking to expand their businesses into the United Kingdom.
Some highlights of this visa includes: The ability to work for your business in a full time capacity; visas for dependent spouse and children; extension of your visa for additional 2-years (total of 5); and eligibility for permanent residency in the UK after a period of 5-years.
Core requirements for being a "Sole Representative” and how to qualify for the Sole Representative visa.
To be eligible for the Sole Representative visa the applicant must meet a variety of key requirements. For example, an applicant must: (a) be employed in the non-UK entity business; (b) prove essential skills and professional experience required to fill the proposed position in the UK; (c) plan to establish the first and only representative UK-entity for the foreign company; and (d) hold a senior executive or managerial position in the business and maintain discretionary authority to make decisions in the UK for the business.
Qualifying your Foreign Business for the Overseas Business visa?
In order to qualify for this visa, your foreign entity (i.e. non-UK company) must have a “corporate relationship” with the UK company. Common corporate relationships are parent/subsidiary, branch or affiliate entities.
Remember, forming a U.K. based entity is absolutely necessary. As described above, your U.K. entity must maintain a corporate relationship with your non-UK entity (i.e. subsidiary, branch, affiliate).
Overall, there are many documents that are generally needed for the Representative of an Overseas Business Visa — specifically with regards to proving a corporate relationship between the two entities, some supporting documents may include: corporate certificates, shareholder documentation, board meeting minutes and high-level contracts between the two entities.