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How To Start & Invest In A Business In The UK To Gain Permanent Residency

The United Kingdom remains an enticing destination for business owners, investors, and entrepreneurs. This country provides numerous benefits in terms of work, business expansion, investment, healthcare, and education. Individuals from all over the world want to establish themselves in the UK. However, due to complex UK immigration rules and regulations, obtaining UK permanent residency can be a daunting task. The Home Office has made it more difficult for business owners to invest or start their ventures in the UK.

Eligibility Criteria for UK Business Visas

Before you apply for any UK business visa, it is essential to know the eligibility criteria. Let’s move forward and learn about different visa routes and their eligibility requirements.

Innovator Founder Visa: This visa category was introduced by the UK government on 11th April 2023. This route has replaced the innovator visa and start-up visa.It is the primary route for entrepreneurs to set up an business in the UK, which must be a business different to anything else on the market, I.E. Innovative. However, this route has incredibly high barriers to entry. Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for this route:

  • Applicants must have a new, viable, scalable, and innovative business idea. They cannot join a business that is already established in the UK.
  • Applicants must meet the English language requirements (CEFR Level B2).
  • The Applicant must be over the age of 18.
  • Must be able to demonstrate that they can adequately maintain themselves while in the UK.
  • To secure an endorsement, it is important to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to invest in your business.

UK Expansion Worker Visa (Global Business Mobility): This route has been created for senior managers or specialist employees to come to the UK to set up a branch of an overseas business that has not started trading in the UK yet. The UK expansion worker visa is the sub-category of the global business mobility visa, and it has replaced the sole-representative visa route. This route allows overseas businesses to transfer their employees with exceptional skills to establish their new branch or subsidiary in the United Kingdom. However, this visa route doesn’t lead to permanent residency but allows you to stay for up to 12 months and extend for a further 12 months. The maximum time you can spend in the UK with this visa is 2 years – you will be required to switch to another route to continue growing and expanding your business. To obtain this visa, you must meet the following eligibility requirements.

  • Applicant must have a valid sponsorship certificate from their employer.
  • Applicant must have worked for their employer outside the UK.
  • Applicant must be paid the minimum salary required for their job.
  • Must meet the financial requirements to support their stay in the UK.
  • Applicant must meet the English language requirement.
  • The applicant’s job should be on the list of eligible occupations in the UK.

Self-Sponsorship: Self-Sponsorship is not a visa category but a pathway that allows entrepreneurs to establish or expand their business in the United Kingdom. First apply for a sponsor licence, after which a skilled worker visa application can be made to be employed into this business. The first step is to make a sponsor licence application for your business. After which, an application can be made to be employed in this business.

  • While there is no minimum investment requirement, it is advisable to have £25000 or more according to your business type to demonstrate adequate investment funds for the business.
  • You must have adequate resources to support your business in the United Kingdom.
  • Your business must have at least one British/settled person who can assume the role of Authorising Officer on your sponsor licence.
  • Applicants must meet the English language requirement.

Choosing the Right Business Structure

Setting up a business in the UK can be complex. You will need to decide which business structure suits your organisation – i.e., sole trader, limited company, or limited liability partnership. Please see the below to understand the difference:

Sole Trader vs Limited Company vs Partnership

  • Sole Trader: This business structure allows non-UK citizens to start their businesses expeditiously. Sole traders eliminate the complex business registration process, and that’s why foreign nationals may find this structure more suitable for them.
  • Limited Company: Establishing a limited company incorporated with restricted liability protection. This business structure separates personal assets from business responsibilities. It is one of the most attractive business structures that eliminates financial pitfalls associated with businesses.
  • Partnership: This specific business structure allows non-UK citizens to start a business in partnership. Establishing an alliance with other business professionals can be beneficial in expanding business with a dignified return of interest.

Registration and Incorporation Process

The registration and incorporation process may vary depending on the business structure chosen by business owners. First of all, the first step is to inform HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs) about their sole proprietorship. Sole traders may be required to register their company’s name if it differs from their existing one. The United Kingdom limited company owners are required to choose a unique name for their business. Limited company owners need to create comprehensive documentation regarding the purpose and structure of their business. However, in the partnership business structure, business owners or partners are not required to register their entity.

Advantages and Disadvantages for Foreign Nationals

While exploring business opportunities and structures in the United Kingdom, non-UK business owners must analyse the advantages and disadvantages associated with the business structure they choose. They can seek professional advice from immigration solicitors to understand the business legalities in the UK and how to remain compliant with the Home Office. On the other hand, limited companies might protect personal assets but be incorporated with challenging administrative processes. In a partnership, everything has two shares, and this can impact the partners’ financial aspects.

Developing a Viable Business Plan

Developing or establishing a successful business plan in the United Kingdom requires business owners to focus on various aspects such as innovation, viability, and scalability.

  • Importance of Innovation, Viability, and Scalability: In the competitive UK business market, it is essential to add innovation to your business to stay ahead of your competitors. For sustainable business growth and potential profits, viability is essential. To sustain your business for a longer period of time, it is crucial to scale up.
  • Tips for Crafting a Persuasive Business Proposal: Business owners and entrepreneurs must have a defined business plan. Market research must be conducted before establishing a new business plan. Business owners must implement a robust financial strategy to avoid financial loss.

Securing an Endorsement

Entrepreneurs and business owners need to secure an endorsement body to establish their business in the UK. An endorsement body plays an important role in the visa application process, specifically for the innovator founder visa. To obtain an endorsement for your business idea, you must look out for an endorsing body relevant to your business sector.

Investment Requirements

  • Minimum investment thresholds: UK Visa categories have minimum financial requirements. A minimum investment is required to set up your business in the UK.
  • Acceptable sources of funds: Generally, the UK government accepts money from legitimate and legal sources for investment purposes. Acceptable sources of income may include savings, income, investments, property, or loans.
  • Personal investment and minimum investment requirements: Some specific visa routes, such as Self-Sponsorship, require applicants to make personal investments.
  • Seeking venture capital and angel investors in the UK: To secure investment for your UK venture, it is essential to seek venture capital or angel investors. They provide investments in exchange for partnership or equity exchange in the business.
  • Government grants and support schemes for startups: The UK government provides several grants and support schemes to entrepreneurs. These schemes help individuals to start and expand a business venture in the UK. Through these schemes, business owners can get mentorship, financial support, resources, and networks.

Establishing a Physical or Virtual Presence

  • Choosing a business location – Factors to consider: To start a business in the UK it is also important to choose the right business location. This is another crucial factor to consider for your business growth.
  • Setting up a virtual office – Advantages and how-to: A virtual office is essential to making your business more attractive.
  • E-commerce and digital business strategies: In the era of digitisation, having a website can be extremely beneficial for the growth of your business.

Application Process and Documentation

  • Apply for a Business Visa: Before applying for a UK business visa, it is important to know the eligibility criteria and requirements. To obtain a business visa, the process starts with filling out a relevant visa application form.
  • Required documents and evidentiary support: An example of the mandatory documents required for a visa application are a valid passport, an endorsement letter, bank statements, and a genuine business plan.

Navigating the UK Business Environment

  • Understanding UK market dynamics: Prior to investing in a UK business, it is vital to understand the business sector
  • Legal and regulatory considerations for new businesses: Understanding the UK business legal structure and regulatory considerations for new businesses can be challenging. In this regard, A Y & J Solicitors are here to help you navigate through the complex process.

Pathway to Permanent Residency

  • Criteria for transitioning from a business visa to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR): To transition from a business visa to an ILR, one must fulfill various eligibility criteria. Applicants must have been in the United Kingdom for at least five years to apply for an ILR.
  • Continuous residence requirements and other considerations: To obtain permanent residency, applicants must pass the “ Life in the UK test.” They must also have a genuine and sustainable business plan.

Maintaining Your Status and Preparing for ILR

  • Ongoing compliance and reporting requirements: To continue your business operations in the United Kingdom, it is essential to stay compliant with UK visa immigration rules and regulations.
  • Strategies for a successful ILR application: For a successful ILR application it is essential to comply with UK government requirements and advised to seek professional help. An immigration solicitor can help you find solutions to ease the application process for you.


In conclusion, starting and investing in a UK business to gain permanent residency can be a complex step. However, selecting the right UK business visa is essential as per your requirements and eligibility. Different business visa categories have different requirements. An innovator founder visa and self-sponsorship visa route can make the path to permanent residency smoother.