Investors, innovators, start-ups and talent – UK work-based visas

There are currently four UK work-based visas available for investors, business development and talent.  Having the correct Visa in place is essential if you are looking to expand your business to the UK. Understanding which is the most appropriate is the first stage but, as each comes with its own requirements for eligibility and supporting evidence, there can be a lot to do to ensure all your ducks are in a row at the right time.

This article provides an overview of the four available visas, the eligibility requirements and the key documents, evidence and endorsements needed for a successful application.  A comprehensive guide can be found on the UK government website and each visa covered here is accompanied by a link to the full breakdown of specific prerequisite conditions.

1. Investor Visa (Tier 1)

Overview

You can apply for a Tier 1 (Investor) visa if you want to invest £2,000,000 or more in the UK and you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.  In addition to other requirements, you must have access to at least £2,000,000 in investment funds to apply.

Eligibility

Investors need to be 18 or over, able to prove that the money belongs to either you or your husband, wife, unmarried or same-sex partner and they have opened an account at a UK regulated bank in order to use for the funds.  You will also need to provide a criminal record certificate from any country you have stayed in for a total of 12 months or more over the last 10 years

Evidence of investment funds

You’ll need to provide evidence showing that you have the required investment funds.

Your own money

If you’re using your own money to invest, you should be able to show:

  • how much money you have and where it’s being held
  • where the money came from if you’ve had the money for less than 2 years
  • that the money can be transferred to the UK and converted to sterling (if it’s not already in the UK)

Evidence you have a UK bank account

You must provide a letter to prove you have an account at a UK regulated bank to use for your investment funds. The letter must:

  • have been issued by an authorised official
  • be dated within 3 months of your application
  • be on the official headed paper of the bank
  • state your name and account number
  • confirm you’ve opened an account with the bank in order to invest £2,000,000
  • confirm the bank is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
  • confirm checks for money-laundering have been carried out

2. Innovator Visa

Overview

You can apply for an Innovator visa if you want to set up or run a business in the UK and you are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

Eligibility

Before you apply you need to have your business or business idea assessed by an approved body.

They will provide you with an endorsement letter if your business is viable.

You must also:

  • meet the English language requirement
  • be at least 18 years old
  • be able to prove that you have enough personal savings to support yourself while you’re in the UK

If you want to set up a new business

£50,000 in investment funds are needed for an Innovator visa unless your business is already established and has been endorsed for an earlier visa or you’ve changed your business and already agreed it with your endorsing body.  Separate from these funds, you will need to have had at least £945 in your bank account for 90 consecutive days before you apply.

Sharing investment funds

You can form a team with other Innovator applicants, but you cannot share the same investment funds – a team must have £50,000 for each Innovator applicant.

You need a blank page in your passport for your visa and a certified translation of any documents that are not in English or Welsh.

3. Start-up Visa

Overview

You can apply for a Start-up visa if you want to set up a business in the UK and you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

Getting endorsed

You must be endorsed by an authorised body that is either:

  • a UK higher education institution
  • a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs

You must be able to show that your business idea is:

  • a new idea – you cannot join or invest in a business that is already trading
  • innovative – you must have an original business idea which is different from anything else on the market
  • viable, with potential for growth

Eligibility

Before you apply you need to have your business or business idea assessed by an approved body who will provide you with an endorsement letter if your business is viable.  You must also be at least 18 years old, meet the English language requirement and be able to prove that you have enough personal savings to support yourself while you’re in the UK.

4. Global Talent Visa

Overview

You can apply for a Global Talent visa if you work in a qualifying field and have been endorsed:

  • as a recognised leader (exceptional talent)
  • as an emerging leader (exceptional promise)
  • under the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) endorsed funder option

Find out if the field you work in qualifies

Eligibility

Your application will be reviewed by an organisation that’s related to your qualifying field, called an ‘endorsing body’.  The endorsing bodies are:

  • The Royal Society, for science and medicine
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering, for engineering
  • The British Academy, for humanities
  • Tech Nation, for digital technology
  • Arts Council England, for arts and culture
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), for research applicants

If your qualifying field is fashion, architecture or film and television, Arts Council England will pass on your application for review to:

  • British Fashion Council, for fashion
  • Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), for architecture
  • Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT), for film and television

5. Covid-19

If you’re a scientist researching coronavirus (COVID-19), you may be able to get a visa using the UKRI endorsed funder version of the Global Talent Visa.

For all of the above visas, a current passport or other valid travel identification is required, plus tuberculosis test results (if you’re from a country where you have to take the test).  You need to provide a certified translation of any documents that are not in English or Welsh and, of course, you need to make sure there is a blank page in your passport for the visa once it is awarded.

If you require any guidance about applying for a UK visa, securing the appropriate endorsements and approvals, or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact Briars.