The UK has long been the preferred destination for ambitious professionals around the world as it is renowned as a global business hub. Its vibrant economy, coupled with its rich history and a robust legal framework, makes it an ideal location for business ventures of all scales.
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Recognising this international appeal, the UK government has established a number of business immigration routes tailored to accommodate the unique needs of professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore these UK business visa routes, their requirements and how they can pave the way for a prosperous career or business endeavour in the UK.
1. Skilled Worker Visa
The Skilled Worker Visa is a popular option for professionals wanting to work in the UK. Replacing the Tier 2 (General) visa, its primary aim is to address the demand for specific skills in the UK that might be in short supply domestically. This visa serves a dual purpose: it assists UK employers with a skilled worker sponsor licence in filling important roles while offering international professionals a chance to experience and contribute to the diverse work culture of the UK.
Who can Apply?
Individuals who possess specific skills that are in demand in the UK can apply for the Skilled Worker Visa. To be eligible, they should have a job proposal from a UK sponsor with a valid sponsorship license.
The offered role must be at a required skill level, and applicants should meet the other criteria, such as English proficiency. It’s especially suited for professionals in sectors where there’s a notable shortage of domestic talent, ensuring that UK businesses can operate efficiently without facing workforce gaps.
To qualify for this visa, there are several key requirements:
- Fulfill the Required Point: The visa uses a points-based system. To get the visa, you need to earn 70 points. These points come from meeting certain criteria like having a job offer from a licensed sponsor, being proficient in English, and having a job offer at a specific skill level.
- Certificate of Sponsorship: Before applying for the visa, you need a Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer in the UK. This confirms that you have a job offer and that the role matches your skills and experience.
- Salary Requirements: There are specific salary rules. Generally, you should earn at least £26,200 per year or the standard rate for the job you’re offered, whichever is more.
- English Proficiency: You must show that you can articulate, read, and write in English at a certain level. Most applicants have to provide proof, but some are exempt.
- Financial Maintenance: You must show you have an adequate amount available to maintain yourself in the UK. The requirement is usually £1,270 in your bank account for not less than 28 days.
- Additional Checks: Some jobs, especially in areas like health or social care, may require background checks.
Applying for the Skilled Worker Visa can be complicated. If you’re considering it, it’s a good idea to get legal advice from immigration lawyers to make sure you meet all the requirements and that your application goes smoothly.
2. Global Talent Visa
The Global Talent Visa is created for individuals with extraordinary talents in specific sectors like science, technology, engineering, and art. The idea is to attract world-leading professionals to the UK to promote innovation and boost its standing in diverse fields.
Who can Apply?
This visa is catered to those who have proven themselves to be leaders (or emerging leaders) in the fields of research, academia, culture, arts, and digital technology. The UK wants to attract talent that is either already internationally recognised or possesses the potential to be the leading figure in their respective fields in the future.
Unlike many other visas, you don’t need to have a job offer in the UK to apply for the Global Talent Visa. However, you will need to show that you plan to seek employment or start a venture in your field of expertise.
The visa requirements for the Global Talent Visa vary based on the specific industry. However, the general requirements for the Global Talent Visa are:
- Industry Requirement: To be eligible for this visa, you will need to be an exceptional talent or leader (significant contribution as a leader or potential as a future leader) in one of these sectors: Technology, science, research, arts, and culture (including, fashion design, film and television, and architecture), engineering, humanities, and medicine.
- Endorsement: The most significant requirement for this visa is receiving an endorsement from one of the UK’s endorsing bodies. The body varies depending on the field of expertise – for example, The Royal Society would endorse applicants in the natural sciences, while Tech Nation would endorse those in the digital technology sector. Unless the applicant has been awarded a prestigious prize, they must possess an endorsement.
While many UK visas require evidence of English language skills, the Global Talent Visa is an exception and does not have this requirement. There’s also no need to prove a specific financial capability, but you must be able to support and accommodate yourself without seeking public funds. You can find out more details on the requirements of Global Talent Route for various sectors from the Home Office Website.
Applying for the Global Talent Visa is all about showcasing your unique abilities and how they can benefit the UK. Be sure to provide ample evidence of your achievements and recognition in your sector.
3. Innovator Founder Visa
The UK Founder Innovator Visa is a new pathway for foreign entrepreneurs desiring to establish a company in the United Kingdom based on their innovative business concept. It aims to nurture and promote entrepreneurial culture while fostering economic growth. This visa substituted the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa category and the start-up visa.
Who can Apply?
This visa is geared towards experienced entrepreneurs who possess an innovative and powerful business idea that has been endorsed by an approved UK endorsing body. It is created for those ready to inaugurate and run a business in the UK. A comprehensive business strategy that demonstrates innovation, sustainability, and scalability need to be submitted by the candidate.
To qualify for the UK Innovator Visa, applicants need to fulfil these criteria:
- Endorsement: The core requirement for this visa is getting an endorsement from an authorised endorsing body. This endorsement confirms that the business idea is suitable and has the potential to be successful.
- English Proficiency: Candidates must prove their English language command. They may need to take part in an English language test at the B2 level unless they are from exempt countries.
- Maintenance Funds: Applicants must prove that they have adequate money to sustain themselves without the need for public funds. Before applying, applicants are typically required to have held £1,270 or more in their bank account for a continuous period of 28 days.
- Active Role in Business Development: Applicants must demonstrate that they are active in the development of their business venture. That means they need to actively engage in the functions and growth of the organisation on a daily basis.
It’s important to note that the applicant cannot join another trading business on this visa. Considering the complexities associated with the UK Innovator Visa, especially in terms of getting an endorsement and presenting a viable business plan, potential applicants might benefit from seeking professional legal advice before starting the application process.
4. Global Business Mobility Visa
The UK’s Global Business Mobility Visa (GBM) was introduced to aid overseas businesses in establishing or supporting their operations in the UK. The visa caters to foreign workers who come to the UK for short-term assignments, with the option to extend their visa from within the country, subject to the maximum duration specified for each pathway.
Who can Apply?
There are different visa options under the Global Business Mobility route for different specific professionals. The visas include:
- Senior or Specialist Worker Visa: Targeted at senior managers and specialist employees for temporary assignments.
- Graduate Trainee Visa: Aimed at overseas workers in a graduate training program for senior management or specialist roles.
- UK Expansion Worker Visa: For senior managers or specialist employees assisting with business expansion in the UK.
- Service Supplier Visa: For self-employed professionals or overseas service providers covered by a UK international trade agreement.
- Secondment Worker Visa: For foreign employees assigned to the United Kingdom in support of a substantial investment or high-value contract.
Please note that you will need to submit a visa application for an overseas business visa instead of the above options if you are a staff member of an international newspaper, news agency, or broadcasting entity assigned to the UK for an extended period.
The exact requirement will depend on the specific visa. However, general requirements might include:
- Assignment Letter: This foundational document should be provided by the sending employer. It should comprehensively describe the professional’s role in the UK, detailing the assignment’s scope, anticipated duration, and overarching objectives.
- Evidence of Professional Expertise: Documentation or credentials highlighting the applicant’s expertise in their respective field.
- English Proficiency: Depending on the nature and length of the assignment, an English proficiency test might be mandated, ensuring smooth communication within the UK work environment.
- Financial Proof: Demonstrating the capability to support oneself in the UK, either through the employer’s provisions or personal funds.
5. High Potential Individual Visa
The High Potential Individual Visa is for attracting top-tier global talent from around the world, particularly those in academia. This visa route promises individuals with qualifications from leading international universities an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the UK’s diverse professional landscape.
Who can Apply?
The main eligibility criterion centres around academic achievement. Those who have graduated from one of the approved universities are the main candidates for this visa. Applicants are eligible for this visa even without a confirmed job offer in the UK.
To be eligible for the High Potential Individual visa, applicants must satisfy the following criteria:
- Qualification from a Recognised University: The applicant must have been awarded a qualification from a university on the eligible universities list within the past five years. The list is based on academic rankings specific to that year, making it crucial to verify if the university is eligible for the year of graduation.
- Qualification Level: The awarded credentials must be comparable to a UK bachelor, postgraduate, or a PhD/doctoral qualification. Verification through Ecctis is necessary to confirm its authenticity and level.
- English Proficiency: Demonstrating a command of the English language is essential. This can be achieved either by clearing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) or presenting a degree that was primarily taught in English. However, individuals from majority English-speaking countries are exempt from this requirement.
- Financial Requirement: Unless you’ve resided in the UK with a valid visa for a minimum of 12 months, you need to prove your economic ability to sustain your stay in the UK.
This visa type has certain restrictions. For instance, you cannot apply if you have previously been granted a Graduate visa, have entered the UK as a Student Doctorate Extension Scheme student, or have applied for a High Potential Individual visa before.
The High Potential Individual Visa permits the holder to work in various occupations, be self-employed, and even look for work in the United Kingdom. However, visa holders cannot work as professional sportspersons, extend their visas, or settle permanently (apply for indefinite leave to remain) in the UK. There are other specific immigration categories or routes available for those objectives.
The United Kingdom offers many routes for qualified foreign professionals, entrepreneurs, and investors who can contribute to the country’s economy and culture. Whether you are a seasoned professional, a pioneering entrepreneur, or a top-tier academician, there is a specific visa route that fits your needs.
The task is to match your personal goals with the correct visa type and successfully meet its demands. If done wisely, the UK offers many opportunities for business and career advancement.
Need Help With Your UK Business Visa?
The pathway to securing a UK business visa is filled with intricacies and specifics that can often be overwhelming. Each step in the visa process has unique complexities, from understanding the UK immigration rules to selecting the appropriate visa category for your specific situation.
At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, we have a rich legacy of guiding individuals and businesses through these complexities. Our team of experts is well-versed in the nuances of UK immigration law and committed to ensuring that your application stands the best chance of success.
Whether it’s advice on the right visa category or hands-on assistance throughout the application process, you can trust us to be your reliable partner. Reach out to us today, and let’s chart a smooth path to your business goals in the UK.
A sponsor licence is required for any UK company desiring to employ skilled workers from outside the UK. It may be necessary for certain business immigration routes.
Yes, when you secure a UK business visa, you typically have the provision to bring your spouse with you through a partner visa or spouse visa. They may need to meet certain criteria and apply for a dependent visa.
The UK offers various types of visas that allow individuals to come to the UK for work or business, including the Innovator Visa, Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, and Overseas Business Visa.
The requirements for settlement in the UK through business immigration include meeting the relevant criteria for the specific visa route, such as the length of time spent in the UK and meeting the financial and business obligations. Please be aware that particular business visa types may not qualify you for permanent settlement in the UK.
The required amount for business immigration to the UK varies based on the visa category. Also, not all variations of business visas require an investment. It’s essential to refer to specific visa guidelines or seek legal advice to determine the exact amount for your situation.
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Dr Bernard Andonian – the Co-Founder of Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, is an experienced Immigration Solicitor, former Judge, and recipient of a PhD in Law from the University of West London. He has over four decades of experience practising UK Immigration, Human Rights and Civil Litigation Law. He has served on the Law Society Immigration Law Panel, achieved numerous groundbreaking decisions in higher courts and is featured in the Legal 500’s Hall of Fame.