How to Start a Business as a Migrant in the UK

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 01:41 pm

Many businesses in the UK were founded by migrants. This shows that the UK is one of the countries with friendly business environments for foreign entrepreneurs. And in recent times, the government has intensified efforts to attract more foreign nationals with a business mindset. However, to start a business as a migrant, there are certain procedures you must follow.

Apply for the right visa

Your eligibility to own a business in the UK will depend on the type of visa you have. Keep in mind that not all UK visas allow foreigners to own a business. Different UK visa categories serve different purposes. We have visas for study, employment, tourism, and business. If you start a business as a student visa holder, you may find yourself in a legal tussle. If you are unsure whether your status allows starting a business, you can speak with an immigration lawyer.

If you are already in the UK, you may be eligible to switch from your current visa to a business visa. And if you are still outside the UK, you can apply for a business visa directly from your home country. Speaking with an immigration lawyer will help choose the right visa and process it timely and smoothly. This will significantly improve your chances of getting your visa application approved.

Consider Your Business Structure

You must also consider your business structure from the beginning. A business in the UK can be categorised as a sole trader, limited liability partnership, limited company, or partnership. The structure considerably affects the amount of tax your business will be required to pay. Also, you need to conduct a market survey to understand the best way to run your business in the UK. This will help you sight it at the right location. Just like every country, there are some UK top business cities believed to be good for start-ups. However, because each business has its own peculiarities, those top business cities may not be the best places for your own kind of business. Thorough due diligence will give you a clear picture of the best location to have the business and how to attract potential clients.

Register your business with HMRC

Your business must be registered for tax purposes with Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This is the agency in charge of the collection, administration, and enforcement of tax payments. You will provide your company’s registration number, the start date of your business, and the end date when accounts will be prepared annually. After the registration, it is important to keep up to date with all business records in order to make tax filing and payment seamless every year. Cash books, payroll records, VAT records, orders, delivery notes, and every other important document must be well kept for tax purposes.

Check and comply with other legal requirements.

Apart from tax payments, there are other obligations required of every business. You may need to work with a legal practitioner to understand the specific requirements for your type of business. These may include insurance requirements, employment, and labour laws, your business name registration, data laws, national minimum wage, and health and safety compliance.

How to Choose the Right Business Visa

There are various UK visas for immigrant entrepreneurs. Though they are all business routes, they are designed to meet different people’s needs. The three major routes are the Start-up Visa, Innovator Visa, and Representative of Overseas Business Visa. The Start-up route could be the best bet if you are a beginner in entrepreneurship with a high potential business idea.

If you are an experienced business owner, the Innovator route is an ideal choice. The Representative of an Overseas Business, as the name implies, is for top managers and businesspeople who wish to open an office of an overseas organisation in the UK. Each of the visas has its own list of eligibility requirements, financial commitment, and period of stay in the UK.

Also, the UK government is set to launch new routes in Spring for foreign businesses. One of them is the Global Business Mobility route which will help overseas businesses to establish a UK branch or transfer employees to the UK. Though the application guidelines are yet to be finalised, the route promises to be an easier process compared to existing related visas. If you have an existing foreign business and would want to establish a UK presence, the GBM visa could be your best bet.

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