The United Kingdom (“UK”) is one of the most attractive places in the world to live, to do business and invest. The UK also boasts some of the world’s best Universities and many investors are drawn to this when they buy properties and invest in the UK.
Despite the higher level of uncertainty that Brexit and the Covid pandemic has brought on, the Bank of England still expects business investment to grow by 13.5% in 2022 and the Office Of National Statistic states that the UK economy is showing signs of recovery with an increase of 0.9% in November 2021.
There are various immigration routes which are applicable for investors, and here are 5 ways:
- Investor visa (used to be known as Tier 1)
In order to qualify for this route, an applicant will need to have access to at least £2 million and invest these funds in actively trading companies (share capital and/or loans capital in active and trading UK registered companies).
Investors are particularly keen to invest in property, but unfortunately property investment, property rental or property management are not suitable forms of investment. Government bonds and offshore companies are also not permitted.
An applicant is eligible to apply for settlement under this route once they have resided in the UK for 5 years continuously provided the £2 million investment is maintained and has been invested in the permitted investments. Settlement can be obtained in a shorter time scale of 3 years if investment of at least 5 million is maintained or 2 years if investments of at least 10 million is maintained.
The applicant can live, work and study anywhere in the country and there is no academic or English language requirement for the visa. This is the less stringent route out of all the options covered.
- Representative of an Overseas Business visa
This route is designed for employees that hold a senior position in an overseas/parent company to enter the UK to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK. The headquarter of the overseas company must remain outside the UK, where the applicant has been elected as a sole representative to set up the UK branch/subsidiary with the same business model as well as given full authority to take operational decisions on its behalf and run the UK company.
The applicant must not be a majority shareholder, own or have full control of the overseas company. They cannot work for other employers or be self-employed.
On 4th June 2020, the genuine test has been introduced to prevent this route being abused. Therefore, applicants must ensure they have a comprehensive business plan and be prepared to attend an interview with the Home Office.
This visa is issued for an initial period of 3 years, followed by a 2-year extension if the applicant meets the immigration requirements and continues to work for the overseas company.
If the applicant has been in the UK for 5 years under this route and continues to work as a Sole Representative, they may be eligible to apply for settlement provided they meet the requirements.
- Start-up and Innovator visas
An applicant can apply for a Start-up visa if they are seeking to set up an innovative business in the UK for the first time. They will not need to be a graduate or have secured funding to apply for this visa, but they should have strong business acumen.
For the Innovator visa, the applicant must invest at least £50,000 in their business. They will initially be granted leave for 3 years and can then extend or switch to another visa.
Applicant’s applying for either the Start-up or Innovator visas must have their business plans approved by a UK endorsing body. The applicant must also show that the business idea is new, innovative and scalable.
The Start-up visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and an applicant can only stay for 2 years under this route. However, an applicant can switch from a Start-up to the Innovator route, where there is a path to settlement.
If an investor is an employee of a business, they can also seek to immigrate to the UK though the working visa routes;
- Intra-company visas (used to be known as Tier 2 [Intra-company Transfer] Long-term Staff/ Graduate Trainee)
The applicant must be an existing employee of a multinational employer who is seeking to transfer to an affiliated UK company for work or training purposes. The UK branch company must hold a sponsor licence to offer employment.
- Intra-company Transfer visa - for existing employees of multinational companies who are being transferred to the UK. The applicant must have worked for their overseas employer for at least 12 months, unless they are being paid an annual salary of £73,900 to work in the UK. They are required to be paid a minimum salary of £41,500 or the salary specified for the role, whichever is higher.
- Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa - for workers taking part in a structured graduate training programme. The applicant must have worked for their overseas employer for at least 3 months before they apply to work in the UK and they are required to be paid a minimum salary of £23,000, or the salary specified for the role, whichever is higher.
There are two categories of the Intra-company visa:
The Intra-Company visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
- Skilled worker visa (used to be known as Tier 2)
All EU and non- EU nationals who wish to enter the UK to work must be sponsored by a UK company which hold a sponsor licence under this route. From 1st January 2021, companies no longer require to carry out the Resident Labour Market Test prior to employing overseas candidate, but they must show that the role is genuine.
This is not the quickest route, and interested applicants can refer to the sponsorship list to identify companies that have the acquired a licence to employ sponsored workers.
To qualify for sponsorship, the job role needs to meet the skill and salary level.
A skilled worker visa can be granted up to 5 years, and the duration will depend on how long the employee needs to be in the UK. The cost will be higher if a longer duration visa is being applied for. Once an applicant has lived in the UK continuously for 5 years, they will be eligible to apply for indefinite stay in the UK.
If you wish to find out more information about the visa options above, please get in touch with our immigration team through the contact details below.
By Caryn Toh, Associate Solicitor.
Ronald Fletcher Baker’s Immigration Department
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Our Immigration Department offers a complete range of immigration services for businesses and individuals. The department has built long term professional relationships and provides a bespoke, friendly and competitive service.