The UK immigration system offers a number of visa routes for experienced and prospective entrepreneurs. Start-up, Innovator and Representative of an Overseas Business visas are traditionally amongst the routes utilised the most by entrepreneurs who are willing to set up and work for their own company in the UK or a UK-based branch or subsidiary of an existing overseas business. The Tier 1 Investor route is an alternative business category, but is often overlooked due to the central requirement to invest at least £2 million in the UK. Which option is the best to pursue will largely depend on the applicant’s individual circumstances, their financial resources and the desired level of flexibility the route must offer.
Entrepreneurs who are willing to invest at least £2 million of their own funds in a UK registered, active and trading company or companies may find the Tier 1 Investor visa to be the most flexible and an attractive visa status to hold.
An Investor migrant has the option of making the requisite investment in one or multiple companies, whether publicly or privately owned, including a company or companies in which the Investor is already a shareholder. Alternatively, they may become the majority or sole shareholder once the investment is made.
The route is also flexible as to the type of investment required. The investment can be made by way of share or loan capital or a combination of both. Similarly, the type of investment can be changed from share to loan capital and vice versa throughout the duration of leave. Certain types of investments are explicitly prohibited under this route, for example, investments in companies mainly engaged in property sale, management or development.
Significantly, for a migrant who is a non-EEA national there is no other non-asylum or human rights category which would allow them to live in the UK, bring family members with them and apply for indefinite leave to remain and subsequently British citizenship without employment. In contrast to the majority of other business and work categories, the Investor visa route does not require the applicant to work in the UK or work solely for the business they have established in the UK. Work is, however, permitted under this route, and Investors and their family members can take up employment and study in the UK full-time (subject to limited restrictions such as not being employed as a doctor or dentist in training, sportsperson or sports coach and studying certain subjects with prior approval only).
Unlike Start-up and Innovator migrants, an Investor who is willing to invest in and run their own private company in the UK is free to determine the level of their involvement in the day-to-day management of the business and does not need to demonstrate their entrepreneurial talent, business progress or sufficient knowledge of English language when making an application at the initial entry clearance or extension stages.
Moreover, with the Tier 1 Investor visa, Investors may take advantage of an accelerated route to settlement after only two or three years of residence in the UK instead of the usual five-year period, depending on the level of their investment. It is important to note that as the law currently stands this option is available only to the main applicant and does not extend automatically to their family members residing in the UK with them.
The leave under this category is conditional upon the Investor making the investment within a specified timeframe, either before or following grant of the initial leave, and maintaining it throughout the duration of leave until they have successfully applied for indefinite leave to remain in the UK or decided to relinquish their Investor status. It is also incumbent on the applicant to ensure that the UK company they decide to invest in continues to fall within the definition of a “UK registered, active and trading company” at all times, which, among other criteria, provides that the company must have at least two UK-based employees who are not its directors.
Strict rules apply with regard to the destination of the investments, the use of intermediaries, dealing with the investments and treatment of interest and/or dividends generated by such investments. Therefore, applicants who are considering applying for Investor status must exercise caution when structuring their investments in the UK and must seek professional legal advice to ensure compliance with the UK immigration rules from the outset.
If you are interested in applying for or switching into the Tier 1 Investor category, or simply considering whether this visa route may be the right option for you, please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice. Gherson has extensive experience in Investor visa applications and all other business and work visa categories.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.