Friday, May 17, 2013

Move to the UK on a "start up" visa

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on the Thames river.
Photo by Conor Ogle
For those of you who have thought about starting your own business, why not do it in the UK? Trying to become an expat and move to the UK is getting to be difficult (for non-EU citizens) as the UK is sharply curtailing immigration, but since June of 2011 they've had a Prospective Entrepreneur program, more commonly referred to as the Start Up Visa. It's surprisingly straight-forward.

The idea behind the visa is for you to be able to enter the UK for up to six months to create, join, or assume control of a startup. The key requirement is that you can demonstrate that one or more approved groups (government agencies, venture capitalists, and so on) are considering investing at least £50,000 (~€60K or $76K US) into the business. At the end of your six months you must either return to your home country — you're not allowed to use the UK as transit to another country — or successfully convert to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa.

To successfully convert to the Tier 1 visa, you must score at least 95 points from their eligibility criteria. To do this you need to have:
  • Secured the £50,000
  • Have the funds in a bank
  • Be able to freely spend the funds in the UK
  • Speak English
  • Be able to support yourself financially
In other words, you need to have started your business.

There are a few other restrictions, such as not being able to marry or take a job while on the UK Start Up visa, but here's one thing to consider: there's nothing in the Tier 1 eligibility requirements which states that you have to support yourself from the business. For those of you who are already remote workers but want to launch your own business, you're perfectly positioned! Of course, you have to be serious enough to convince an investor to throw money at you, but if you really want to be an expat, this is a great strategy to consider.

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