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Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA No. 68520

Setting up a Business, Investors, Work Permit Holders and Permit-Free Employment

Setting up in business

Under the Immigration Rules, a 'business' is:

  • a sole trader
  • a partnership, or
  • a company registered in the UK.

You must get a visa to set up in business in the UK.

To qualify, you must be able to show evidence for the following.

  • You have at least 200,000 under your control, which is available for you to use in the UK and which is held in your name (it is not held by trust or other investment arrangements), with the aim of investing it in a business in the UK.
  • You have enough extra funds to support yourself and any dependants, and live without needing any help from public funds or taking employment (other than work for the business) until the business earns you income.
  • You intend to be actively involved full-time in trading or providing services on your own account or in partnership, or in promoting and managing the company as a director.
  • You intend to keep a level of financial investment proportional to your interest in the business.
  • You intend to have either a controlling or equal interest in the business, and any partnership or directorship must not amount to disguised employment. (This is when a person claims to be running the business but is really an employee.)
  • You can afford your share of any liabilities.
  • You intend to provide investment and services for which there is a genuine need in the UK.
  • You expect to receive a share of the profits from the business, which will be enough to support yourself and any dependants, and live without needing any help from public funds or taking employment (other than the business).
  • You do not intend to take or look for any other employment in the UK other than your work for the business.


You will need to show that:

  • you have access to not less than 1 million of your own money that you will take to the UK, and which must not be held in trust, or
  • you own personal assets which, taking into account your liabilities, are worth more than 2 million, and
  • you have not less than 1 million under your control in the UK. (This can include money loaned by a financial institution regulated by the Financial Services Authority.)

Work permit holders

Work permits are issued by Work Permits (UK), part of the Home Office's Immigration and Nationality Directorate. A work permit relates to a specific person and a specific job. The work permit scheme lets UK employers recruit or transfer people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), while still protecting the interests of resident workers in the UK. Work permits also allow overseas nationals to come to the UK for training or work experience.

There are six types of work permit.

  1. Business and commercial
    These allow UK employers to recruit people from outside the EEA who will fill a vacancy that the employer has not been able to fill with a resident worker.
  2. Sportspeople and entertainers
    These allow UK employers to employ established sportspeople, entertainers, cultural artists and some technical and support people from outside the EEA.
  3. Internships
    These allow students from outside the EEA studying first or higher degree courses overseas to undertake an internship with an employer in the UK.
  4. GATS (Global Agreement on Trade in Services)
    This allows employees of companies that are based outside the European Union to work in the UK on a service contract awarded to their employer by a UK-based organisation.
  5. Sectors Based Scheme (SBS)
    This scheme allows workers from outside the EEA to enter the UK for up to 12 months to take low-skilled work in the food manufacturing industry. More details on this scheme are available from Work Permits (UK). (Contact details are under 'More advice and information' at the end of this guidance.)
  6. Training and Work Experience Scheme (TWES)
    This scheme allows people from outside the EEA to carry out work-based training for a professional or specialist qualification, or a short period of work experience as an extra member of staff. To qualify for TWES, you must:
    • hold a valid TWES work permit and be able to carry out the training or work experience it applies to
    • intend to leave the UK after the training or work experience
    • be aged between 16 and 65
    • not intend to take employment except as set out on the permit, and
    • be able to support yourself and your dependants, and live without needing any help from public funds.
    If you have been in the UK on a TWES permit for more than 12 months, you will not normally be eligible for another TWES permit until you have spent 24 months outside the UK. If you have been in the UK on a TWES permit for less than 12 months, you will not normally be eligible for another TWES permit until you have spent 12 months outside the UK.

Permit free employment

Permit-free employment means some types of work that you do not need a work permit for, such as:

  • minister of religion, missionary or member of a religious order
  • sole representative of an overseas company in the UK
  • representatives of overseas newspapers, news agencies and broadcasting organisations
  • airport-based operational ground staff of overseas-owned airlines
  • postgraduate doctors and dentists (for training purposes) including those attending Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) tests
  • teachers and language assistants coming to the UK under approved exchange schemes
  • seasonal agricultural workers
  • writers, composers and artists
  • overseas government employees
  • science and engineering graduates, and
  • dependants of any of these workers