Moving your tech business from Silicon Valley to Silicon Roundabout
Silicon Roundabout (or Tech City) may be the plucky younger sibling to the established Silicon Valley, but this hasn't stopped businesses shunning California's sunshine shores and flocking to London's tech hub. London may be a smaller centre but with a series of beneficial tax policies and funding on offer, it is easy to see why London is attracting some of the world's best digital talent. From an immigration law perspective, though, how do you move or expand your existing tech entreprise to the UK?
There are a number of different categories that might suit you and your business, depending on your individual circumstances.
For overseas businesses, that are looking to expand, the best option might be the Sole Representative visa. This is for individuals who hold a senior position within the company, who have authority to take decisions, but who are not major shareholders. If you are a major shareholder (i.e. holding more than 50% shares) the other options below may be more suitable.
You must have extensive industry experience and knowledge. For most people who hold a senior position in a company, this will be the case. However, this is something that will need to be properly evidenced to the Home Office when you make your application. It is possible to recruit someone specifically to take the sole representative role, however, they must be recruited and employed outside of the UK and be able to show that their employment background is suitable for the role.
You are expected to work full time for your employer and cannot undertake work for yourself or any other company.
There are some requirements for your business too. The overseas company must be actively trading when you make your application and you will need to demonstrate this with reference to your turnover. The overseas business must be the main centre of business but this does not mean that your UK branch cannot grow in the long term.
You must also intend to establish the company's first commercial presence in the UK. If you already have a company in the UK which employs staff or is engaged in business then you will not be eligible.
The business activity must also be the same as your overseas business. You cannot, for example, have a US business building Apps and have a Sole Representative come to the UK to sell burgers.
In this category you will be able to come to the UK for an initial period of three years, which you can extend multiple times. After five years in the UK, you will be eligible for settlement.
This route is intended for one individual to come from overseas to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK. If you want to send further employees, it may be possible to do this once the company has been established in the UK.
Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa category is for individuals who want to set up a UK business. This would be a separate entity from any overseas business you have, and would need to be registered in the UK.
You can do this as an individual or make a team application with one or more other individuals.
You will need to either make a cash investment into a UK business, or demonstrate that you intend to do so. The level of investment that you will need if you are relying on your own funds (or gifts from others) is £200,000. If you are applying as a team it is a total of £200,000 that is available to all team members. You can alternatively rely on £50,000 from a UK registered Venture Capitalist, Government Department or Seed Funding competition, but these funds can be very difficult to obtain. If you are considering this category it is therefore vital that you organise your funding position as a priority.
You will need to demonstrate as part of your application that you are a genuine entrepreneur. If you already have experience of setting up or running a business abroad, this will go someway to demonstrating that you are genuine. However, as with every application, it is important that you evidence this properly to the Home Office.
You will initially be granted three years and four months and can extend your stay in the UK after this. In order to extend your stay you will need to demonstrate that you have created at least two jobs for 12 months in the UK for the settled population, and that you have become a Director of a UK Business, or self-employed within six months of entering the UK.
You can only work for your business in the UK, but there is no problem with maintaining business interests abroad. You are free to travel in and out of the UK as much as you like, however if you do intend to apply for settlement in the UK you will need to ensure that you do not spend more than 180 days outside of the UK in any 12 month period for five years. If you are unable to meet this criterion, you do have the option of extending your stay further.
As mentioned, part of your role in this category will be to create UK jobs for the settled population, however, if you wish to Sponsor employees from abroad you may be able to do this once your business is established in the UK.
For further advice and information about moving your business to the UK please contact Richmond Chambers on 0203 617 9173 or firstname.lastname@example.org