Starting a business as a non-UK national

You can start a business in Scotland as a non-UK national if you are from the European Economic Area (EEA). If you're from outside the EEA, you will need to get a visa.


2 min read

1. Overview

European Economic Area (EEA) nationals do not need permission to start a business in the UK. If you are from outside the EEA, you can start a business in Scotland but you will need to get a visa. However, you will have permission if you have already been granted permanent resident status.

This guide outlines the different visa options and where you can go for advice

2. Who needs a visa to start up a business in Scotland?

European Economic Area (EEA) nationals do not need permission to come to the UK and set up a business. The EEA is made up of the 27 European Union member states plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Romanian and Bulgarian nationals should get a registration certificate by completing form BR1 from the UK Border Agency. This confirms your right to be self-employed. Switzerland is not part of the EEA but Swiss nationals can set up a business without formal permission from the UK Border Agency.

All non-EEA nationals need a visa in order to start a business in Scotland. Your visa options under the UK Border Agency's Points-Based System for immigration include:

  • Tier 1 Entrepreneurs - for entrepreneurs with at least £200,000 (or only £50,000 for high-potential businesses) to invest in their business.
  • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs - allows non-European MBA and other graduates to extend their stay after graduation to establish one or more businesses in the UK.
  • Tier 1 General - this visa is now closed to new applicants - however, those who already hold this visa can work or run their own business in the UK.

You can also start up a business if you have a UK Ancestry visa. Commonwealth citizens aged 17 and over who can provide proof that one of their grandparents was born in the UK may be able to apply for this visa.

You may be able to enter the UK on a Prospective Entrepreneur visa, which gives you opportunity to come to the UK to secure funding and make arrangements for starting their business. You can then consider switching to Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa.

3. Support for non-UK entrepreneurs in Scotland

The Scottish Government's TalentScotland website offers advice for people who want to live and work in Scotland.You can contact TalentScotland to get free information on relocating to Scotland, including advice visa and immigration issues.

Scottish Development International (SDI) helps overseas businesses benefit from the business and research opportunities available in Scotland.

For more informatoin on starting up, read our guide starting a business: the basics.

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