Starting a business as a non-UK national

Non-UK nationals (other than Irish citizens) who want to start up and work in a business in Scotland, either need indefinite leave to remain in the UK or a UK visa.

Guide

2 min read

1. Indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain is also known as ‘settlement’. It gives you the right to live, work and study in the UK and you can use it to apply for British citizenship.

There are different ways to apply, for example if you:

  • already have a work visa
  • have family here
  • have lived in the UK for 10 years
  • are a Commonwealth citizen

If you are from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein and if you or your family member started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, you may be able to apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme.

The deadline to apply was 30 June 2021, but it may still be possible to apply if:

  • you have a later deadline - for example, you’re joining a family member in the UK who was living in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • you have ‘reasonable grounds’ for being unable to apply by 30 June 2021 - for example, you had an illness or were the victim of domestic abuse.


2. TalentScotland provides information on moving to and living in Scotland

If you're a non-UK national, you can go to the UK Government website to check if you need a UK visa and find specific support for Ukraine nationals.

Assuming that starting a business is your main reason for coming or staying in the UK (rather than, for example, joining a family member or getting married) then go through the tool on the UK website as follows:

  • click the "Start now" button
  • select your nationality
  • when asked what you are coming to the UK to do, select "work, academic visit or business"
  • then choose "longer than 6 months"
  • finally, when asked "are you planning to work in any of these types of job" choose "I want to start a business".

Then the tool will give you a list of visas that you may be eligible for. These may include:

  • Innovator Founder visa - for experienced business people with an idea that is different from anything else on the market, and who have at least £50,000 to invest in their new business in the UK. This visa requires endorsement from an endorsing body approved by the Home Office.
  • Global Talent visa - for leaders and potential leaders who are working in academia or research, arts or culture, or digital technology.
  • UK Expansion Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) - if are already working in an overseas business and you’re setting up your company’s first branch or subsidiary in the UK, and your role is in the table of eligible jobs and meets the minimum salary criteria.
  • High Potential Individual (HPI) visa - If you've graduated from an eligible university in the last 5 years.

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.

3. UK visas

If you're a non-UK national, you can go to the UK Government website to check if you need a UK visa and find specific support for Ukraine nationals.

Assuming that starting a business is your main reason for coming or staying in the UK (rather than, for example, joining a family member or getting married) then go through the tool on the UK website as follows:

  • click the "Start now" button
  • select your nationality
  • when asked what you are coming to the UK to do, select "work, academic visit or business"
  • then choose "longer than 6 months"
  • finally, when asked "are you planning to work in any of these types of job" choose "I want to start a business".

Then the tool will give you a list of visas that you may be eligible for. These may include:

  • Innovator Founder visa - for experienced business people with an idea that is different from anything else on the market, and who have at least £50,000 to invest in their new business in the UK. This visa requires endorsement from an endorsing body approved by the Home Office.
  • Global Talent visa - for leaders and potential leaders who are working in academia or research, arts or culture, or digital technology.
  • UK Expansion Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) - if are already working in an overseas business and you’re setting up your company’s first branch or subsidiary in the UK, and your role is in the table of eligible jobs and meets the minimum salary criteria.
  • High Potential Individual (HPI) visa - If you've graduated from an eligible university in the last 5 years.

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.

4. Support for non-UK entrepreneurs in Scotland

TalentScotland provides information on moving to and living in Scotland.

TalentScotland, in collaboration with specialist immigrations partners, can provide information on visas and immigration options for individuals and entrepreneurs considering Scotland as an investment location. (The cost of this support is met by Scottish Enterprise).

For more information visit the TalentScotland website or contact TalentScotland.

Scottish Development International (SDI) is Scotland’s foreign direct investment agency. They encourage overseas businesses to set up a location here, invest in Scottish businesses, or buy Scottish products.

This is achieved by providing information, partnering with businesses and investors who want to set up or invest here, and helping businesses find the connections they need.

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

Get the support you need right now

You can connect with us through the contact form, call us or contact your local Business Gateway office.

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