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) and Swiss nationals do not currently need permission to start a business in the UK. It should be noted that the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 January 2020 and the position for EEA and Swiss nationals will change.

If you are from outside the EEA or Switzerland and do not have settled status in the UK, you may be able to start a business in Scotland but will need a visa that permits you to do so.

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) and Swiss 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.

Those EEA and Swiss nationals who have relocated to Scotland before Brexit should consider applying to the EU Settlement Scheme if they wish to remain in Scotland beyond 2020.

Those arriving post-Brexit will require to apply for permission to remain beyond 2020 which may be Euro Temporary Leave to Remain depending on the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.

All non-EEA nationals who do not have Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK 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:

  • Start-up Visa - for business people at the start of their careers looking to start up a business in the UK. This visa requires endorsement from an endorsing body approved by the Home Office.
  • Innovator visa - for experienced business people with 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.
  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) For those recognised as being established or emerging leaders in their field. This visa requires endorsement from an endorsing body approved by the Home Office.

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. 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 us at TalentScotland or contact us at 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.

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