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Budding entrepreneur or world leading talent – what type of business visa do you need?

Politicians repeatedly say that the UK is open for business, but for those trying to navigate the complicated and opaque business immigration rules, the UK can feel like a closed shop. In this blog, we consider the different categories of business visa and offer a guide to which option might best suit you.


Entrepreneur applicants are those with prior business experience, or with a great idea for a new business. This route has 2 key requirements: a clear business plan, and the cash required to put that plan into action.

The entrepreneur category is a good choice for you if you have personal wealth of at least £200,000 to invest in a business in the UK, or you have the sponsorship of a third party. If you are fortunate enough to have secured funding from a UK venture capital firm or similar organisation, then £50,000 may be sufficient to support your application instead. There is a further sub-category for graduate entrepreneurs being supported by their UK university.

Entrepreneurs live in the UK on a clear route to settlement, which will usually take 5 years to achieve (less in cases where your business performs extremely well). Entrepreneurs will also have strong English language skills and access to personal savings in addition to business funds. Family members (partner and dependent children under 18) are also permitted.

Exceptionally talented applicants

The exceptional talent route is reserved for those who are recognised or emerging leaders in the fields of digital technology, the arts, science, engineering, humanities and medicine. As the name would suggest, this is an exclusive category and the number of successful applicants each year is limited to just a few hundred in each field.

This is the right route for you if you can produce a portfolio of your achievements and references which explain your uniqueness and talent.

applicants in the exceptional talent category have a 5-year route to UK settlement which is not tied to any activity beyond working in their specific field of expertise. Family members (partner and dependent children under 18) are also permitted.


Investor applicants are those with a high level of personal wealth which can be invested in the UK for a 2-year to 5-year period depending on the amount available. A minimum investment of £2 million is required. Investors tend to be less ‘hands-on’ than entrepreneurs and must be content to maintain their level of personal investment throughout their time in this route.

This is the right option for you if you can afford the high level of investment required, and are happy to restrict the use of your finances in the way the Immigration Rules require.

Investor applicants follow a standard 5-year settlement route, unless investing at a higher level, in which case the qualification time is reduced. Family members (partner and dependent children under 18) are also permitted.

Sponsored employees

Employee applicants are those who are sponsored by a proposed UK employer to perform a role which meets minimum skill and salary requirements set by the UK Home Office.

This route is a good choice for you if you are not looking to invest your personal funds in a business, but you have a good employment opportunity in the UK. Unlike the previous categories, there is a lot required of the UK company in this route, and they will need to prove that your employment is vital to their businesses’ success.

Sponsored employees follow a 5-year route to settlement, and they face additional requirements relating to their income which is not applicable in the categories above. Like entrepreneurs, sponsored employees will also have strong English language skills and access to personal savings. Family members (partner and dependent children under 18) are also permitted.

Business visitors

Business visitors are those who travel to the UK on a temporary basis to carry out professional duties. They are not directly engaged by a UK entity, nor should they receive remuneration in the UK for any of their activities here.

This category will suit you if you need to travel to the UK on business, but you don’t wish to work here regularly. The activities which business visitors are permitted to carry out in the UK are limited. It is acceptable to meet with customers and to agree contracts, and business visitors may also attend meetings and conferences. Intra-company visitors are also welcome, and can share their skills, knowledge and advice with their UK colleagues.

Business visitors may travel to the UK for trips which last a maximum duration of 6 months. Repeated trips are also permissible under the Immigration Rules. However, some visitors may experience problems if they remain in the UK too long, or visit too often. Repeated trips can lead to questioning at the border, or the assumption that the visitor is in fact performing a UK-based job role. Business visitors therefore must be clear about why they are visiting, whether the activities they wish to perform are permissible, and that their place of work remains outside the UK. There is no provision for a business visitor to sponsor a family member, so anyone wishing to travel with a business visitor must qualify for entry on their own merits.

If you would like to talk to one of our experts about your business immigration visa, please call our Manchester office on 0161 234 6800 or Liverpool on 0151 305 9600.