An immigrant's guide to starting a business in the UK

Stephen Akadiri


Congratulations on taking the exciting step of starting a business in the UK! As an immigrant, you bring a unique perspective and valuable skills. However, navigating the legalities and practicalities of launching a business in a new country can take time and effort.

This guide will equip you with the essential information to get your venture off the ground.

Secure the right visa

Before diving in, ensure you have the proper visa to operate a business in the UK. Different visas cater to various business ventures. Here are the two main visa types:

  • Innovator visa: This is ideal for immigrants with innovative and scalable business concepts. You’ll need a minimum investment of £50,000 and an endorsement from an authorized agency or institution. Another criterion is needing a B2 in English on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). You must also have had a minimum of £1,270 in your account over the previous 28 days. The Innovator visa costs £1,021 and lasts three years, with the option to renew it for an additional three years. It also permits bringing your partner and children under 18 to the UK.
  • Start-Up visa: Perfect for entrepreneurs with a viable business plan and endorsement from a UK government body or a higher institution. Unlike the innovator visa, you don’t need a minimum investment but must have had a minimum of £1,270 in your account over the previous 28 days and a B2 in English on the CEFR. The fee for the Start-up visa is around £363, and it permits you to stay up to 2 years in the UK with your partner and children under 18. However, you cannot extend your stay; you can transfer to another visa type.

Choose your business structure

Next, you have to carefully decide on the legal structure of your business, as this will impact taxes, regulations, and personal liability. Some popular business structures include:

  • Sole trader: This a simple business structure where an individual owns and operates the business; freelancers and self-employed people also fall under this category. Sole traders have unlimited liability because they are responsible for business debts.
  • Limited company: This business structure is also called a “Limited Liability Company” or an “LLC” that offers limited liability as the finances of the founder are kept separate from the company. The ownership of a limited company is divided into shares held by shareholders, and its directors manage daily operations.
  • Partnership: A structure where two or more people own the business. A legal document between partners must specify the share of profits, losses, ownership, and liability.

Also read: How to Send Money to Nigeria from the UK

Register your business

Once you’ve gotten the right visa and have chosen your structure, register your business with the appropriate authorities:

  • Companies House: this government agency is responsible for incorporating, registering, and dissolving limited companies.
  • HM Revenue & Customs: the HMRC primarily handles tax administration and enforcement, ensuring compliance with tax laws.

Open a business bank account

Open a business bank account to separate your business finances from personal expenses. A dedicated business account streamlines accounting, builds client trust, and allows you to manage your business efficiently.

Grey offers a business account designed explicitly for immigrants starting businesses in the UK. Open a Grey account today and enjoy features like multi-currency transactions, competitive exchange rates, and fast, secure transfers.

Understand regulations and permits

Depending on your business type, you may need additional permits or licenses. Research the regulations relevant to your business to ensure you’re operating legally.

Build your network

Building and nurturing a network is crucial, especially for migrant business owners. By connecting with other entrepreneurs and professionals, you can access opportunities, support, resources and build credibility. Networking goes beyond making connections; it’s about creating meaningful professional relationships that can contribute to your business’ success.

Embrace the journey

Starting a business is a rewarding yet challenging journey. Be prepared for setbacks, but leverage your immigrant experience for resilience and resourcefulness.

Wrapping up

Remember, you’re not alone! With the proper planning, support from resources like Grey Business and a determined spirit, you can turn your business dream into a reality in the UK.

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