A Complete Guide to the U.K. Tier 1 Visa
There is no other country in the world that compares to the United Kingdom. Its historical and cultural riches are unrivaled. Maybe, if you want sunshine and blue sky, it isn’t in the best climate, but there’s nothing that excellent connectivity can’t address. In the world of investment immigration, the United Kingdom is a highly attractive destination. When a client considers citizenship-by-investment, we often point out if a particular passport allows for visa-free travel to the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom’s popularity is such that it’s Tier 1 visa is one of the world’s top three most successful investment programs. It’s also one of the most common in Europe, with the Golden Visa of Portugal vying for first place on the continent.
Is it because it’s so inexpensive? Quite the opposite is true. If you want to apply for an investor visa, you’ll need at least £2 million in capital. The alternatives – the innovator and start-up solutions – are significantly less expensive, but they can be challenging to understand. So, is it worthwhile to invest in the United Kingdom? What are the three options for obtaining residency in the United Kingdom in 2021?
There is also a question about Brexit. Will it alter the investment landscape in the world, making it more difficult for investors and entrepreneurs to establish themselves?
The first choice is available for investors. The minimum investment amount is £2 million, but you can invest as much as £5 million or even £10 million to expedite the process of obtaining settled status in the United Kingdom.
Second, the U.K. Tier 1 Innovator Visa is for people with proven business skills who want to expand their operations in the United Kingdom. To apply, you must have at least £50,000 in investment funds.
Finally, if you have a fantastic business idea, you should apply for a Tier 1 visa. Your proposal should be backed by a local agency and have a lot of potentials.
In this guide, we’ll answer all of your questions about the Tier 1 visa in the United Kingdom.
Table Of Contents
U.K. Tier 1 Visa For Investors
Are you an individual with a high net worth or an ultra-high net worth? Then the U.K.’s Tier 1 Investor Visa is possibly the best option for you. This route to temporary residency in the U.K. is for those who want to (and can) spend a significant amount of money in the country. We’re talking about an investment of at least £2 million, if not more.
It is not a small amount, but if you want to gain entry to the European Union and the Commonwealth, as well as secure U.K. residency and citizenship, this is the easiest way to do so. This option has piqued the interest of investors from all over the world.
- Invest £2 million, £5 million or £10 million in U.K. business shares
- You will gain residency for three years, with a possibility of a two-year extension
- There is no need to show that you have an excellent command of the English language
- Application costs are about $2,200
The Tier 1 Investor Visa created about £1 billion in revenue in 2019, making it one of Europe’s most lucrative Golden Visas.
Chinese applicants make up nearly half of all applications, which is unsurprising, and Hong Kong residents came in second. Brazilians, Americans and Iranians are among the other most prolific investors in the United Kingdom. The Tier 1 Investor Visa in the United Kingdom is similar to every other investor visa. You’ll be expected to put your money into businesses that are currently operating and trading in the United Kingdom. Based on your financial situation and objectives, decide whether to invest in share capital or loan capital.
But we have noticed that people are wondering about the various investment amounts. It determines your permanent residency (also known as settled status or indefinite leave to remain):
- Invest £2 million and you’ll get permanent residency in five years and citizenship in six.
- Invest £5 million and you’ll get permanent residency in three years and citizenship in five.
- Invest £10 million, and you’ll get permanent residency in two years and citizenship in five.
Regardless of whichever choice you make, you must keep the entire investment for the duration of your visa.
Who is Eligible for the U.K. Tier 1 Visa Program?
It’s pretty simple to determine whether you’re qualified for a Tier 1 Investor Visa.
To be eligible for this program, you need to:
- Be over the age of 18 and have a valid driver’s license
- Have no felony convictions on your record
- Have a strong moral character
- If you’re from a high-risk country, you don’t have tuberculosis
- Have a minimum of £2 million in cash on hand
It’s worth noting that your nationality is no longer a prerequisite. Tier 1 visas were formerly only available to non-EEA applicants, but they have since been made available to all post-Brexit.
Let’s talk about those funds now since they have their own set of criteria.
You or your partner (married, single, in a civil partnership, same-sex – the main thing is that you’ve been together for at least two years) need to be in possession of the funds. Have you had this money in your possession for at least two years? You won’t need to take any extra measures, which is a good thing. If the money has been in your hands for less than two years, you must track down the source of all of it and notify the U.K. government.
The funds must be deposited in a licensed financial institution (anywhere in the world), and you must have a certificate from that institution proving that you have permission to use the funds. To put it another way, you’ll have to prove that your funds can be moved to the U.K., converted into pound sterling (if necessary), and spent.
What is the Application Process For Obtaining a U.K. Tier 1 Visa?
You’ll have to follow a fairly simple application process once you or your professional advisor have decided that you’re qualified to apply. You must first apply for and obtain your visa. Then, if you wish, you can live in the United Kingdom and gain British citizenship. You can begin your Tier 1 visa journey 12 months before filing your application, or you can apply first and make the investment within three months of obtaining your visa. If you have a partner or children who are relying on you, both of you will need to fill out a separate application. The investment amount, however, is charged for each family member.
Here’s how the whole method works:
- Open a bank account in the United Kingdom with a regulated financial institution.
- Invest £2 million, £5 million or £10 million in successful U.K. business shares in a profitable business. You can also do it later. (Read step 9.)
- Gather all of the required paperwork, including:
- A valid passport with a blank page for a visa
- If you’re from a high-risk country, your tuberculosis test results (valid for six months)
- A criminal record certificate from every country where you spent at least 12 months in the previous 10 years
- A letter stating that you have a bank account in the United Kingdom where you can deposit your investment funds (valid for three months).
- Start looking for a place to live once you arrive in the United Kingdom.
- Fill out the Tier 1 Visa application online and send all necessary documentation approximately three months to three weeks before you arrive in the United Kingdom (must be translated and certified, if not in English). The application fee is £1,623.
- If you applied from within the U.K., it would take approximately eight weeks to receive a decision; if you applied from abroad, it would take approximately three weeks. If you pay for priority service, you can speed up the process and get a decision in just five working days.
- Upon arrival in the United Kingdom, schedule a biometrics appointment (£19.20) at a nearby U.K. visa application center to have your fingerprints and photographs taken.
- Pick up your resident permit at your nearest post office branch within 10 days of your biometrics appointment. If you choose, you can have your permit collected by a sponsor; this is a choice you can select when you apply.
- Now is the time to invest if you haven’t already. Within three months of obtaining your residency permit, you must make the qualifying investment.
- After three years, extend your residency permit for another two years (£1,623) by demonstrating that you’ve lived in the U.K. and kept your full investment. If your investment generates interest or dividend payments, you can withdraw them without affecting your visa holder immigration status.
- To be eligible for “settled status,” you must spend at least nine months a year in the U.K. (i.e., permanent residency). Depending on how much you’ve saved, you’ll be able to reach this status sooner or later (minimum two years). To achieve the status, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language. The cost per individual is £2,389.
- Similarly, after some time, depending on how much you’ve spent, you’ll be eligible to apply for U.K. citizenship (minimum five years).
- You must pay a £400 immigration health surcharge for each year you live in the U.K. (IHS). This is a per-person fee, so your wife and/or children would still have to pay £400.
As you can see, obtaining your Tier 1 visa and even permanent resident status in the U.K. is relatively easy but time-consuming. And, while we’re sure people go through the application process on their own, it’s always a good idea to get solid financial advice before making any investment immigration decisions since each one has tax implications.
U.K. Tier 1 Visa For Innovators
You may be familiar with the U.K. Tier 1 Entrepreneur Investor Visa, which the United Kingdom previously offered. However, the Innovator Visa has since taken its place, requiring lower capital investment and recognizing a business concept before applying.
So, who is it aimed at in particular?
If you’re a seasoned entrepreneur, the prospect of establishing a business in the United Kingdom, especially in London, would likely pique your interest. The United Kingdom is an international center for industry and finance, with a large and relatively affluent market ready to embrace the following creative product or service.
You may be able to get your U.K. residency by investment for as little as £50,000 if you have a genuinely creative idea. Here are some guidelines:
- You must have a minimum of £50,000 in investment funds
- Be suitable for seasoned industry professionals
- Get a local agency to approve your business idea
- You must be able to support yourself financially in the United Kingdom
- Demonstrate that you can communicate in English at a B2 level
The Innovator route is ideal for anyone with extensive technical experience, a minimum of £50,000 in available funds, and a business idea.
But the U.K. government isn’t looking for just any business idea. If you want to be allowed to stay in the country, your idea must be:
- New. You won’t be able to invest in a business that is already operational and profitable. It’s pretty self-explanatory. The Investor visa is your only choice if you want to invest in an established business.
- Innovative. Do you have a unique business concept that you haven’t seen on the market in the UK? The keywords here are inventive and original; you must show that you will have a competitive advantage.
- Feasible. It must have a high potential for growth to be considered viable. And, as for you, you’ll need business experience and management skills to run a company effectively.
Before you can apply for a Tier 1 visa, you’ll need to find an agency that can vouch for your business as all three of the above things. Needless to say, obtaining this visa in the United Kingdom is a far more complicated process. It can also take a long time for your business idea to be accepted.
However, if you have a fantastic idea that you’re certain would be accepted but don’t have £2 million to invest via the Investor path, the Innovator route is still a viable choice.
Who is Eligible for the Innovator Visa Program?
The Innovator visa (Tier 1) will not be available to anyone who wishes to visit the United Kingdom. You would, however, be allowed to carry your family if you are willing to apply.
You are welcome to bring your partner (whether married or not), as well as any minor children under the age of 18. Each family member may need his or her application. The mandatory expenditure amount would remain the same, which implies that your family members would not need any extra funds to visit the U.K.
Here are the requirements:
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You must be from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, and you must be able to communicate in English at a B2 standard.
- Be able to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial resources to support yourself.
- Have a minimum of £50,000 in investment funds.
- Be able to get your business plan accepted by a reputable organization.
Let’s go more in-depth about your business concept and its support. You’ll need to contact a local agency charged with evaluating the feasibility and innovativeness of your business concept. Many are universities, but there are also some private businesses, such as Seed Camp, Deep Science Ventures, Med City and Tech Country. You’ll need to apply to an endorsement body that’s important to your business concept and, in essence, provide them with a detailed business plan.
You’ll have to explain every aspect of your business, including growth forecasts, profit calculations, cash flow and job development, as well as how your business meets the three endorsement requirements mentioned above. Ideas that do well in the endorsement process, based on our recent experience, are in the fields of fintech, edtech and medtech, but you can apply to other industries as well. You’ll need to keep in touch with the agency that endorses your business on a regular basis because you’ll need it for every stage of your Innovator visa (the initial application, an extension, and settling permanently in the UK).
You’ll be assigned a mentor, and you’ll meet with them every six months to discuss the progress of your business. Doesn’t that sound like a lot? You won’t have to do it alone, though. The Innovator visa can be applied for with co-founders. You can also bring together an entire entrepreneurial team. However, each of you will be expected to contribute the required minimum amount.
What is the Application Process for the Innovator Visa Program?
You can apply for an Innovator visa to live and work in the United Kingdom if you have successfully obtained the endorsement for your business.
The following measures will be included in the application process:
- Begin the process of getting your business idea approved with the appropriate agency about three months before you intend to submit your visa application.
- You must submit an electronic copy of your endorsement letter to InnovatorRoute@homeoffice.gov.uk once you receive it.
- Gather all of the documentation you’ll need for your submission. If some of the documents are not in English, they would need to be translated and checked by an official translator. Here is the list of required documents:
- A passport that is valid and has a visa blank page
- Bank statements demonstrating a balance of at least £945 in your savings account
- If necessary, a tuberculosis test (valid for six months)
- Documentation demonstrating that you fulfill the English language criteria (CEFR B2)
- Proof that you have at least £50,000 in your bank account
- Fill out an online application for a Tier 1 Innovator Visa (£1,021). The earliest you can do this is three months before your travel to the United Kingdom. You may be accepted within eight weeks.
- Schedule an appointment to have your biometrics (fingerprints and photographs) taken at a U.K. visa center. This will cost you £19.20.
- Look for a place to live in the United Kingdom and plan to travel there.
- Schedule your biometrics appointment within 10 days of your arrival. Pick up your resident permit at the post office in your living area. It will be valid for three years.
- Start and develop your business within six months of receiving your resident permit. You will only be allowed to work for your business when on the Innovator visa in the United Kingdom. There is no other job that you can do under this visa.
- If your visa is about to expire, you have the option of applying for renewal (£1,277) or switching to the Tier 1 Investor visa. Before you can expand your Innovator visa, you’ll need to get another business endorsement. You cannot leave the U.K. until a decision about whether or not to renew your visa has been made, or your application will be canceled. In most cases, a decision is made within eight weeks.
- In three years, you’ll be eligible to apply for settled status (permanent residency). You’ll have to get the business endorsed all over again.
- If you’ve lived in the U.K. for at least six years and meet specific requirements, you can become a naturalized British citizen.
- You must pay a £400 immigration health surcharge for each year you live in the U.K. (IHS). This is a per-person fee, so your wife and/or children would still have to pay £400.
If you want to apply for settled status, you must meet specific additional requirements. If you’ve spent at least £50,000 in your company and achieved one of the following, you’ll be liable for a settlement:
- At least 10 full-time jobs have been produced by your business.
- At least five full-time jobs paying at least £25,000 have been generated by your company.
- The company has made at least £1 million in gross sales.
- In the last three years, the number of company customers has doubled, surpassing the average number of customers at comparable U.K. businesses.
- The business has done a lot of research and development and has filed for intellectual property rights.
- The business makes at least £500,000 in sales and exports at least £100,000 to other countries.
U.K. Tier 1 Visa for Start-Ups
Is it possible for you to imagine launching your business in London? You may be eligible for a Startup Tier 1 visa.
- There is no requirement for a minimum investment.
- Come up with a creative and unique business concept.
- You must demonstrate your ability to communicate in English.
- You must be able to support yourself and your family financially.
The start-up alternative is perhaps the least known of the three Tier 1 options available in the United Kingdom. Do you have an early-stage but high-potential start-up and want to launch a business in the United Kingdom for the first time? You, as an aspirant entrepreneur, are most likely qualified for the U.K.’s Tier 1 Start-Up Visa. It’s very similar to the Innovator Visa, but there’s one significant difference: There’s no minimum amount required to apply. Simply put, you must be able to demonstrate that your business concept is the next Netflix or Spotify, with limitless growth potential. It must also help the British economy more greatly.
Another notable feature of the start-up path is that you will not be able to extend it; this visa does not lead to settled status or citizenship. When your business is up and running, you’ll need to move to a different visa, such as the Innovator visa. If this is the case, the £50,000 investment prerequisite for the Innovator visa would be waived. In addition, unlike the investment alternative, you must demonstrate that you can communicate in English and that you have adequate funds to support yourself while in the U.K. That’s because if you get into trouble, you wouldn’t be able to rely on the local social security system.
Applicants for the Start-up route, like those for the first two Tier 1 visa options, will bring their partner and any dependents under the age of 18 with them. Each member of the family may need their application (and must pay the application fee, too).
Who is Eligible for a Start-up Visa?
The eligibility requirements for Start-up visa applicants are almost identical to those for Innovator visa applicants.
You’ll need to be able to:
- Must be at least 18 years old
- From outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
- Be able to communicate in English at a B2 standard
- Be able to demonstrate that you have sufficient financial resources to support yourself
- Be able to get your business plan accepted by an approved body
You won’t need to have at least £50,000 in investment funds to participate. You don’t need any previous funding if you have a genuinely creative start-up idea. Your business idea must be judged as creative, viable and scalable, much like the Innovator visa. Fintech, medtech and edtech are the same sectors that are recommended for this visa.
Once endorsed, the business will be overseen by a mentor who will review your success twice a year and decide whether or not to continue endorsing it. Finally, you are not required to be a sole proprietor, and you are permitted to assemble a team to work on your business. Each member, however, would need to apply for a Start-Up visa separately.
What is the Application Process for the Start-up Visa Program?
Once you’ve decided that you’re qualified to apply and want to get started, follow these steps:
- Get a letter of endorsement from the relevant endorsing body about three months before you apply. This letter should be sent to StartUpRoute@homeoffice.gov.uk
- Gather all of the necessary documents, which include:
- A valid passport with a blank visa page
- Bank statements demonstrating that you have at least £945 in deposits
- If applicable, a tuberculosis test (valid for six months)
- Documentation demonstrating that you fulfill the English language criteria (CEFR B2)
- Apply for the Tier 1 Start-Up Visa online (£363 fee) no later than three months before your travel to the United Kingdom.
- Make an appointment to have your fingerprints and photos taken at a U.K. visa center (£19.20 fee).
- Visit the United Kingdom and look for a place to stay.
- Attend the biometrics consultation and pick up your residency permit at a nearby post office branch within 10 days of your arrival.
- If your Start-Up visa is about to expire in two years, turn to the Tier 1 Investor visa (outlined in the section above). It costs £493.
- If you meet the Investor visa requirements, you will be eligible for permanent residency and citizenship.
- You’ll have to pay a £400 immigration health surcharge for each year you live in the U.K. (IHS). This is a per-person fee, so your wife and/or children would still have to pay £400.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the U.K. Tier 1 Visa
It’s unnecessary to go on and on about the many advantages of applying for a Tier 1 visa to live and work in the United Kingdom. However, when you see it written down, it’s sometimes easier to weigh the pros and cons of a major decision like this.
So, here are the main benefits of a Tier 1 visa in the United Kingdom:
Simple Requirements: The United Kingdom, unlike many other countries in the investment immigration world, has a long history of accepting foreign investors. The eligibility criteria, application processes, and all in between are all crystal clear on the government website.
Fast Process: It will only take a few months to get your Tier 1 visa. The entire procedure can also be completed online, which speeds up the process.
Bring the Whole Family: You can bring your partner and children under the age of 18 to any Tier 1 visa choice with no additional investment. The fact that you may be in a civil relationship, married or unmarried is fantastic. Couples of the same gender also qualify.
A High Standard of Living: The United Kingdom is one of the best places to live, work and study in the world. It has an unrivaled cultural heritage and is well-linked to the rest of the world.
An Appealing Tax System: High net worth individuals who are residents but not domiciled in the country will benefit from a very flexible tax regime.
However, there are some disadvantages to the Tier 1 visa:
The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. When it comes to Brexit and the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, there is still a lot of doubt. Although most U.K. companies are not in immediate danger, only time can tell how the country’s economy evolves in general.
Power is dwindling for the U.K. passport. As a result of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the British passport has fallen in the world’s passport rankings. To travel to the EU, British citizens will require a visa or a visa waiver.
U.K. Tax Implications
As U.K. residents, high net worth individuals have several tax-planning options open to them. Any financial decision you make has tax consequences. Investing in and being a resident of the United Kingdom is no different.
The good news is that you won’t be taxed on the money you’ll use to get started (for both the investor option and the innovator option). Even then, if you make money from the investment or business that you used to immigrate to the U.K., you would have to pay tax.
You won’t have to pay U.K. tax on income you don’t carry into the U.K. if you’re considered a non-domiciled individual. Any international income or dividends of £2,000 or more must be recorded. In other words, if you are a U.K. resident who is considered non-domiciled, the U.K. provides a favorable tax regime.
And the fantastic news?
If you’ve lived in the U.K. for a long time and want to become a citizen, you’ll be relieved to learn that paying taxes in the country isn’t a prerequisite.
This is fantastic news since most other countries with residency programs (such as Golden Visas) require you to be a tax resident for a certain amount of years before applying for citizenship. Given the high tax rates in countries like Portugal and Greece, you just wouldn’t want to do so, regardless of the benefits of their respective citizenships.
How to Get Citizenship in the U.K.
Depending on which Tier 1 Visa choice you make and how much money you spend, you might be able to apply for U.K. citizenship at some stage. Of course, you are under no obligation to apply, but since British citizenship comes with a slew of advantages, we’ll go through the U.K. Tier 1 Investor Visa requirements requirements briefly.
If you apply for the Investor Visa and spend £5 million or £10 million, you can apply for citizenship in five years.
In the meantime, investors who only have £2 million to spend will have to wait an extra year.
After six years on the Innovator or Start-up visas, you will be eligible for naturalization.
The first move is to secure permanent residency in the country (known as the ILR). To qualify for your ILR, you must have spent a total of 450 days outside of the U.K. in the previous five years. You will apply for citizenship after you’ve been in your settled status for at least 12 months.
You cannot spend more than 90 days outside of the United Kingdom during the 12 months preceding your citizenship application.
In addition to the time spent abroad restrictions, people seeking naturalization must pass the Live in the UK exam (which is not necessary if they are 65 or older) and demonstrate that they can communicate in English at a B1 standard.
Dual citizenship is permitted in the United Kingdom, meaning you won’t have to give up your previous citizenship to enjoy the privileges of being a resident of both the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the three Tier 1 Visa options in the United Kingdom?
If you invest in the country, start a tech-related company or launch a start-up, you can gain access to the U.K. and become a resident. The eligibility criteria for each of these three choices are different.
What is the minimum amount of money required to receive a Tier 1 Investor visa?
To be eligible for the Investor visa, you must spend at least £2 million. The Start-up visa is the cheapest alternative because it does not require a minimum investment fund.
How long will I stay outside the U.K. until applying for ILR (indefinite leave to remain/permanent residency)?
In five years, you can only spend 450 days outside the U.K. This implies that you should spend at least nine months a year in the United Kingdom.
Which Tier 1 choice is best for me?
It all depends on your situation and financial situation.
If you’re a high net worth person looking to live in the U.K. and have at least £2 million to spare, the Investor path is a good option. It’s the safest choice of all, and it doesn’t require you to speak English. If you’re wealthy and willing to take on more risk, the Innovator or Start-up options may be right for you.
If I go the Investor route, what kinds of businesses should I invest in?
You should put your money into a business that is involved and trading in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, it must be registered with Companies House as well as HMRC for corporate tax and PAYE. It should also have U.K. company bank accounts to show that its products and services are traded daily. At least two non-director employees from the U.K. must also be present. You may invest in international corporations with registered offices or headquarters in the United Kingdom. Finally, you have the option to invest in services related to real estate, hotels and construction.
How long does a Tier 1 visa last?
If you apply for the visa while overseas, it will be valid for three years and four months. For example, if collect the visa when still in the U.K., it is valid for three years.
How do I get my Tier 1 visa renewed?
You may apply to extend your residency for an additional two years right before your visa expires. You’ll be able to extend your visa through the internet.
Is there a cap on how many times my Tier 1 visa can be renewed?
No. Your Tier 1 visa can be renewed as many times as you want.
What steps do I need to take to become a permanent resident of the United Kingdom?
You can apply for and obtain “settled: status in the United Kingdom, depending on which visa option you choose.
Is there a citizenship-by-investment program in the United Kingdom?
The United Kingdom does not sell a citizenship-by-investment scheme in the conventional sense. Applying for a Tier 1 visa, residing in the U.K. for at least five years, and then applying for naturalization is one of the easiest ways to become a British citizen.
What is the Innovator Visa in the United Kingdom?
It’s a visa designed exclusively for non-EEA businesspeople and entrepreneurs who want to start a new venture in the U.K. It’s a path that doesn’t demand a high initial investment – the minimum is £50,000 – but the business plan needs to be supported by a professional organization.
What are the organizations that support the Innovator visa?
A registry of organizations approved to support businesses for Innovator visa applications has been listed by the U.K. government.
What am I allowed to do with the Innovator visa?
Under the Innovator visa, you can only operate your business venture while in the U.K. (Tier 1). You are unable to work in any other capacity.
What distinguishes the Start-Up visa from the Innovator visa?
Applicants for a start-up visa do not require any investment capital; they can work for companies other than their own and cannot seek permanent residency or citizenship. After two years, most Start-Up visa holders turn to the Innovator visa.