The United Kingdom offers various visa options to investors and entrepreneurs from outside Europe who wish to invest and live in the country. The two principal types of investment visas are the Tier 1 (investor) visa and the Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa—both of which offer temporary residency and a path to permanent residency (Indefinite Leave to Remain [ILR]). Visa holders in either category are able to bring qualifying family members with them to the United Kingdom. Unlike the golden visa programs of other European countries, the United Kingdom does require that investors and entrepreneurs make the country their primary home. The Tier 1 (investor) visa is valued for its quick processing time, objective criteria and predictable outcomes.
The investor visa requires an investment of at least £2 million in government bonds, share capital or loan capital in active UK companies and grants the right to live, work and study in the United Kingdom throughout the duration of the visa. Visas granted under this scheme give temporary residency and are valid for a maximum of three years and four months with the possibility to extend for an additional two years. After five years in the United Kingdom, visa holders may be eligible to apply for ILR (permanent residency). Applicants who wish to fast-track settlement in the United Kingdom can invest larger amounts.
The entrepreneur visa is intended for individuals who wish to open and operate a business in the United Kingdom. This scheme also requires that applicants have access to at least £200,000 (or £50,000 in specific circumstances) and intend to use that capital to run a UK business. Entrepreneur visa holders are eligible to work for their own business or to be self-employed, but cannot seek outside work. Like the investor visa, visas granted under this scheme are valid for a maximum of three years and four months and can be extended for an additional two years. Entrepreneurs must show evidence of actual investment, business activity and job creation in order to renew their visa. After five years in the United Kingdom, visa holders may be eligible to apply for ILR (permanent residency).
History and Statistics
Initiated in 2008, the Tier 1 investor and entrepreneur visas are part of the United Kingdom’s points-based immigration system. The investor visa has undergone a series of changes in recent years, including a raise of minimum investment amounts and increased anti-money laundering and background check provisions. Likewise, the entrepreneur visa has been modified over the years, and was the subject of a recent report that called for reforms to the program to ensure the legitimacy of applicants and their business activities.
Eligibility and Requirements
Each visa has a different set of eligibility factors and requirements, but applicants for either route must be from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. Spouses or partners and minor children can accompany investors and entrepreneurs to the United Kingdom.
As described above, the Tier 1 (investor visa) requires a minimum investment of £2 million in a qualifying portfolio. Applicants can invest greater amounts in order to qualify to apply for permanent residency more quickly: applicants who invest £5 million will qualify for permanent residency after three years and applicants who invest £10 million will qualify for permanent residency after two years. Applicants who invest the minimum amount qualify for permanent residency after five years.
In addition to the investment requirement, applicants must be over the age of 18, prove ownership of the investment funds and have a UK bank account. The funds must be held in regulated institutions and disposable in the United Kingdom. Investors must maintain their investment throughout the duration of their visa and are held to various rules regarding the management and maintenance of their investment portfolios.
The investor visa has no language requirement and no requirement for support funds, as it is assumed that investors at this level will have the required capital to support themselves without having to work in the United Kingdom.
To apply for the Tier 1 (entrepreneur) visa, applicants from outside the United Kingdom must have access to £200,000, in most cases. Funds must be shown to be owned by the applicant, shared by the applicant and a spouse or partner, or made available to the applicant by a third party. Applicants are not required to have already started a business project upon applying, but the must have a plan for how they intend to use their funds.
Some individuals may qualify for the lesser £50,000 amount with funds from an approved source, but that is only in special circumstances. Interested entrepreneurs who are already in the United Kingdom under a different visa or leave to remain category are subject to specific eligibility requirements. Because of the wealth of special circumstances, this page focuses on general entrepreneurs applying from outside the United Kingdom.
In addition to financial requirements, applicants must be at least 16 years old, speak English, be able to support themselves and score at least 95 points according to the UK Visas and Immigration Points Calculator. Should applicants meet the above funding, language and maintenance requirements, they will score at least 95 points.
Applications for either category are to be submitted online and require fingerprints and photographs to be taken at a biometric center. Additionally, all applicants must pay a healthcare charge.
In order to apply, investors must be prepared to provide identification documents, health information and a criminal record certificate, in addition to evidence of investment. Applicants will need to provide evidence to document the total amount of their funds, location of funds, source of funds (if held for less than three months) and that the funds can be transferred to the United Kingdom. All documents presented must be translated to English or Welsh.
Investor applicants can apply up to three months prior to their intended arrival in the United Kingdom and should receive a decision on their application within three weeks.
Applicants must pay a fee of £1,500 and an additional £1,500 per dependent for application processing. A premium option is available to apply in person, and consists of a one-time fee of £7,000 plus £1,900 per applicant and each dependent. The required health care surcharge is in addition to processing fees.
In order to renew their visa, investors must prove they have the full investment amount under their control in the United Kingdom, that they made the investment within three months of their investor start date and that they have maintained the investment throughout their visa period.
In order to apply, entrepreneurs must be prepared to provide identification documents, health information and a criminal record certificate in addition to evidence of funds. Applicants must also provide a business plan, evidence that he/she can support him/herself and proof of English language ability. All documents presented must be translated to English or Welsh.
Applicants must pay a fee of £1,180 and an additional £1,180 per dependent for application processing when applying online, or £944 per applicant and dependent when applying in person outside of the United Kingdom. The required health care surcharge is in addition to processing fees.
In order to extend the entrepreneur visa, applicants must document
- Actual investment of the amount documented on their initial application,
- Self-employment or registration as the director of a company within six months of visa receipt, and
- The creation of at least two full time jobs maintained for at least 12 months.
Applicants may choose to prepare the application and documentation on their own, or may find that it is easier to work with a British professional to guide them. Applicants are strongly recommended to seek out a qualified attorney familiar with the program prior to preparing any investment. Furthermore, various full-service companies exist that can educate investors about the program, direct them to attorneys and financial advisors, assist in setting up investment portfolios and guide them through the application process.
 "Tier 1 Investment Visa UK." Henley & Partners. Accessed December 27, 2015. https://www.henleyglobal.com/residence-united-kingdom-res-cit/.
 "UK Tier 1 Investor Reforms." Knowledge Center. Fragomen Worldwide. May 29, 2015. Accessed December 27, 2015. https://www.fragomen.com/knowledge-center/articles/uk-tier-1-investor-reforms.
 Review of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Graduate Entrepreneur Routes. London: Migration Advisory Committee, 2015. Accessed December 27, 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/migration-advisory-committee-mac-review-tier-1-entrepreneur-and-graduate-entrepreneur-routes.
 Unless otherwise noted, all program eligibility, requirement and application information taken from "Tier 1 (investment) Visa." Gov.UK. December 18, 2015. Accessed December 27, 2015. https://www.gov.uk/tier-1-investor/overview.
 "UK Tier 1 Investor Reforms."
 Unless otherwise noted, all program eligibility, requirement and application information taken from "Tier 1 (entrepreneur) Visa." Gov.UK. December 18, 2015. Accessed December 27, 2015. https://www.gov.uk/tier-1-entrepreneur/overview.
 "Points-based Calculator." UK Visas and Immigration. Accessed December 27, 2015. https://www.points.homeoffice.gov.uk/gui-migrant-jsf/SelfAssessment/SelfAssessment.faces.