How to set up a UK business as a migrant

It’s not hard to start your own business in the UK, even if you come from a foreign country and have only just arrived here.

You may need a visa to give you permission to set up a company in the UK, especially if you are not from Europe, so look into the eligibility requirements of Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visas in the UK.

If you have been in the UK as a student and want to set up a business after graduation, then you will need a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa instead, and an endorsed business idea.

Prior to Brexit, the European Economic Area allows citizens from the EU, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, to come to the UK to work without needing a visa.

After Brexit this is likely to change probably several times in the years to come – so if you are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland (which is not technically a member of either) double check on your visa requirements before you make any firm plans.

Common British businesses set up by migrants

As long as you have a legitimate business idea, there are no major limits on the types of British businesses you can set up as a migrant.

Traditionally the retail sector has been a main source for foreign-owned small businesses in the UK, along with foodservice and other small convenience outlets, but there are many other options too.

Arro Money itself was set up partly based on our experiences of being new to the UK and finding it hard to get a bank account here – so we are proof that you can even set up a financial services business if you wish.

Depending on your visa, you might need to demonstrate that you have a strong business idea before you are granted access to live in the country long-term, so whatever you decide, just make sure you have a clear plan on how it will make a profit and sustain your lifestyle.

British business structures for migrant entrepreneurs

There are a few different business structures to choose from in the UK. You could register as a sole trader, which gives you the flexibility to earn money in your own right and keep whatever profits you make.

A limited company helps to protect you against any business debts you accumulate, and can have tax benefits too – although if you’re not earning much, it can be easier to just remain as a sole trader.

You can also register a partnership, which could allow you to go into business with a permanent UK resident or British-born partner – but if you do this, make sure that your status as a migrant is not a problem too.

Ultimately your business plan will probably point you in the direction of a particular structure, and the terms of your visa might require you to create a company rather than trade as an individual – so just make sure you do everything right to avoid problems later.

Access to British business banking for migrants

It can be quite hard, or at least quite slow, to get a UK business bank account for a migrant, even if your business is up and running with a firm business plan in place.

Unfortunately the high street banks can be quite intrusive, with lots of paperwork and proof of ID, proof of your UK address, proof of your credit score and financial status, and so on.

You may be asked to commit to certain ‘minimums’, for example to keep a certain minimum balance in your business account or to pay in at least a certain amount every month, even if you don’t know exactly how much you will be earning.

Alternatively, you might be pushed towards taking out a business account with credit you don’t need, from an overdraft, to a business credit card, to a development loan with long-term repayments and interest.

An easy-access migrant business account

We at Arro Money wanted to give you a business account you can open instantly with realistic expectations of what ID and proof of address you will have when you’re new to the UK.

There’s no overdraft or credit card, so no need for a credit check. We don’t expect a minimum balance – just don’t spend more than you have in your account. And we check ID online, automatically, from 160 home countries, so you don’t need lots of proof of your UK address.

Just fill in our Arro Business Account signup form to tell us your name, date of birth, UK address, and your company name and contact details – and in just three minutes you could be up and running.