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Obtaining a Tier 1 Visa in the U.K.

With a favorable business climate and native English speakers, there are plenty of reasons small international business owners choose to expand into the U.K. market. But before they can do business in the U.K., they must first acquire a Tier 1 visa. Here are the visa application and foreign immigration laws for obtaining a U.K. visa.

Types of Tier 1 Visas

There are five types of Tier 1 visas, but the two that typically apply to business owners are the entrepreneur and investor categories.

Foreign business owners who want to start, run or take over an U.K. business may want to complete a visa application for the Tier I entrepreneur category. Applicants for this category must have access to at least £200,000 pounds (GBP) or at least £50,000 GBP provided by a qualified venture capital firm, government agency or other seed-funding agency, according to the UK Border Agency (UKBA),[1] the department responsible for issuing the visas.

International business owners should be aware of the “genuine entrepreneur test.”

Learn More About Using Online FX

Foreign investors can use a trusted online foreign exchange service by sending money overseas to the business owners in need of visa funds. For example, a U.S. investor could secure the latest exchange rate of $1 U.S. dollar (USD) = £0.644 GBP on $310,820 USD, to send about £200,000 GBP to the U.K. business owner.

On the other hand, individuals who are willing to invest at least £1 million GBP in the U.K. may want to aim for the Tier 1 investor category.

Working with an experienced immigration attorney can help individuals navigate the nuances between the different types of Tier 1 visas. In order to simplify attorney payments and other visa-related expenses, business owners can use a trusted online foreign exchange service for sending money overseas quickly and easily.

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Know the Point System

Tier 1 entrepreneur or investor visa applications are rated on a points system, which can be tallied online using a points-based calculator. Entrepreneurs need to score at least 95 points, while investors need to earn 75 points. For example, a business owner from the U.S. could earn 25 points for having funds held in a regulated financial institution and an additional 10 points for speaking English.[2]

Be Prepared for the Genuine Entrepreneur Test

In addition to navigating the points system, international business owners should be aware of the "genuine entrepreneur test," which the UKBA started administering to business owners in January 2013 to determine the validity and credibility of their visa applications.

As part of the tests, the UKBA may consider an entrepreneurs' immigration history, previous businesses, educational background and other related information. This also includes the business owner's source of money and the validity and credibility of the business plans and market research.

Proof of Funds

For both Tier 1 categories, the visa applications require two sources of documentary evidence confirming that the required investment funds are available.

For example, a visa applicant from Canada could provide an official tax document and 12 months' worth of original bank statements. Additionally, the applicant would need a letter from her bank confirming that it's a regulated financial institution and one stamped or signed bank statement.

With its favorable business climate, there are plenty of reasons to pursue a U.K. visa. By enlisting the services of an immigration attorney and completing the right documentation in a timely manner, foreign business owners can tap into the vast potential of the U.K. market.

[1] "Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)," Home Office UK Border Agency

[2] "Tier 1 Visas,"

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