Can I Run a Second Business in the UK as An Innovator Visa Holder? Will I Need a Second Endorsement?
In recent years, we have been proud to assist many entrepreneurs and innovative business people to come to the UK to set up highly successful businesses through the innovator visa scheme. And in doing so, we have observed that it is common for entrepreneurs to want to establish multiple businesses here in the UK, not just one. Setting up more than one business can be an effective way of testing different business models or catering for different parts of the same market (e.g. one business may be focused on the consumer market, and another may serve the business sector). Regardless of the reason for setting up more than one business, it is important that in doing so, you stay within the terms of your innovator visa. In this article, we explain whether innovator visa holders can establish multiple businesses and whether further endorsement is needed.
Can I Establish More Than One Business As An Innovator Visa Holder?
Yes, it is possible for Innovator visa holders to “set up a business or several businesses”. The guidance issued by the Home Office to endorsing bodies specifically advises them that “Developing other businesses as well as their main idea – any business pursued outside their endorsement does not need to be monitored by you, however, you should ensure that you are happy that their pursuit of said businesses will not negatively impact their ability to progress their endorsed business”. As such, the Home Office permits endorsed Innovator visa holders to establish additional businesses which are not necessarily related to the main business idea, and, where this is the case, the endorsing body has no role in the monitoring of those businesses. The main proviso being that any additional businesses cannot limit the progress being made on the main business idea.
Can I Work For Another Business As An Innovator Visa Holder?
The conditions of permission attached to an Innovator visa also make it clear that holders cannot work for another business owned by someone else, rather they can only work in businesses that they themselves have established; “they cannot take up employment, other than working for the business or businesses they establish, join or take over - working for such a business or businesses does not include any work the applicant does under a contract of service or apprenticeship with another business, whether: express, implied, oral or written”. See below for more details on contracts of service.
The conditions of the Innovator visa also prevent holders from working as a professional sportsperson (e.g. a sports coach).
Can An Innovator Visa Holder Be Contracted To Another Business?
This gets into the often tricky area of whether the Innovator visa holder has entered into a ‘contract of service rather than a ‘contract for service’. As we have already established, innovator visa holders are only allowed to work for the business or businesses they have established, joined, or taken over. The Home Office draws a distinction between entering into a contract of service (also referred to as an employment contract), whereby an individual is employed to provide services to another business, and a contract for service, whereby a business is contracted to provide services to another business/client. The former involves a relationship of employment, the latter does not. For this reason, it is fine under an Innovator visa for your business to provide services to another business, but you must not be employed by the client yourself.
The guidance further clarifies, “Where a migrant enters into contracts with another business in this capacity, this will normally be regarded as contracts for service. This is also not allowed in this route if it means that their work involves that other business, in effect, hiring them for their labour or to fill a position or vacancy. This includes where the other business hires the individual using a recruitment or employment agency… Contracts entered into by the migrant with another business in this capacity will normally be regarded as contracts of service. This applies even if the applicant claims the work is undertaken on a self-employed basis”. In other words, you will not be permitted to work for another business under a contract for services arrangement if the Home Office believe you will, in effect, be employed.
If you are in any way unsure if the work you are doing for another business may be in breach of your conditions of stay as an Innovator visa holder in the UK, seek legal advice from an Immigration Solicitor before you proceed. It is always advisable to check before you make a significant change in how you work due to the risk of the visa being revoked by the Home Office. The Home Office are always on the lookout for instances of ‘disguised employment’, which is a clear breach of the UK immigration rules.
Likewise, if you have already been informed that you are in breach of your conditions of stay as an Innovator visa holder because the Home Office believe you have been working for another business under an actual contract of services (or what they deem to be a contract of services), it is important to seek legal advice from an Immigration Lawyer as soon as possible. In most cases, the Innovator visa holder is genuinely providing services to another business on behalf of their own business, but the Home Office have misinterpreted the situation. Immigration Solicitors will source and submit proof that the relationship between the Innovator visa holder and the other business is not one of ‘disguised employment’.
As with all visa types, it is essential to understand the rules and conditions you are expected to adhere to before making any changes. By making a quick call to UKVI or talking through your plans with UK immigration Lawyers, you can ensure that your second (or subsequent) business plans or contract for services with another business will not be seen as a breach of your Innovator visa.