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Self Employment for migrants

One of the main reasons for migrants to travel to the UK is for work. A combination of a strong economy and plenty of customers makes the UK a hotspot for those looking to work for themselves. In this article we look at the options for those who wish to set up their own business in the UK and offer some practical guidance for setting up and running a business in the UK.

Why set up a business in the UK?

As we alluded to in the last paragraph, the UK is a vibrant marketplace that will always find a home for a good quality business. The strong marketplace and good trading conditions make the UK a priority for international business and companies that operate here can expect a sympathetic system that helps them to succeed.

Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa route

The Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa offers the opportunity for entrepreneurial types to come to the UK in order to start their business. You will need to have some level of seed funding and that will need to be at least £50,000. The £50,000 route requires some very special sources of funding and therefore it is much more likely that people who are eligible for this visa route will come in via the £200,000 route.

While not strictly self-employment it is one way for those to start their own business in the UK. Generally, this will not be typical self-employment and will be usually a limited liability partnership or limited company. The rules are different governing business types in the UK and it is worth considering your preferred method for forming the business.

The eligibility for the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa includes the stated seed funding levels, in addition to this you would also need a coherent business plan and many other eligibility criteria that are attached, this will usually consist of the core requirement to have a good level of English language and the ability to support yourself by having enough money.

Tier 2 General Visa

Strictly speaking the Tier 2 General visa is for those who are going to be employed under a sponsor license and you will need to remain in employment during the duration of your visa. That being said, you are allowed to run a business on the side as long as it doesn't interfere with your main business. You will need to pay taxes on both of your incomes and will need to fill out a self-assessment form to calculate your complete tax liability including what you earned from both your employment and self-employment.

The eligibility criteria for a Tier 2 General Visa is a minimum salary, a good level of English language and a job offer from a UK sponsor license holder who will issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) that you can use in support of your application. You will also need to have a minimum level of savings in order to be able to support yourself when you first move to the UK. This is also laid out clearly in the guidance.

Tier 4 Student Visa

Under the tier 4 student visa you are not allowed to work for yourself or in a few other professions, you may however be able to do some part-time work and if you ever switch to a Tier 2 General Visa or indeed any other visa at the end of your studies you may then be able to self-employed.

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme

If you are aged 18 to 30 years of age then you may be able to work as self-employed in the UK for two years under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme. You will need to have a minimum savings amount and also come from a specific list of countries of origin.


HMRC require all self-employed workers in the UK to return a self-assessment tax return form every year. The tax return is used to calculate how much Income Tax and National Insurance you will need to pay. The system is really robust and it is reasonably straightforward to fill out your tax return online. You must ensure that you return it before the date specified in order to avoid a fine which can be imposed for those who miss the deadline, there is really no excuse to miss the deadline because you are given several months to complete the tax return before the deadline and as long as you have well-kept records should not take very long to complete at all.

Paying your tax

Once you have completed your tax return you'll be presented with a figure that you will need to pay, this is automatically calculated and you will be able to pay for it online. Please note that in recent times HMRC has removed the possibility of paying your tax by credit card and you will now need to pay by some other method of payment.


If you want to, you can use the services of an accountant but in this day and age it seems to be a lot cheaper now to use accounting software. Many of these software packages can work out the tax liabilities for you and make it easy to work out your tax return.

You must ensure that you keep hold of all of your receipts and invoices in order to commit a correct self-assessment tax return. Any failure to declare your correct earnings can be punished heavily.

How we can help

As immigration specialists we can help visa holders like yourself to get the information they need in order to move to the UK and successfully run a business within it.

So, for more information on running a business in the UK, or indeed any other immigration related query, please get in touch today and we can offer you the correct support and advice for situation.

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Kind regards
Nancy Jacquard

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