Home Insights & Advice Starting a business in the UK as a non-citizen

Starting a business in the UK as a non-citizen

9th Sep 19 4:52 pm

The UK is a great place for expats to start businesses. With a per capita GDP of $45k and a population of almost 67 million, the UK is one massive market. From the services of a humble spa to super luxury sports cars, all manner of goods and services find demand in this versatile island nation. But what does it take to actually be a foreign entrepreneur in Britain, especially in the current political-economic climate? Let’s take a look at some of the important factors.

The economic climate

The UK is very welcoming of foreign entrepreneurs. The World Bank ranked the UK ninth out of 190 countries on the ease of doing business. Despite the stereotypical British bureaucracy and the stiff upper lip, the regulatory environment remains simple, friendly and protective. The UK is the second largest economy in Europe, second only to Germany. The largest chunk of the economy of the UK, nearly 80%, is services. Despite being an EU member for decades the UK never adopted the Euro. The country always stuck to using its own national currency, the pound sterling (GBP). The pound remains one of the strongest currencies on the planet today, trading at 1.21 USD and 1.09 EUR.


The formal requirements for business starters depend on the size and type of business, and also on where you come from. If you are an EU citizen, you have minimal visa considerations other than a couple of exceptions. This, of-course has been greatly complicated with Brexit and the uncertainties it brings. If you originate from elsewhere than the EU, a visa in the correct category is a mandatory requirement. Unlike some other countries you cannot start a business in the UK on a spouse or a student visa, for example. In addition you will need to show evidence of access to sufficient funds for starting or taking over a business. Once these requirements are taken care of, the rest is relatively straightforward. You can hire a local legal advisor to help select an appropriate company structure and complete the registration formalities. Business licenses and permits can be quite easily obtained.


There are stronger and faster growing economies than the UK. One of the biggest factors which make the UK attractive for entrepreneurs is language. This is particularly applicable to immigrants from developing economies. Most immigrants learn to speak English in their countries of origin. This makes adapting to life in the UK easier. Compare that with Germany for example, which is a stronger economy. However, learning to speak Deutsch is a prerequisite to doing any business. Since German is a less widely spoken language, the inflow of immigrant entrepreneurs to Germany is smaller. For new businesses the UK also served as a gateway to Europe before Brexit popped up. If Brexit is reversed the UK can serve as an access point for your business to nearly 500 million EU residents.


Currently Brexit is the largest obvious risk to starting a business in the UK. It has been three long years since the Brexit referendum was held in June 2016. The UK was initially scheduled to leave the EU for good on 29 March 2019. That deadline has been revised several times. The UK’s ministers have been unable to reach an accord with EU leadership on the terms of Brexit. The newest of many deadlines for the UK to leave the EU is 31 October 2019. This may well be further delayed, or even cancelled unilaterally by the UK’s parliament. Among the most painful points of disagreement in the nearly 600 page long Brexit agreement is the fate of businesses owned by UK citizens elsewhere in the EU, and vice versa. Millions of UK nationals have already voted on an online petition to reverse Brexit.


The BBC reports that migrant workers in the UK send more than £8bn ($9.7bn) in remittances annually to the top three recipient countries. The World Bank reports the total amount of remittances originating from the UK at $20bn yearly. As of 2019 the UK has been rated among the world’s top ten most entrepreneurial countries. Millions of expats own and run profitable businesses in the UK. With the right planning and execution you too can build a successful business and a rewarding life in the UK as an immigrant. The UK is an excellent destination to earn a steady income and transfer money back home to you your loved ones.

About the Author

Joyce Shang is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel, dance and read books.

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