How to apply for visas in the UK

The UK has a visa system which is efficient, quick and easy. You can apply for different types of visa depending on your circumstances.

Standard Visitor visa

If you’re planning to come to the UK for activities related to your business, but you’re not yet ready to set up a new company, you will need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa. This lasts for up to 6 months and covers, for example:

  • attending meetings and trade fairs
  • signing deals
  • carrying out research visits or inspections  

Apply for a Standard Visitor visa on GOV.UK.

Specialist visas 

If you are ready to set up a new company in the UK, then you and your staff will need specialist visas.

There are 2 main routes for people setting up a new business.

Innovator Founder visa 

If you are an entrepreneur with a successful track record of running a business, or if you’re switching from the Start-up visa, you can apply for an Innovator Founder visa. These are usually granted for three years. You can apply to extend this type of visa for another 3 years when it is due to expire.

Apply for an Innovator Founder visa on GOV.UK.

UK Expansion Worker visa

If you’re a representative of an overseas business planning to set up its first UK branch, you should apply for a for a UK Expansion Worker visa on GOV.UK.

The UK Expansion Worker visa is one of the 5 new Global Business Mobility visa routes. These bring together existing UK business mobility visas and introduce new provisions for teams of workers and secondments. Workers need to meet the eligibility criteria for each of these routes, for example skill levels and length of service.

Time it takes

The earliest you can apply is usually:

  • 3 months before your planned travel date for visit visas
  • 3 months before your employment start date for most work visas

You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks if you are applying for a visa to work or invest in the UK.

Overall, how would you rate your experience with the Expand Your Business in the UK service today?

Very dissatisfied
Neither satisfied or dissatisfied
Very satisfied