How to apply for visas in the UK

Types of business visas

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 at 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 3 main routes for people setting up a new business:

Start-up visa 

If you are an early-stage entrepreneur starting a business in the UK for the first time, you can apply for a Start-up visa. These are usually granted for two years and cannot be extended.

Your business or business idea will need to be assessed and endorsed by an approved body, which will need to provide an endorsement letter for your business.

Apply for a Start-up visa at GOV.UK

Find out more about endorsing bodies.

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 at 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 at 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

You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks once you either attend your appointment at the visa application centre or use the ID Check app, if you are applying for a visa to work or invest in the UK.

You may be able to get your visa faster or access other services depending on what country you’re in.

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