For entrepreneurs and start-ups, London remains the best place in Europe to hatch a new business. With property prices and leases in central London continuing to push budgets upwards, a virtual office presents itself as an ideal solution for a young business, or for an international company looking to expand its operations to the UK. So, are British visa rules a hurdle to doing so for anyone without a European passport, until the UK leaves the European Union?
The short answer is no: if you aren’t planning on living in London and simply want to set up a virtual office space, then you are unlikely to require a visa even if you aren’t an EU citizen. But it depends on what sort of business you will be operating.
Why should I set up an international business in London?
London still attracts start-ups in Europe, particularly for tech, financial and green companies. Whatever you may have heard about Brexit, London’s deep financial reserves and global connectivity makes it one of the best places in the world to do business. With strong, highly-skilled candidates continuing to come to London to further their careers, the talent pool remains deep.
How do I set up a UK company?
You don’t need to be a British citizen to set up a UK company, but there are several procedures to follow and it may be useful to hire a solicitor to help you through the process. Businesses need to be registered at Companies House; accounts need to be filed regularly; you’ll need a UK bank account to handle Sterling; corporation tax and VAT are liable and national insurance for employees; company directors have legal responsibilities wherever they are based; and you’ll need a UK address. None of these procedures needs to take a long time, but they are an important pre-requisite for firms operating in the UK. And London office space is the second-most expensive real estate in the world, so value-for-money can be hard to come by.
What visas can entrepreneurs get to operate in London?
If you want to come to London to set up a business, there are two main options: an Entrepreneur Visa or a T1 Investor Visa.
Investor visas, which last three years, require a fund of at least £1m, and at least £750,000 of that must go into either companies or unit trusts. You must spend at least half your time in the UK, and you cannot be employed in another role.
Alternatively, entrepreneur visas are available for people with £200,000 to set up a business, full-time, and employ at least two EU citizens. These last two years and can be extended – there are also English language requirements.
How easy is it to set up a virtual office in London?
Not all entrepreneurs are cash-rich and able to meet the visa requirements, which is why a virtual office can be a great option for some businesses. Without coming to the UK, it’s possible to set up a company and run your business from a virtual office space with a prestigious central London address, using your LEO virtual office address as your registered office address. The only legal requirement for clients is to provide identity documentation such as a passport or driving licence as well as proof of address. This needs to be done for all responsible company directors and any named persons whose mail is being forwarded from our virtual office.
How does a virtual office work?
LEO’s virtual offices provide a central London telephone number for your business, with calls fielded by our experienced virtual receptionists. Our mail forwarding service means any correspondence will be sent to you promptly, no matter which part of the world you live in.
LEO’s wide portfolio of central London properties and virtual offices allows clients to establish an international office address without visa issues arising. For more information about LEO’s virtual offices, see our guide here, but to find out how we can tailor-make our services to meet your requirements, call one of our advisors today at 020 3008 8888.