Is Self-Sponsorship an Option for Business Professionals Seeking Employment in the UK

Starting and expanding a business in the United Kingdom can be quite a road for non UK residents. Experienced business owners often find the Skilled Worker route unappealing because of its regulations, especially the need to work solely for the sponsoring employer. With the closure of the UKs Tier 1 Investor and Entrepreneur routes what other options are available for those, in living and working in the UK?

“Entrepreneurial Self-Sponsorship”

Entrepreneurial Self-Sponsorship

Many business professionals often wonder about the option of self sponsoring to work in the UK. Self sponsorship does not serve as a visa route; instead it empowers entrepreneurs to establish and manage their businesses in the UK. Prior, to seeking a Worker visa the company must be officially registered in the UK. Secure a Skilled Worker sponsor license. To meet the requirements for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence the company must provide corporate documents to confirm its legitimacy and demonstrate its operational or trading presence, in the UK.

The specific documents required may vary based on the unique circumstances of the company. However, for startups (companies trading in the UK for less than 18 months), a mandatory requirement is a corporate bank account with a financial institution registered by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Although there is no set minimum revenue requirement, the account statements must substantiate trading activity rather than solely reflecting setup costs.

As part of the licence application, the company must also demonstrate its capability to responsibly track and monitor sponsored workers through its HR and compliance systems. Additionally, the company needs to appoint a trusted individual based in the UK as an “Authorising Officer,” who can be a paid director, employee, or office holder of the UK business. If this individual is not British or Settled in the UK, an additional person within the company, appointed as a user on the licence, must be British or Settled.

It is essential to note that this appointed individual assumes ultimate responsibility for the licence and ensuring the company fulfills its duties as a licence holder. Business owners should be aware that newly registered companies with limited trading history in the UK may have an increased likelihood of being selected for a pre-registration audit by the Home Office.

After receiving the sponsor license the company is granted the ability to provide Certificates of Sponsorship. This enables the company owner to move forward with applying for a Worker visa provided that there is a legitimate job opening and a business necessity, for their position.

Is it possible to register a UK company from abroad?

register a UK company

Certainly, registering a UK company and establishing a business bank account from overseas is feasible, though the specific requirements can vary based on the bank and the circumstances at hand. Some banks may stipulate the need for a UK address, evidence of tax residency in the UK, or even an in-person visit to initiate the account opening process.

Business owners should be careful. Avoid taking on significant or fruitful tasks while visiting the UK. Nevertheless they can typically participate in business activities like attending meetings discussing agreements and finalizing contracts. If there is a director residing in the UK opening a bank account is usually easier. Seeking the assistance of a UK accountant is highly recommended to ensure a seamless company registration process.

Do I need to receive a salary while in the UK on a self-sponsored Skilled Worker visa?

Applicants are required to receive a salary from their company that meets or surpasses both a general salary threshold and the “going rate” for the occupation, along with a minimum hourly rate (whichever is higher).

On December 4, 2023, the UK government unveiled extensive measures to strengthen the country’s work visa system and decrease net migration. These measures include a substantial 40% increase in the baseline minimum salary level for Skilled Worker visas, rising from £26,200 to £38,700 per year.

The anticipated implementation date for these changes is April 4, 2024. Applicants who submit their applications before the rule change will not be subjected to the new threshold when changing employment, extending, or settling.

Business owners are advised to incorporate these adjustments into their business plans and financial considerations.

Alternatives to “self-sponsorship”


Expansion Worker

Tailored for individuals seeking to expand their international business to the UK, the Expansion Worker route offers a distinct approach. Unlike the Skilled Worker route, which demands proof of the company’s operation or trade in the UK, the Expansion Worker route only requires the establishment of a UK presence for the company.

This option proves beneficial for those facing challenges in appointing an Authorising Officer or setting up a UK bank account from overseas. While comparatively simpler in terms of setup, this route serves as an initial entry point to the UK, with the requirement for the applicant to transition into the skilled worker route within two years.

Innovator Founder

The Innovator Founder route allows overseas entrepreneurs to come to the UK and establish an innovative, viable, and scalable business.

The application process unfolds in two stages: obtaining endorsement from a Home Office-recognized body and then the visa application itself.

This category requires no sponsorship, offering the potential for settlement in the UK after just three years. However, the endorsement process is demanding, necessitating a comprehensive business plan outlining the business’s innovative aspects, appropriate funding, credentials, and a clear growth strategy.

Global Talent

Self-sponsorship in the UK

Dedicated to exceptionally talented and promising individuals in specific specialist sectors such as science, engineering, the humanities, medicine, digital technology, or arts and culture, the Global Talent visa route provides a versatile option for the UK.

Similar to the Innovator Founder route, applicants must secure endorsement from the relevant Home Office-approved body.

The Global Talent category stands as the most flexible option, allowing successful applicants to work for any employer or establish their own company. Additionally, it offers the opportunity for permanent residence in just three years, contingent on evidence of the applicant’s work in their specialist field in the UK, contributing to the sector’s advancement.