Business Immigration: Indian companies and nationals wishing to engage in business or work in the UK

This article summarises the key immigration routes that are available to Indian companies and nationals who wish to do business in, or work in, the UK.

The rules and regulations which apply to companies and individuals who wish to come to the UK for employment, investment, and setting up of businesses, are largely covered by a points-based system (PBS).

However, some immigration routes remain outside the PBS. There are also categories that allow certain individuals to work in the UK, such as students, dependents, and spouses.

The immigration laws and regulations are extremely strict and the UK Visa and Immigration Department (UKVI) has considerable discretion in its interpretation of the rules, affecting those seeking permission to enter the UK. The overall government policy is to reduce net immigration and so it is crucial to ensure that the requirements of the rules are met fully to minimise the possibility of a rejected application. 


There are four tiers of entry to the UK under the PBS, three of which (Tiers 1, 2 and 5) relate to business and work categories.

Tier 1 High Value Migrants

The most talented entrepreneurs and investors from India, who have access to significant funds and who wish to set up, or invest in, businesses in the UK, can apply for a Tier 1 visa. They must have access to at least £50,000 in investment funds from particular sources. Given the nature of the subcategories under Tier 1, it is unlikely that UK employers will need to sponsor migrants who hold a Tier 1 visa.

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

Especially talented workers, who have been endorsed by a “designated competent” body as a leader or emerging leader in the field of science, the humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology or the arts may apply as exceptional talents if they wish to work in the UK.

There are 1,000 places per year available to migrants of exceptional talent. Initial entry is granted for up to five years and four months. Any time spent in the UK during this time will count towards settlement in the UK, provided the migrant satisfies further conditions.

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

Migrants who wish to set up, acquire, or run businesses in the UK may also be able to apply as entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs will be subject to strict financial and job creation requirements.

Generally, they will be required to have access to a minimum of £200,000 funds for investment in a UK business, thereby creating jobs in the UK or a minimum of £50,000 provided other requirements are met. Entrepreneurs can also apply if they have already invested the same sum in a UK business less than 12 months before they apply. Entry is granted initially for up to three years and four months, which can be extended by up to two years. Similarly, any time spent in the UK during this time will count towards settlement in the UK, subject to each individual meeting certain strict requirements.

Tier 1 (Investor)

High net worth individuals who are able to invest at least £2 million in the UK may apply as investors, provided they meet other eligibility requirements.

Indian investors, in common with those from other countries, will need to open a UK-regulated investment account before making their initial applications.

Entry is granted initially for up to three years and four months, which can be extended by up to two years. Any time spent in the UK by investors will count towards settlement in the UK. The settlement period may also be expedited in exchange for investing larger sums into the UK economy.

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

Graduates who have been officially endorsed as having a genuine and credible business idea by either

  1. the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) as part of the elite global graduate entrepreneur programme, Sirius, or
  2. a UK higher education institution that is an authorised endorsing body,may apply as graduate entrepreneurs if they wish to establish a business in the UK after their graduation. Entry is granted initially for up to one year and may be extended by a further year. However, any time spent in the UK by graduate entrepreneurs does not count towards settlement in the UK.

Tier 2 Highly Skilled Workers

This route is open to Indian workers who have been offered a skilled job in the UK by employers who have been unable to fill the same roles with UK residents or European Economic Area (EEA) workers. It also applies to all those outside the EEA in the same way.

Tier 2 (General)

Before they can apply to come to the UK, highly skilled workers must be issued Certificates of Sponsorship by UK employers who must be licensed sponsors. The work highly skilled workers will engage in should relate to the work of their sponsor organisation.

There is an annual limit of 20,700 Tier 2 (General) visas, which is divided into monthly quotas. There are also role-dependent minimum skill and salary requirements that UK employers will have to meet to offer the roles to workers. Generally, the employers will need to prove that they have been unable to recruit from the settled UK labour market.

Entry will be granted for up to five years, which may be extended in certain circumstances. Any time spent in the UK by holders of Tier 2 (General) visas will count towards settlement in the UK.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) (ICT)

Multinational group companies who are looking to transfer employees from India into the UK between group companies can do so using the ICT route. All ICT roles are subject to minimum skill level and salary requirements. Time spent in the UK under this route will not count towards settlement.

There are currently four types of transfers allowed under this route:-

Long term staff: Provided the workers have been employed overseas for at least 12 months, employers can transfer Indian workers into the UK. They will then be able to work for more than 12 months in the UK, provided other requirements in relation to salary levels are met. 

Short term staff: This visa is for transfers up to and including 12 months. Employees must have worked for their employer overseas for at least 12 months. This category will be closed from April 2017.

Graduate trainees: Recent graduates with at least three months’ experience with their employer overseas can be transferred into graduate trainee programmes for specialist roles.

Skills transfer: This visa is for transfers that allow people to gain skills and knowledge needed to perform their role overseas or to share their skills with UK colleagues. Indian employees transferred under this route need not have been with their employer overseas for a set period of time.

Tier 5 Temporary Workers

UK employers can sponsor temporary workers to fill roles in the following industries and areas of employment: creative, sports, charity, religion, government-authorised exchanges, and under international agreements. Temporary workers will need to meet other eligibility requirements in order to be successful.

Non-PBS immigration routes

There are other options available for individuals to enter and work in the UK outside the PBS, namely:

  1. Visitors intending to conduct business: Visitors can carry out “permitted business activity” and permitted paid engagements.
  2. Domestic workers in private households: Employers may bring their domestic workers who have been established members of their staff for the past twelve months to work in the UK for up to six months.
  3. Representative of overseas businesses: Individuals may also be able to come to the UK if they are the sole representatives of Indian or other overseas businesses intending to set up wholly owned subsidiaries or register UK branches for an overseas parent company. In particular, employees of newspapers, news agencies, and broadcasting organisations who are being posted on a long term assignment as a representative of the employers may also be allowed to come to the UK.
  4. Van der Elst applications: Individuals who have been working in the EU for service providers may be admitted to the UK, provided the following conditions are met:
  • they are lawfully resident in the EU member state in which their employer is established;
  • they are lawfully and habitually employed by their employer who is temporarily providing a service in the UK;
  • they must not intend to take any other employment; and
  • they must intend to leave the UK at the end of the period during which their employer is providing the service.

As can be seen from the detail above, there are a number of routes into the UK for businesses and individuals. The rules and regulations change frequently and specialist advice should be sought to ensure that the intended route is appropriate and the current eligibility requirements are met in full to avoid costly unsuccessful applications.

HCR India Group has extensive experience in advising Indian nationals and others on a wide range of business immigration issues and applications. If you would like to discuss how HCR India Group could assist you, please contact Nicolas Groffman (email:, direct dial: 01189 256005), Claire Thompson (email:, direct dial: 01905 746462) and Rohit Fogla (email:, direct dial: 01242 211654)