The UK remains one of the largest economies on earth. It is the sixth richest country in terms of GDP with one of the highest wealth per capita of all the economic superpowers. With a very stable economic system, well-oiled legal structure, and a vast consumer market, every entrepreneur dreams of starting up a UK business.

Indeed, anyone of any nationality can start a business in the UK. You don’t need residential status or even to live in the country. The only stipulation is that the company must be registered with a UK address. Note that this is mainly for accountability and correspondence of information, not for the purpose of legitimizing the ownership of the business.

Have it in mind that foreign nationals can easily acquire an address to register with Companies House. This can either be a purchased or rented property, the property of a friend, family member, or anyone else who agrees to have your business registered to their address, or a virtual office address.

Also note that you don’t need to have a visa to start a business in the UK. When you set up a business, you are not expected to provide proof that you are able to work. Does this entail that you can start the business then travel to the UK and work under your own company name? No, it doesn’t. You can start a business in the UK, but that does not give you the right to work in the UK.

Work visas are what grant you access to the UK job market. These visas let you earn money as an employed member of the UK job market. To access this, you are expected to have the proper visa. There are two things you can do to access this option.

First, note that by starting a business in the United Kingdom as a foreigner, you can actively trade goods through that business while working out of your home nation. An example would be if you live in Australia and sell cosmetics products.

You can start a business in the UK, register with Companies House, and trade under that British brand. Your registered UK business does not create the path for you to trade within the UK, as you can already sell to UK consumers from a company registered in Australia.

The benefit it offers is that you’ve got a UK company. You are not a foreigner trading through a foreign business. You are a foreigner trading through a British business. This gives your brand more sales power within the domestic market.

Secondly, you can hire people that are allowed to work within the UK. They can then make money through your business in the UK with you earning profits on that income. Meanwhile, you cannot work without the visa, but since they have the rights to, your employees can. You will pay tax on their earnings just as any other business would, and corporation tax on your business income, but you will be allowed to take a salary from revenue after tax is deducted just like any other UK business director.

Indeed, registering a company in the UK as a foreigner is straightforward and can take as fast as 24 hours once you have all the necessary documents in hand. To use same-day registration, file your application to the House Companies not later than 3 PM. You can register a branch of your existing overseas company in the UK within three weeks. However, should you want to skip the stress, you can hire a company formation agent.

Steps to Register a Company in the UK as a Foreigner

If you intend to start a business in the UK as a foreigner, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Check that You Can Legally Start a Business

You will need to make sure that your immigration status allows you to set up a business. You might need to apply for a work visa before starting a business. However, this depends on your nationality. The UK government’s website contains information about this. However, if you need to apply for a visa, make sure you apply in plenty of time. Tier 1 entrepreneur visas will be declined or accepted within approximately 3 weeks. However, you can apply 3 months in advance should you wish to

  1. Write a Business Plan

Have it in mind that UK entrepreneurs need a business plan. This will help you understand whether your business ideas are likely to succeed and be sustainable. You will need to research the market and prepare budget forecasts. You can download the business plan and cash flow forecast templates from the UK government website.

  1. Choose a Business Structure

Once you are legally allowed to register a business in the UK, you can get down to the nitty-gritty. Let’s imagine you already know what your business will do, your next step is to decide on a legal structure. There are different business types in the UK, and you will need to choose the option that most closely fits your company’s structure.

  1. Choose a Business Name and Address

If you are a sole trader, you can just use your own name if you want. However, you will still need an address to register your UK business for tax purposes and joining the company register. Only limited companies need to register their name, though others can register as a trademark to stop anyone else from trading under the name.

Nonetheless, if you are registering a limited company, you are expected to appoint directors and a company secretary, work out your shares and shareholders, write your memorandum and articles of association, open a separate bank account, and register for corporation tax.

  1. Register with HM Revenue and Customs

You will need to register your UK business with HMRC for tax purposes. Limited Companies need to register with Companies House at the cost of £12 (online) or £40 (by mail). Self-employed sole traders and those in partnerships pay taxes on business profits.

Limited UK companies and foreign companies with UK branches need to register for Corporation Tax. The rate of Corporation Tax is 20% on profits, minus any allowances and relief. UK businesses will also need to register for VAT if their annual turnover is more than £83,000, and may need to pay capital gains tax if business assets are sold at a profit.

  1. Check Any Additional Rules for Your Type of Business

Depending on the nature of your UK business, there may be additional requirements, such as:

  • Licenses or permits (e.g., for selling food, playing music, or trading in the street)
  • Insurance
  • Rules to follow if you buy or sell goods abroad or store personal information

Documentations Needed to Register a Company in the UK

The UK’s Companies House requires the same documentation, processes, and fees from a foreign national as they do from a British national. Therefore, it is imperative to prepare the following information and documents:

  1. Business Name

You first have to make sure to check that the company name you chose is still available. If you are a sole trader, setting up your name and address is easy as you can register with your name. A sole trader with a limited company can consider registering his name as a trademark so no one else can use it.

You also need an address. Note that private limited companies need offices adequate enough for their team whilst sole traders’ offices are not inspected and they may even work from home.

  1. Residency Status and Address

Have it in mind that you can set up a company in the United Kingdom, no matter your nationality. Foreigners are not mandated to be living in the UK or have a resident status. What’s required is for your company to be registered to a UK address for correspondence and accountability.

Therefore, obtaining an address to register with Companies House is easy for foreigners – whether it is an acquired property, a rented property, a property of your family member or friend, or property of anyone who consents to have your company registered to their address. You can even register a virtual office address.

  1. Business Activity

Companies House requires new business applications to specific business activities. You can do this by selecting the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code appropriate to your business.

  1. Working Visa

You can register a company in the UK without a working visa. Howbeit, you cannot work there without this visa, depending on your nationality. Allot a considerable amount of time when applying for a visa. You may apply 3 months ahead, although approval or denial of Tier 1 entrepreneur visas can happen within 3 weeks.

  1. Director Information

To register your private limited company in the UK, you need at least one director. The director does not have to be a UK resident. Collect and prepare the following director’s details:

  • Full Name
  • Date of birth (must be 16 years or older)
  • Residential address (not on the public register)
  • Service Address (residential or other address)
  • Nationality
  • Occupation
  1. Shareholders Information

If, for instance, the company you are starting is a publicly traded company, you are expected to issue shares upon business inception. You need to have at least one shareholder (can be the director or another individual) to be able to do this. The director does not have to be a UK resident. Collect and prepare the shareholder’s details.

If the shareholder is a Person with Significant Control (PSC):

  • Full Name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Residential address (not on the public register)
  • Service Address (residential or other address)
  • Nature of control (percentage of share)
  • Three security details (to serve as an online signature):
  • First three letters of town of birth
  • First three letters of town of father’s forename
  • First three letters of town of mother’s maiden name

If the shareholder is not a Person with Significant Control (PSC):

  • Full Name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Residential address (not on the public register)
  • Service Address (residential or other address)
  • Three security details (to serve as an online signature):
  • First three letters of town of birth
  • First three letters of town of father’s forename
  • First three letters of town of mother’s maiden name

Person with Significant Control (PSC) Information, but not a director, shareholder, or secretary:

  • Full Name
  • Date of birth
  • Nationality
  • Residential address (not on the public register)
  • Service Address (residential or other address)
  • Nature of control (percentage of share)
  1. Documents of Formation

Have it in mind that two sets of documents are required when registering a private limited company in the UK:

  • Memorandum of Association
  • Articles of Association

Normally, these documents are contracts of accountability among parties involved. They explicitly state the agreements on the manner of running the company. After collecting all the information and documents required, you can proceed to register with Companies House and HMRC.

Conclusion

Note that you can get help and support for your UK business, including help with finances, taxation, and business planning. UK business startup costs tend to vary depending on many factors but there are numerous sources of support in terms of UK business grants and loans.

Contact details for government business helplines in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can be found on the government’s website. The government also provides a list of its current support schemes and UK business grants, as well as information on start-up loans for UK businesses.

Ajaero Tony Martins