Virginia, US

Her Majesty's Treasury has dedicated this week to Fintech and the 61,000 jobs it has already created in the UK.

Fintech is not a British phenomenon. Entrepreneurs in New York, Sidney, and other financial hubs are looking for different and innovative ways to manage money, often with the backing of established banks.

As the industry grows so does the global footprint of the companies that are making it a success. Ultimately, those companies and their people will need to cross the same borders that their money does.
So, if you were a New York company setting up in London, what would you need to think about?
  1. They will no doubt need to make a million business trips to understand what you can achieve in the UK, meet important contacts and prepare for the move.  Americans, like Australians among others, have it easy, if you are coming in for meetings you can jump on a plane and be stamped in at Heathrow.  Other passport holders may need visas before travelling, for instance Indian, Chinese or Russian nationals.  Remember though that if you travel in and out too often you might face questions, if an immigration officer thinks you are living here you may need a different immigration permission.
  2. Getting an assignee over to set up shop is reasonably quick.  You can use a Representative of an Overseas Business visa.  You can get the paper work together in a few weeks, or quicker if you are in a rush.  The visa application will then be considered within about another week.
  3. Or maybe you own the company and want to come over yourself to set up a UK entity or buy in to an existing one?  If you do we would start by looking at the Entrepreneur Visa, the main consideration being whether you have £200,000 to invest in a UK entity.  We might also look at an Investor Visa if you’re planning to invest over £2,000,000.  Again, you would normally be looking at a three week lead in time for the visa. 
  4. Bringing over more staff needs planning. New industries will always have difficulties finding the experience they need. If the work didn’t exist a few years ago then the skills probably didn’t either and you might need to look abroad. That will sometimes mean sponsoring foreign workers. How? 
  • First, you need a sponsor licence. Preparing documents, submitting the application and getting government approval takes time. The exact lead in time differs from company to company but three months is a decent rule of thumb.
  • Then you need Certificates of Sponsorship and can often only ask for them once you’re a sponsor. Again it takes time, normally between one week and two months.
  • When this is done your staff can apply for their visas. This is where it gets quicker again. Visa applications in New York are normally dealt with in 2 to 15 days, in Sidney you are looking at about 6 to 15 days.
5. After that you simply need to stay on top of your legal obligations. That needn’t be difficult but it needs to be taken seriously.
So, what does this mean in practice? If you know you’re going to set up in the UK then start thinking about immigration and visas early. The process takes time, but if you plan from the beginning it needn’t slow you down.