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Which visa do I need to apply for to work self-employed in the UK, doing some consulting work for companies, on contract? I've done my research on the different visas available to work in the UK, and I'm not quite sure which one is the most appropriate considering a specific situation.

The actual situation:

  • I have Canadian citizenship;
  • I'm under 25 years old;
  • I'm looking into working as a software engineer (developer or system architect).

UK visas that seems to match this situation:

  • Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa - (but it doesn't seem to allow self-employment / contractual work)
  • Tier 2 (General) visa - (but it looks like I need to be sponsored by a company and be a permanent employee)
  • Tier 1 (General) visa - (doesn't seem available for new visa requests, only for extension or LTR visas)

Are they the only options available? Considering the details added to each visa, is the only option to work sponsored as a permanent employee instead of being self-employed?

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2 Answers 2

According to Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa (emphasis mine):

You can:

  • study
  • work in most jobs
  • be self-employed and set up a company - as long as your premises are rented, your equipment isn’t worth more than £5,000 and you don’t have any employees

It appears that the Youth Mobility Scheme visa would be appropriate for what you want to do.

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Note that the Youth Mobility visa is only valid for two years, so you'd need to find sponsorship for a Tier 2 visa to stay longer than that.

Some more routes into the UK, which may or may not apply to you:

  • If you can prove you have a British grandparent, and are a citizen of a Commonwealth country (e.g. Canada), you can apply for a British Ancestry visa, which is good for five years - at the end of which you can apply for indefinite leave to remain, which lets you stay in the UK permanently and puts you on the path to citizenship.

  • If you can prove you have an Irish parent or grandparent (under Irish nationality law, this would include anyone born on the island of Ireland), you can apply for Irish citizenship by descent, which would allow you to live and work anywhere in the EU. (An unusually large proportion of the Americans I knew when I first came to Britain used this route.)

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