Moving overseas? How to migrate your business to the UK

The UK has long been renowned as one of the world’s most business-friendly destinations. There were fears that this might change for the worse with Brexit. In reality, however, the UK is at least as business-friendly as ever. It has therefore retained its standing as a global business hub. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to migrating your business to the UK. 

Start by defining your goals

As with any business decision, it’s advisable to start by thinking about what you want to achieve with your move. This will help you to determine what type of move is right for you. At one end of the scale, you may wish to move your entire business to the UK. At the other, you might want to start with a small operation in the UK and potentially expand later. 

In general, the more of your business you want to conduct from the UK, the more sense it makes to be legally headquartered in the UK and vice versa. You will, however, generally need to register a company in the UK. This process is very straightforward and it’s easy to get help with it. You just need to ensure you allow enough time for it to be completed. 

Register with HMRC

Once you have legally formed your company, you will need to register it with HMRC. Again, this process is straightforward. Under normal circumstances, it is also fairly quick. Right now, however, HMRC is still working its way out of the COVID-19 backlog. You should therefore be prepared for registration to take longer than usual. 

Open a company bank account

In the UK, if you are running a limited company, then you will need a bank account for that company. Banks are obligated to know their customers so you should expect there to be a delay between application and final acceptance. Again, this delay is usually reasonably short. At present, however, the ongoing aftereffects of COVID-19 can lead to applications taking longer than usual. 

Research payment services

You may be able to make and take payments using just your bank account. In many cases, however, it will be at least helpful to have additional payment services. You should definitely check to see if any existing payment services you use will work in the UK. If so, you should check if there is a process to follow so your UK company can use them. 

If you use payment schemes that do not work in the UK, you will need to decide whether to keep them open or wind them down. You should also allow yourself time to find alternatives and register with them. Again, expect to have to go through a verification process before you can use their services. 

Decide if you need a physical base

It’s increasingly common for startups to be remote-first if not remote-only. If this isn’t for you, then it’s advisable to do your research before choosing a physical base. London used to be the default option but over recent years, it’s been overtaken by the Midlands, especially Birmingham and Manchester. There are also attractive options in the north of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Familiarise yourself with relevant local laws

In the context of local laws, the first question you need to answer is whether or not you’re going to have UK-based employees or workers. The term “worker” has a very specific meaning in UK law. Essentially, it refers to people who work under similar terms to employees but do not have a direct contract of employment. For more information, read Consultants, workers and employees.

UK law and employees/workers

The UK’s employment legislation is much more straightforward than employment legislation in other countries. It does, however, still create a wide range of legal obligations. In particular, you will need to comply with the minimum wage, arrange for a workplace pension scheme and arrange for tax and NI to be managed. 

You will also need to familiarise yourself with laws relating to equality and employment standards as well as expected standards on diversity and inclusion. Having UK-based employees and workers also creates health and safety obligations as well as additional GDPR considerations. 

None of these issues is particularly onerous. You just need to understand your obligations so you can comply with them. Alternatively, you may wish to look at operating using only self-employed contractors. You will still have some obligations towards them but they will be much more limited. 

Relocating staff vs hiring local staff

Relocating staff has the benefit of retaining their knowledge of the company and everything relating to it. On the flip side, it creates the challenge of managing immigration for those employees and sometimes their families too. You also have to accept the fact that these employees will not have the local knowledge UK staff will bring. 

Hiring local staff does take time and does require knowledge of relevant local laws. It also means that you will need to train them on anything specific to your company. On the flip side, however, you will avoid issues with relocation, especially the technicalities of immigration rules. 

The good news is that it is increasingly possible for companies to have the best of both worlds. You can often keep existing employees in their home country and make new hires from within the UK. Distributed and remote working is now standard practice in many countries and employment sectors. 


The UK’s implementation of GDPR has certain Brexit-related nuances you will need to understand. 

Consumer protection laws

The UK’s consumer protection laws are rigorous. For the most part, they are largely common sense. As a business, however, it is generally advisable to be able to demonstrate that you are in compliance with them. To do this, you have to be fully clear on what they are. 

Think about the practicalities of transport

If you need to move people or cargo, then make sure you’re clear on timeframes and costs. Remember that EU-related customs tariffs and procedures may have changed due to Brexit

Check if any existing documents need to be updated 

Any move is almost certainly going to mean some documentation needs to be updated. Contact details and contracts are two likely candidates for this. There may be others.


If you have any questions or concerns about migrating your business to the UK, do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer.

Chander Bagga