Can you start a business in the UK if you are a non-resident?

The United Kingdom (UK) is one of the best places to conduct business because of its healthy economy and business-friendly policies.

Many foreigners want to start businesses in the UK but get discouraged because they think it’s too difficult or borderline impossible. But that’s not the case. Non-residents can open UK businesses; this article will explain how to do that.

Can non-UK residents open local businesses? People outside the United Kingdom can register and run local companies. However, Companies House requires every foreign entrepreneur to have a local registered office address for their company.

How Can Non-UK Residents Register A Local Company?

Entrepreneurs based outside Britain can follow these steps to register a company locally:

Choose A Legal Structure

The first step is deciding the legal structure you want for your business.

You have three options: sole proprietorship, partnership, and a limited company.

Sole Proprietorship is a one-man show. There’s no legal distinction between the company and its owner. As the owner, you are personally responsible for any debts the business accrues.

A Partnership is when two or more people decide to form a corporation and share the responsibilities for managing it.

The partners are jointly liable for any corporate debts and losses. But, you can form a limited partnership wherein the partners are only liable to the extent of capital they invested in the business.

A limited company carries a distinct legal identity. The owners enjoy limited liability protection, meaning they aren’t personally liable for corporate debts except in cases of provable fraud. This legal structure is the most common because of the protection it offers.

Choose A Name

The next step is to select a name for your business. You must select a name that another corporation has not already taken (Companies House provides a name availability checker on its website to confirm this).

The name should not be similar to any established brand or trademark, or you may be forced to give it up and pay infringement penalties if the rightful owner files a legal complaint.

Choose Directors and A Corporate Secretary

Every British company must have at least one appointed director to run it.

Directors are responsible for setting corporate strategy and day-to-day management. They ensure the company complies with corporate laws, pays taxes, and files the required financial and tax reports. A director can be a local or foreign resident.

They must be at least 16 years of age and not disqualified from corporate directorship in the UK due to previous misconduct. Though it’s not mandatory, you can appoint a corporate secretary to handle administrative matters and advise directors on complying with regulations.

Choose Shareholders and Share Capital

Every registered firm must have at least one shareholder. You’ll select a specific number of shares (share capital) and assign different amounts to each shareholder. The greater the number of shares a person owns, the greater their voting rights over corporate affairs.


You’ll need to prepare certain documents to register a company, including

  • Valid identification for all directors and persons with significant control (PSCs), referring to anyone having over 25% of shares or voting rights in your company.
  • Share capital details, including the number and classes of shares and the names of all shareholders.
  • Proof of a registered office address accessible to the public during working hours. As a foreigner, you must not spend money renting local office space. Instead, you can hire a virtual office provider like Osome.
  • Memorandum of Association: A legal document signed by all shareholders declaring their intention to start a business.
  • Articles of Association: A legal document outlining the rules governing the company.

File Application

With the above requirements ready, it’s time to fill out a Form IN01 incorporation application and submit it to Companies House with the required documents. You can submit the form online or by post.

Companies House will review your application after submission. If approved, the agency will send you a Certificate of Incorporation confirming that your business has been registered with the government.

Online applications take as little as 24 hours to be processed, while postal applications take several days. It’s advisable to choose the former.