Can I come to the Isle of Man from South Africa and run my own business?

Apr 5, 2023 | Isle of Man

By BridsonHalsall Advocates Limited

Can I come to the Isle of Man from South Africa and run my own business?

The simple answer to that question is – Yes!  The Isle of Man is a great place to start and run a business.  It offers an attractive tax and business environment, well regulated financial system, long-standing reputation for excellent professional services, highly skilled English-speaking workforce and robust tech infrastructure.  Obtaining a visa to start your Isle of Man business can be straightforward and you will find a diverse community that welcomes newcomers to Island life. 

Business migrant visas are for people starting, joining or taking over a business in the Isle of Man.  The Isle of Man offers visa routes both to those individuals looking to establish a business for the first time (Start Up visa) and for those with existing business experience (Innovator visa route).

Business Migrant Innovator

The Innovator route offers a fast track to permanent residency in the Isle of Man and UK after only 3 years.  For an established business person with investment funds of at least £50,000, and a business idea which is going to create at least 3 jobs in the Isle of Man, this is an attractive option.  The jobs created can be filled by locals already in the Isle of Man or sponsored workers, making this a great opportunity to relocate your existing team from overseas to hit the ground running.

Business Migrant Start Up

For individuals without existing business experience and the required investment funds, the Start Up route gives an entry level opportunity to move to the Island and establish a business. This route does not lead to permanent residency but it allows up to 2 years in the Isle of Man to prove your business concept.  It is then possible to change to the Business Migrant (Innovator) route and obtain permanent residency.

What’s the process?

The first stage for both Innovator and Start Up routes is to obtain an endorsement from the Isle of Man Government Department for Enterprise, the DFE. The DFE is responsible for encouraging inward investment and business migration to the Isle of Man and is looking for potential businesses to expand the Island’s economy and create jobs. DFE is willing to meet with potential business migrants at an early stage to discuss initial ideas and offer guidance.

Unlike the equivalent UK business routes there is no requirement for a registered endorsing body such as a tech incubator or university to endorse the business plan and so there is no competitive process or requirement to pay huge up-front fees.  

To apply to be endorsed, applicants will need a sound business plan that meets the endorsing requirements. and which meet its criteria of Innovation, Viability and Scalability. 

Innovation means the DFE is looking for something new to the market or sector or which creates a competitive advantage. The DFE is always keen to hear from businesses with a tech or green focus but it has granted endorsements to a wide range of original business ideas such as professional and financial services and manufacturing.

The next criteria is viability – does the business plan stack up and does the applicant have the necessary knowledge, skills and market awareness to develop a successful business? Key to meeting this criteria is local research so that the applicant can demonstrate to DFE that he or she really understands their product or service and target market and they are aware of the Isle of Man business environment and realistic in terms of financial projections.

Lastly there is scalability where DFE are focused in on the business plan to consider the potential for job creation and business growth both in the Isle of Man and potentially further afield. 

Once the Endorsement has been issued by DFE then you must apply for your visa from your country of residence.  Currently the visa application process takes around 4 months to be processed. Once your visas are issued then you and your family or business partner can travel to the Isle of Man to put your business plans into action. 

An Isle of Man Business Migrant visa allows you to freely travel around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland making it easy to attend meetings and conferences and develop business relationships with UK and Irish partners. Family members can be included on a Business Migrant visa so your family can all enjoy the safe and relaxed lifestyle that the Island has to offer, but with easy access to the bright city lights of London and Manchester. 

Permanent residency in the Isle of Man (or to use its technical term “indefinite leave to remain”)means you can live and work in the Isle of Man or any part of the United Kingdom. It also means you and your family members can naturalise as British Citizens and obtain a British passport.

If you are looking to make the Isle of Man your business base, we can provide an experienced and responsive team to support you every step of the way. Our established relationships can introduce you to a range of businesses to make the process seamless and maximise opportunities.