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European Community Association Agreement

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This visa category is for nationals of a Country with the relevant EC (European Community) Association Agreement wishing to come to the UK to start a business. The business can be of any size and may even employ just yourself. You may start any type of business, but you must work full time in the running of the business, and must not do work that is not related to your business in the UK. It should be noted that in practice it is very difficult coming under this visa category. If possible it is probably best to try and come under another visa category such as HSMP.

The Countries with the relevant agreements are:

  • Bulgaria
  • Romania

If you are in the IT area, has a special programme called the UK Freelance Programme.

If you are unable to come under this category and wish to start a business in the UK, please go to our business immigration page for details of other business-related categories.

Do I qualify to come to the UK under the EC Association Agreement?

You will need to show the following to come under the EC association agreement:

  1. That you are a citizen of Bulgaria or Romania.
  2. You will work solely in the business. You are free to trade using a limited company, or as an individual by yourself or in partnership with other individual/s. Please note that if you are a citizen of Slovenia you may only trade using a limited company.
  3. Have sufficient funds to accommodate and provide for you and your family until the business is profitable.
  4. If you are trading as a limited company you must have a controlling interest in the business. This is not relevant for those who are self-employed or in partnership. In the UK those who are self-employed or in partnership who are in effect trading as individuals rather than as a corporate entity do not have to be registered. It should be noted that citizens of Slovenia may only come under the EC Association Agreement if they trade as a limited company.
  5. By implementing a business plan that looks to be thorough and viable.

European Community Association agreement countries:

These are Bulgaria and Romania.

What about My Family?

You may apply for your spouse and children to accompany you as your dependants.


Your children entering the UK as your dependants are entitled to the same free education as British children. You may choose to send your children to a private school if you wish.

Health care

You and your family are eligible to free health care provided by the National Health Service. You are not required to take out private health insurance.


Your spouse and dependents are entitled to take up any lawful employment.

What about extending my visa?

Your initial visa is normally granted for a period of two years. Towards the end of two years in the UK, you may apply for your visa to be extended for a maximum period of three years. This application should be successful if the initial two years has proceeded approximately in line with your originally submitted business plan, and you meet the following requirements:

  1. You and your dependants have been able to support yourselves during this period without needing public funds.
  2. You are actively involved in the management and promotion of the business, and have not had to take other employment during this time (your dependants are free to take whatever employment they desire).
  3. Your business continues to exist, is viable, and has sufficient funds to continue trading.

Towards the end of five years in the UK you may apply for indefinite leave to remain (Permanent Residence). A year after being granted indefinite leave to remain you may be able to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen.

How do I Apply?

If you are already in the UK, you can usually submit an application to remain at the Home Office Immigration Directorate in the UK. Otherwise, you should apply at the British Embassy or Consulate nearest to your Country of nationality or nearest to where you are resident.

You will need to provide documentary evidence showing your work experience, evidence of funds, etc The application should be accompanied by:

  • Passports
  • Visa fee of £50 (if applying via an UK Embassy or Consulate)
  • 2 passport photos for each applicant

Business plan which should include:

  • Evidence of the funds to be invested
  • The object of the business
  • A projected balance sheet, including:
    • The financial outlay
    • Any loan to the company
    • Assets
    • Stock
  • Profit and loss projection
  • Overheads including:
    • Establishment expenses
    • Admin expenses
    • Depreciation
  • Details of your qualifications and work experience. can assist you in all aspects of your application. If you are interested in taking this further please complete our form.

Please see our "Visas for Entrepreneurs" page for details of other categories.


You are in the archive section. The information on this page may be out of date.