What are the Processing Times for the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa?
During a large part of 2020, COVID-19 caused substantial delays to the immigration application system, mainly due to the closure or reduced capacity of UKVI and UKVCAS offices. As of May 2021, the Home Office is back to relative ‘normality’ in terms of the immigration services available and the processing times, hence we expect a sharp rise in visa applications this year. Given that the UK is expecting something of a bumper year economically, it is reasonable to assume that the number of business-related visas and sponsor licence applications will increase substantially. Indeed, the latest media coverage of the economic projections for the UK make for positive reading, with the highly influential EY Item Club upgrading its GDP forecast from the 5% it estimated in January to 6.8% now. It also predicts that by the middle of 2021, the economy will be back to pre-pandemic levels due to a pool of saved money held by households across the country. Ian Stewart, the chief economist at Deloitte, has also expressed strong economic optimism, stating, “The UK is primed for a sharp snapback in consumer activity...High levels of saving, the successful vaccination rollout and the easing of the lockdown set the stage for a surge in spending over the coming months”. From the perspective of immigration, we expect to see robust demand, in particular for Sole Representative visas, with many overseas businesses looking to take advantage of the rosy economic outlook as soon as possible. In this article, we will take a look at the processing times for the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa and how overseas businesses can reduce the time to securing a positive decision from the UK Home Office.
What Is The Sole Representative Of An Overseas Business Visa?
The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa scheme is designed to enable overseas businesses to send a senior member of their staff to the UK to establish a presence here. The scheme is not intended for overseas businesses already operating in the UK but rather for those without any current presence here. The scheme is also used by employees of overseas newspapers, news agencies, or broadcasting organisations who are being posted on a long-term assignment to the UK.
How Long Does It Take To Receive A Decision On A Sole Representative Visa?
Compared with many other visa types, according to the Home Office, the standard processing time of three weeks for Sole Representative visa applications made outside the UK is relatively short. Applications made inside the UK do take longer, up to eight weeks.
If time is really of the essence, depending on which country you are applying from, for an additional cost, you may be able to use the priority service, which provides a decision within five working days. If you are from Europe, Africa, or a Middle Eastern country, you will most likely be sending your documents to TLS Contact, who handles the application process on behalf of UKVI. For any other country, you will most likely be using VFS Global. We recommend visiting the website for your respective country to see if the priority processing service is available.
It is possible to apply for a visa up to three months before your date of travel.
How Can I Ensure My Sole Representative Visa Is Processed As Quickly As Possible?
Whether you are using the standard or priority application processing service, it is vital that you follow the instructions provided and send the documents and evidence requested of you to avoid any delays. As UKVI explains, delays can occur with processing Sole Representative visa applications if:
- supporting documents need to be verified
- the applicant needs to attend an interview
- there are certain personal circumstances (e.g. if the applicant has a criminal conviction)
To reduce the chance of any delay or refusal and to demonstrate to the Home Office that you meet the eligibility requirements for the visa, we would advise you to:
- Where applicable, ensure that you have a pass certificate for an approved English language test with at least CEFR level A1 in speaking and listening
- Gather evidence that you have the skills, experience, and knowledge to be a sole representative, that you hold a senior role in the overseas organisation, and that you have decision making authority
- Double-check and gather proof that you are not a majority shareholder in the overseas business
- Ask the overseas organisation you will be representing to provide evidence that they have a genuine intention to establish the overseas business’s first commercial presence in the UK, either as a registered branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary
- Ask the overseas organisation to confirm that they do not already have an operational presence in the UK. If they do have an existing business entity in the UK, this will not necessarily lead to a visa refusal as long as it is not operational and/or it does not employ anyone in the UK.
Delays in Sole Representative visa applications only typically occur when the assessing officer either lacks sufficient proof on which to make a decision or they are concerned that the basis for the application is not genuine. Hence, for this reason, the more documentary evidence you can provide upfront in your initial application submission, the more likely you are to receive a prompt positive decision.
If time is really of the essence in securing a Sole Representative visa, we recommend engaging the services of an immigration Solicitor in the UK who can complete the process on your behalf, including assessing your eligibility, compiling the necessary documents, completing the application, and handling any queries from the Home Office on your behalf. This will allow you to focus on the main task in hand; successfully setting up a new subsidiary of your overseas employer in the UK.