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Sole Representative Visa: What Sort Of Business Activities Can The UK Entity Undertake?

Multinational businesses play a vital role in both local and global economies, underpinning the supply chains across all sectors. It is common for new and already established businesses wishing to expand into new countries and regions to send key personnel to establish an operational footprint, including setting up new subsidiaries and offices. The representative of an overseas business visa is designed precisely for this purpose, enabling overseas companies to send a senior member of staff to come to the UK to set up a new branch or subsidiary. In this article, we will discuss the type of business activities which are permitted under the UK’s representative of an overseas business visa, and the eligibility rules which apply.

What Is The Representative Of An Overseas Business Visa?

The representative of an overseas business visa should not be confused with an intra-company transfer visa. While they may seem similar, they have important differences. The representative of an overseas business visa is designed for overseas businesses to send a senior member of staff to the UK to establish an operational presence here. The intra-company transfer visa, however, is used to enable businesses with an existing presence in the UK to transfer staff members here.

The Home Office rules state that the representative of an overseas business visa is only available to those who are either:

  • the sole representative of an overseas business planning to set up either a UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary, or a;
  • Media Representative: an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation, posted by their employer on a long-term assignment in the UK

What Sort Of Business Activities Can The UK Entity Undertake?

When setting up a new registered branch or subsidiary in the UK, this must be for the same type of business as the parent overseas company – i.e. providing the same type of services and products.

Having arrived in the UK, a representative of an overseas business visa would be expected to undertake tasks relating only to the setting up of the UK business, including:

  • creating an independent legal existence as a legal entity
  • setting up a bank account
  • identifying and setting up business premises

What Are The Eligibility Criteria For The Representative Of An Overseas Business Visa?

When submitting an application for a representative of an overseas business visa, the Home Office will check carefully that the individual meets specific criteria, including that they:

  • Were recruited and employed outside the UK by an active and trading business (whose headquarters and principal place of business are, and will remain, outside the UK)
  • have the skills, experience and knowledge to do the role for which they are employed and will undertake in the UK
  • hold a senior position within the overseas organisation
  • do not own or control the majority of the overseas company
  • have full authority to make decisions on behalf of the overseas company
  • will be establishing the overseas business’s first commercial presence in the UK, either as a registered branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary

If the overseas business already has a legal entity registered in the UK, it may still be possible to secure a representative of an overseas business visa if that entity is not currently operating and does not employ any staff.

The Home Office may make further enquiries into your visa application if they can see that any of the following apply:

  • the overseas business has only a small number of staff or trading premises
  • the overseas business only has a trading presence in one other country and
  • no track record of international expansion
  • the overseas business has only been set up recently
  • you have little evidence of the overseas business’s trading presence and
  • business activities (whether physical or internet-based)
  • the applicant has previous activity in the UK that is not related to the business
  • they now represent, or there is some similar reason to doubt they will only

work in accordance with the conditions of their permission

Ultimately, the case officer will be looking for applications which do not appear genuine. If any of these do apply, it is recommended that you seek the help of an immigration Solicitor who can advise how you will be able to satisfy the Home Office of your eligibility. By providing additional evidence and a supporting covering letter providing explaining why you should be eligible, this will typically be more than sufficient to secure a positive decision. If the Home Office request an interview to clarify your suitability for a representative of an overseas business visa, Immigration Lawyers will guide you through the process, explaining what the Home Office will be looking for in your responses.

In addition, the Home Office will not grant a visa where they can see that the applicant is a hired agent to market products in the UK, a sales representative or buyer (if this is their only role), or a secretary or PA accompanying the representative.

Applicants with A Stake in The Overseas Business

As is common with those in senior roles, sole representative visa applicants are allowed to own a partial stake in the overseas company they are representing, but only to a certain extent; they must not:

  • own more than 50% of the shares in the overseas business
  • control more than 50% of the voting rights of the overseas business
  • be the self-employed owner of the overseas business
  • be the sole-proprietor of the overseas business
  • be in a partnership agreement in which they own more than 50% of the overseas business

Again, if you do exceed any of these amounts, it is recommended that you speak to immigration Solicitors who can help establish if you are eligible for the sole representative visa.

Final Words

Securing a representative of an overseas business visa is typically straightforward where there is no doubt that it is required for a genuine purpose. The documentary evidence can be onerous, however, including proving the applicant’s seniority and suitability. An immigration lawyer in London can handle the whole application process on your behalf, enabling you to focus on your job and making arrangements to come to the UK.

Related Article

Which Documents Are Required for A Sole Representative Visa Extension?

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