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Sole Representative Of An Overseas Business Visa: Interview Questions And Answer Guide

In a recent article, we wrote about how to prepare for an interview for a Sole Representative visa, including the types of questions you can expect to be asked. Not all applicants are asked to attend an interview, but where the case officer assessing your application needs to clarify certain matters regarding your genuineness, eligibility, and/or suitability, you may be invited. If you are asked to attend an interview regarding your Sole Representative visa, be reassured that these are common and that with proper preparation, you will be able to provide the information needed to secure a positive outcome. This article will expand on the questions you might be asked during an interview for a Sole Representative visa, focusing on the three main themes of genuineness, eligibility, and suitability.

Questions Relating To How ‘Genuine’ Your Application Is

During an interview, one of the main assessment criteria will be whether your application is genuine. This means that the case officer will want to be reassured that you are representing a legitimate, viable, and operating business that has a genuine intention to set up a UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary. The questions you are most likely to hear are (please note the wording of the question won’t be exactly the same, but the point of the question will be):

  • “Please can you explain your organisation’s business plans for expansion into the United Kingdom?”

Here it is important to be able to expand on how and why the business you work for wants to set up in the UK. The more details you can provide, the better. Perhaps the products or services the business offers ties into a new growth market in the UK. Show the case officer the research which has been undertaken into the UK market (competitors, threats, and opportunities), premises, distribution centres, locations, and investment. These are the actions of a business that genuinely plans to expand into the UK. The key is that you walk away, leaving no doubt that you “intend to establish the overseas business’s first commercial presence in the UK, either as a registered branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary”.

  • “Please can you explain how your qualifications, experience, and skills make you a suitable candidate to represent the business as a Sole Representative in the UK?”

This question is about getting to the bottom of whether you have what it takes to be a sole representative. Show the case officer your CV or any other documents which show your seniority and experience in commercial management, negotiation, and setting up branches and subsidiaries in new regions.

Question Regarding Whether You Meet The Eligibility Criteria

If the case officer has any concerns regarding whether you meet the eligibility criteria for the Sole Representative visa, you may be asked questions about your financial interests in the business, your English language skills, and whether the business already has a presence in the UK. The eligibility questions you may be asked include:

  • “Please can you explain your interests in the business you want to represent and in what capacity you are employed?”
  • The aim of answering this question is to overcome the concern that you own a majority shareholding in the business, even if you have stated otherwise on your application. The guidance issued by the Home Office tells case officers, “Where a Sole Representative owns or controls a stake in the overseas business, you must be satisfied that this does not amount to them owning or controlling a majority of that business. This principle applies whether that ownership or control is by shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship, or any other arrangement”. As such, even if you own less than 50% of the shareholding, they will want to know that there is no other financial or legal arrangement which means you are a majority stakeholder or owner. Take with you evidence of your relationship to the business (e.g. your employment contract) to show you are not a sole proprietor or partner and the latest statement of shareholding in the business. If you have recently sold part of your shareholding and doing so reduced your interests to below 50%, you will need to satisfy the case officer that this was not just done for the visa and that you will not simply repurchase the shares at a later date.
  • “Please can you confirm that the business you represent does not already have a legal entity in the UK, and if it does, it is not operating and does not employ people?”

The case officer may have reason to believe that the business you represent already has a legal entity registered in the UK. You will still be eligible for a Sole Representative visa if this is the case, but not if the branch or subsidiary is active and/or has staff. To answer this question, you will need to be aware of any other business ties your organisation has to the UK, whether in the past or at present. It may be that a legal entity exists but under a different name that you were not aware of. If this is the case, you will need to provide evidence that the business is no longer connected to the overseas business. If the overseas business has a current legal entity in the UK, you will need to show that it is not active and do not employ people.

Do You Meet The ‘Suitability’ Criteria?

If the case officer has concerns regarding previous criminal records or immigration-related offences (e.g. if you have overstayed in the UK or another country in the past), you may be asked questions relating to these matters, such as:

  • “Do you have a criminal record, or have you breached the conditions of your stay when in the UK in the past?”

If you are asked questions on these lines, it is important to be honest, and open. Having a criminal offence is not necessarily a reason for refusal, but not disclosing it may be. If you have committed a crime in the past, it is advisable to explain what happened how this has now been discharged or resolved. If you have overstayed in breach of the immigration rules in the past, the Home Office will already have records of this, hence you will need to provide a robust reason why you were unable to leave the country when your visa expired.

Final Words

If you have been asked to attend an interview for your Sole Representative visa application, it is always advisable to engage the help of an immigration Solicitor who can help prepare you. They will look at your application and the correspondence from the Home Office to check why the interview is being requested and provide you with all of the knowledge and information you need to represent yourself during your interview. This will increase the chances of receiving a positive outcome for your Sole Representative visa application.

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