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The representative of an overseas business is an immigration route designed for individuals who are either looking to set up a wholly owned subsidiary or register a UK branch for an overseas parent company. It is also the appropriate route for individuals who have been posted by their employer on a long-term assignment to the UK as an overseas worker.

The Representative of an overseas business route used to be called the Sole Representative of an overseas business. The term Sole Rep Visa is a popular shorter term used to refer to this category.

A major consideration with this immigration route is that the sole rep (migrant) must have been recruited outside the UK by an overseas company whose principal place of business is not in the UK.

Entry Clearance as a Representative of an Overseas Business

The following are requirements that an individual seeking entry clearance as a sole representative of an overseas business needs to meet:

  • The prospective sole rep must be an employee and have been recruited outside the UK for a business whose principal place of operation is outside the UK
  • The prospective representative on an overseas business is seeking entry clearance into the UK
  • The prospective sole rep is in a senior position at the overseas business, having no prior presence in the UK and has full authority to make key business decisions on behalf of their business as it relates to representing it in the UK

The prospective sole representative may be someone from an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation sent to the UK on a long-term assignment.

The application must show that the applicant intends to (and will) be the only representative of the overseas business in the UK. It is important to note, that the sole rep must not be a majority shareholder in the overseas company.

Entry clearance applications under the representative of an overseas business visa category must show that the sole rep intends to engage in the business full time whilst in the UK and will not take up any additional jobs.

The applicant must also demonstrate a decent level of English language skills. Paragraphs 2(b) and 2(c) specify competency to the basic user standard, alongside the applicant being able to converse using everyday language/expressions.

Meeting the English language requirement also means they must pass an approved English language test (IELTS). The certificate must clearly show the applicant's name, qualification and award date.

The sole rep must have successfully completed an academic qualification which is deemed the equivalent of a bachelor's degree by UK NARRIC. Such an academic qualification must not be a professional or vocational qualification. The qualification must also have been taught in English.

The applicant would also need to show that they can support themselves financially in the UK without recourse to public funds.

You will be able to make an entry clearance application as a representative of an overseas business if you are:

  • The Representative of an overseas business looking to set up a wholly owned subsidiary or register a UK branch for an overseas parent company
  • An employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation who is being posted on a long-term assignment as a representative of your overseas employer
  • Recruited from outside the UK by a company whose principal place of business is outside the UK

It is also important to note, the representative (of the overseas business) would not be able to take on any additional employment. The applicant will only be able to work for the overseas company who recruited them.

The requirements for the Sole Rep Visa depend on whether the entry clearance application is as a representative of an overseas parent company, or as a representative of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation.

Representative of an Overseas Parent Company

Please note, you will not be eligible to apply under this route if you are a majority shareholder of the overseas company. Only senior employees can apply under this route. This is because the visa route requires the sole rep to have the full authority to make top level business decisions for the company. They would not only be able to accept responsibilities for decisions taking, but would not need to return to the headquarters every time a decision needs to be made.

It is also important that no other representative (of the overseas business) is currently residing in the UK at the time of the application. The company must have had no branch, subsidiary or any individual presence in the UK prior to making the application. An exception to this is where the company is registered in the UK but does not currently employ any staff or transact business within the country.

Where you are coming to replace a sole rep who has just left the country before the UK branch or subsidiary has found premises or started to trade, the UKBA may allow you to come to the UK as a replacement sole representative.

It would be considered an advantage for the sole rep to have held a similar role in another country and/or is familiar with best practices in a wide variety of working environments.

Financial Requirements

The overseas business does not need to show any strong financial standings to make a Sole Rep Visa application for any of their senior employees, neither does the sole rep need to have or provide any financial resource for the establishment of the UK branch while making their application. It is expected that the parent company will fund such activities. The sole rep however, would need to show that they are able to take care of themselves while in the UK by meeting the general maintenance requirements.

Length of Leave

If the Representative of an Overseas business visa is successful, the applicant will normally be granted leave for about 2 years, wherein the leave was granted on or after October 1st 2009. Alternatively, the leave will be granted for three years, where the leave was granted before the 1st October 2009. The applicant will be able to make an extension application at the expiration of the initial grant of leave.

Refusal of Entry Clearance into the UK as a Representative of an Overseas Business

If your visa to enter the UK as a Sole Rep is refused, you will be able to challenge the decision by making an appeal to the First Tier Tribunal. You should endeavour to file the appeal within 28 days of the date on the refusal letter.

Extension Application

You will be able to apply for an extension of your Sole Rep Visa if your last leave was granted as a representative of an overseas business.

The Sole Rep application form is the FLR (BUS) - the applicant must prove that they continue to meet the requirements in the initial application, and their sponsoring company (the overseas business) is still happy to keep them employed in the overseas branch.

Requirements for Extension

  • You are in the UK with a valid entry clearance as a sole rep of an overseas business
  • The company's headquarters and principal business place remains outside the UK
  • You are still employed and actively involved full time as the sole rep - you have also been able to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK and you currently oversee that branch
  • Your employer will have to certify that you are still needed for the job
  • You have met the maintenance and accommodation requirements as per the immigration rules

It is important to note that media and/or publishing houses can have more than one representative in the UK as long the applicants (representatives) are journalists, news cameramen, or front of camera personnel.

It would be wise to include evidence of the above requirements as supporting documents in your extension application.

An advantage of this route is that the sole rep can remain in the UK even if the circumstances of the parent company have changed, provided they have been in the UK for more than 2 years.

Length of Leave - Sole Rep Extension

Generally, the length of leave under this visa category is 2 years (after the initial application which is for 3 years). However, you may be eligible for a 3 year leave to remain if your last leave was issued before October 1st 2009.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

You can apply for an Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK if your last leave to remain is as a representative of an overseas business and/or as an overseas media or sole representative. It is important that you have and continue to meet all the conditions and requirements for your current leave to remain (as a representative of an overseas business). For example, you must have and still be trading, while your principal place of business is still overseas.

If you are looking to apply for ILR under the sole rep route and your current leave to remain is as a representative of an overseas media company, you will need to submit an ILR application using the application form SET (BUS). Where your current leave is as a representative of an overseas media house (journalists, journalists, news cameramen, or front of camera personnel), you will need to make an application for settlement using the SET (O) application form.

Requirements for Settlement

To qualify for settlement under the sole rep route, the following requirements must be met:

  • Continuous residence in the UK for a period of 5 years under the Sole Rep Visa
  • Not having claimed any benefits in the UK nor having had recourse to public funds
  • You have remained employed throughout the period. You will need to evidence this using P60s ad payslips from the past 5 years
  • The headquarters of the company or the principal place of business is still based overseas
  • Having established a branch or wholly owned subsidiary in the UK and generated business
  • Your employer can certify that they still need you for the job in which you are currently employed, and you are paid higher or at the appropriate salary required for that particular job
  • Satisfying the English language requirement

Dependants 

The immigration rules have specified a dependant as being the partner or child of the main applicant. Please note, under the entry clearance as dependants, the child must be under the age of 18. Child dependants over the age of 18 may still qualify as dependants if they reached the age of 18 in the UK as child dependants of the main applicant.

Coming to the UK as a Dependant of a Representative of an Overseas Business

If you are looking to come to the UK as a dependant of a representative of an overseas business, you must be over the age of 18 (excluding child dependants). As mentioned above, child dependants over the age of 18 may still be deemed as dependants if they are over 18 in the UK.

Note also, that child dependants under this route would have to be (at most) 18 years old as of the time of entry into the UK, while other dependants must be over the age of 18 as at the date of entry clearance into the country.

Additionally, a child born to someone who is a dependant under this route can also apply as a dependant in the same application.

Switching to Dependant of a Representative of an Overseas Business

From October 1st 2013, it became possible to switch into this category as a dependant of a sole representative. The only instances where switching under this category is not possible is where the applicant is currently in the country as a visitor or on temporary admission/release.

Sole Rep Dependant Visa Extension

If your current visa in the UK is as a dependent of a representative of an overseas business, you should be able to renew your visa, as long as you continue to meet the conditions and requirements of your current leave. It is crucial to understand that your visa depends on the main applicant; therefore, extension will be in line with the main applicant as well.

Sole Rep Dependant ILR

You should be able to apply for settlement (ILR) when the sole rep is applying for theirs. You both should have been residing continuously and lawfully in the UK for a period of 5 years.

Indefinite Leave to Remain as a Representative of an Overseas Business

If you have continuously resided in the UK for a period of 5 years as a sole representative of an overseas business, you may qualify for ILR if you have not fallen short of the requirements and conditions of your leave throughout the 5 years period (of continuous residence). You must also have been in employment with the overseas business during this time, and are able to prove this with P60s and payslips over the 5-year period. Alongside this, you should have duly established a branch or subsidiary in the UK while the parent company is still actively trading.

If your Sole Rep Visa is as a representative of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation, the appropriate application form will be the Form SET (O). However, if your current Sole Rep Visa is based on your representation of an overseas business, you will be applying using the SET (BUS).

Still unsure? Do not hesitate to get in touch with our expert team of immigration lawyers. Contact us on 02037442797 and we will also offer you a free initial consultation over the phone.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

The sole representative of an overseas business is not known as Representative of an overseas business. This route may be necessary for those who either a) intend to set up a wholly owned subsidiary or register a UK branch for an overseas parent company or b) were posted by their employer on a long-term assignment in the UK as an overseas media employee employed by an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation.

The qualifying period for settlement as the sole representative of an overseas company or overseas media employee is 5 years.

– You must be recruited and employed outside the UK by the employer whose intention is for you to represent them in the UK;
– Your intend to work full-time for the organisation and must not intend to take any other employment;
– You must be based mainly in the UK and working on a UK long-term assignment;
– You must meet the maintenance requirement;
– You must meet the English language requirement;
– Applicants are usually journalists, but may be other employees, for example: producers, news cameramen, front-of-camera personnel.
An overseas media company can have more than one representative in the UK at the same time.

  • You must be able to demonstrate that you have extensive related industry experience and knowledge;
  • You must have been recruited and employed outside the UK by a company whose headquarters and principal place of business is outside the UK;
  • You must hold a senior position with that overseas company (but not be a major shareholder) and have full authority to take operational decisions on the company's behalf;
  • You must show that you intend to establish the company's first commercial presence in the UK, namely, a registered branch or a wholly owned subsidiary;
  • The company must have no branch, subsidiary or other representative in the UK;
  • You must not intend to take employment in the UK except for the overseas company;
  • You must meet the maintenance requirement;
  • You must meet the English language requirement.
  • You only intend to work for the same employer in the same job as their entry clearance was granted for;
  • You must meet the maintenance requirement;
  • You must prove you are still: a) required by the employer; b) working in the job that entry clearance was granted for; c) in receipt of a salary from your employer, evidenced by demonstrating the salary paid in the previous 12 months and confirmation of how that salary was paid.
You need to show the following: -
  • You only intend to work for the same employer in the same job as their entry clearance was granted for;
  • You intend to work full-time for the employer as a representative of an overseas business;
  • Your employer's principal place of business is still outside the UK;
  • You must meet the maintenance requirement;
  • You must prove you are still: a)continue as a senior employee with full authority to take operational decisions; b) in receipt of a salary from their employer by providing evidence of the salary paid in the previous 12 months and confirmation of how that salary was paid; c)you are still needed by the employer;
  • You must prove that you established and are in charge of a branch or subsidiary in the same type of activity as the parent company and provide evidence confirming that you have generated business, principally with firms in the UK, on behalf of your employer since entry to the UK;
You might be eligible to make an application for entry into the United Kingdom as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Firm if the firm has the intention to organize and begin business operations in the United Kingdom.
You may be permitted to enter the United Kingdom under this category without the sponsorship of a United Kingdom Employer as a Tier 2 Skilled worker.You will however be required to demonstrate that you intend to enter the United Kingdom as a Sole Representative of an Foreign firm so as to set-up a Branch or a child company for the foreign parent company that does not have a branch or run a daughter company in the United Kingdom. More so, the parent company will be required to prove that the firm has been operating for past years and also evince ways in which the business' operations in the United Kingdom will be of benefit to the firm as well as the economy of the United Kingdom. You are expected to be an employee of the parent company who has been conferred with the authority and responsibility to set-up the Daughter branch as well as manage operations of the United Kingdom Branch
Your entry clearance application as a sole rep migrant will be issued for 2 years; after which you are able to make an application for extension in line with the immigration rules pertaining to the Representative of an overseas business visa category.
As with other immigration categories, the Home Office are constantly changing the immigration rules in line with government policy as well as present realities. It is therefore important that you continue to seek legal advice on how the current rules or change in rules as the case may be would affect you.
For your firm to qualify to send a Sole Representative to the United Kingdom the firm is expected to be an enterprise of genuine existence. In a situation where the firm is not up to One year in existence, it is likely to be seen as an inappropriate sponsor for the Sole Representative category and as such might not be considered. More so, the budget that should be allocated for setting-up the United Kingdom branch should be realistic in relation to the size, business operations and profit because it is expected that sending a Sole Representative should primarily benefit the company. In order to avoid being disputed against, it is expected that the purpose for which you intend to expand into the United Kingdom be related to the business operations that you are involved in abroad and not diversification into other business operations. The greater part of your business operations should be carried out in the branch abroad while regular branch operations occurs in the United Kingdom. If it is observed that you sending the Sole Representative will lead to shifting majority of your business operations to the United Kingdom with the intension of making the UK your Head Office, your application will not be accepted.  
To be qualified as a Sole Representative to the United Kingdom you are required to:
  • Be a senior staff of the overseas company employed abroad.
  • Have the relevant experience and knowledge as it concern the company, its business operations and procedures; or show evidence of relevant knowledge and suitability of the business if you are a new employee recruited to run the United Kingdom entity.
  • Have the relevant qualification, experience and knowledge required for the running of business operations even if the business is a family business and the Sole Representative is a junior family member.
  • Not own more that 30-35% of either the overseas business or the new United Kingdom establishment because the Sole Representative visa was not designed for majority business owners.
  • Pass health examination to ensure you do not have any critical health condition.
You will normally be granted entry clearance for two years on the success of your application after which you are permitted to extend for a further three years. The application for extension will be done while you are still in the United Kingdom but you will be required to submit your passport to the UKBA while your application is evaluated. In addition to the application for extension made, you will be required to also make the following available:
  • Evidence that your employer still requires you to be their Sole Representative;
  • Record of the first year of business operations and production in the United Kingdom.
  • Evidence that you earned the appropriate salary pertaining to your status as Branch Head of the subordinate company.
If you have been granted extension and your service is still required by your employer, you are authorized to make an application for Indefinite Leave of Remain (ILR) (Permanent Residence) towards the conclusion of your five year stay.

The sole representative of an overseas business is not known as Representative of an overseas business. This route may be necessary for those who either a) intend to set up a wholly owned subsidiary or register a UK branch for an overseas parent company or b) were posted by their employer on a long-term assignment in the UK as an overseas media employee employed by an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation.

The qualifying period for settlement as the sole representative of an overseas company or overseas media employee is 5 years.

– You must be recruited and employed outside the UK by the employer whose intention is for you to represent them in the UK;
– Your intend to work full-time for the organisation and must not intend to take any other employment;
– You must be based mainly in the UK and working on a UK long-term assignment;
– You must meet the maintenance requirement;
– You must meet the English language requirement;
– Applicants are usually journalists, but may be other employees, for example: producers, news cameramen, front-of-camera personnel.
An overseas media company can have more than one representative in the UK at the same time.

  • You must be able to demonstrate that you have extensive related industry experience and knowledge;
  • You must have been recruited and employed outside the UK by a company whose headquarters and principal place of business is outside the UK;
  • You must hold a senior position with that overseas company (but not be a major shareholder) and have full authority to take operational decisions on the company's behalf;
  • You must show that you intend to establish the company's first commercial presence in the UK, namely, a registered branch or a wholly owned subsidiary;
  • The company must have no branch, subsidiary or other representative in the UK;
  • You must not intend to take employment in the UK except for the overseas company;
  • You must meet the maintenance requirement;
  • You must meet the English language requirement.
  • You only intend to work for the same employer in the same job as their entry clearance was granted for;
  • You must meet the maintenance requirement;
  • You must prove you are still: a) required by the employer; b) working in the job that entry clearance was granted for; c) in receipt of a salary from your employer, evidenced by demonstrating the salary paid in the previous 12 months and confirmation of how that salary was paid.
You need to show the following: -
  • You only intend to work for the same employer in the same job as their entry clearance was granted for;
  • You intend to work full-time for the employer as a representative of an overseas business;
  • Your employer's principal place of business is still outside the UK;
  • You must meet the maintenance requirement;
  • You must prove you are still: a)continue as a senior employee with full authority to take operational decisions; b) in receipt of a salary from their employer by providing evidence of the salary paid in the previous 12 months and confirmation of how that salary was paid; c)you are still needed by the employer;
  • You must prove that you established and are in charge of a branch or subsidiary in the same type of activity as the parent company and provide evidence confirming that you have generated business, principally with firms in the UK, on behalf of your employer since entry to the UK;
  • You are allowed to remain outside of the UK for a maximum of 180 days in any calendar year;
  • You can bring dependents with you, namely, your spouse or partner and children under 18;
  • Your dependents have limited work and study restrictions;
  • You can stay in the UK if your company's circumstances change and you have been here for more than 2 years;
  • You are not required to have access to a set amount of funds.
In a situation where your application is not complex, it would likely be processed within at most 10 working days by the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) at the British Consular office abroad. On the other hand, if your application is a complex one (i.e. cases that require extremely thorough and careful investigations), the application will be sent back to the UKBA office in the United Kingdom. It might take several months for an application in such situation to be processed.  
A Sole Representative migrant is not authorized to function as an Agent. He/she is expected to fully involved in setting-up Office in the United Kingdom on behalf of the Holding/Parent Company Overseas. More so, the Sole representative is not authorized to take up job with or act on behalf of another company whilst in the United Kingdom.
If you are a Sole Representative your might be authorized to make an application for your spouse and/or children as dependants who will come along with you to the UK. Whilst in the United Kingdom, your children who are with you as dependant will be eligible to be educated for free as other British children. You might be permitted to seek admission for your children in a private education institution of your choice. Also your spouse is authorized to take up legitimate employment while with you in the UK. More so, you and your dependants are authorized to receive free medical treatments from the National Health Service of the UK as you do not need to have a private health insurance cover.
  • You are allowed to remain outside of the UK for a maximum of 180 days in any calendar year;
  • You can bring dependents with you, namely, your spouse or partner and children under 18;
  • Your dependents have limited work and study restrictions;
  • You can stay in the UK if your company's circumstances change and you have been here for more than 2 years;
  • You are not required to have access to a set amount of funds.

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