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UK Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa

The Sole Representative Visa is closed to new applicants from 11th April 2022. However, you might be eligible to apply for an extension if you already have this visa.

Contact our immigration lawyers for a free telephone consultation on 020 3744 2797 or complete our enquiry form to discuss your Sole Representative Visa.

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Note: The Sole Representative Visa is closed to new applicants. You might be eligible to extend your Sole Representative visa or apply for ILR if you meet the requirements. If you are a representative of an overseas business planning to come to the UK to establish a new branch, you might be eligible to apply for UK Expansion Worker visa under the new Global Business Mobility route.

What is the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa?

The Representative of an Overseas Business Visa is for individuals who are looking to establish a new wholly-owned subsidiary or register a UK branch of an overseas parent company. It is also the appropriate route for individuals who have been posted by an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation on a long-term assignment to the UK.

The Representative of an Overseas Business Visa was previously referred to as the “Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa”. The term “Sole Representative Visa” is a popular shorter term used to refer to this immigration category.

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

Applicants must meet a set of eligibility criteria as outlined in detail below. If granted, a partner and spouse visa is initially granted for up to 3 years and 9 months. It is then possible to extend your stay for a further 2 years and later acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), allowing you to remain permanently in the UK without being subject to immigration rules.

UK Sole Representative Visa requirements

UK Sole Representative Visa applicants need to meet a number of requirements; specifically, applicants must:

  • be an employee and have been recruited outside the UK by a business whose principal place of operation is outside the UK (the business must be active and trading)
  • hold a senior position within the overseas business and have full authority to make key business decisions on behalf of their employer
  • not own a majority of the company they represent
  • have the necessary skills to perform the role they will be undertaking in the UK
  • genuinely intend to establish their employer’s first commercial presence in the UK, either as a registered branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary
  • have sufficient funds to support themselves in the UK
  • meet the English language requirement

To make a successful application for a Sole Representative Visa, it is important to understand each of the requirements. While the Home Office publish a summary of the requirements, these are extremely general. Below we will explain each of the requirements for a Sole Representative Visa in detail.

To ensure that your application for a Sole Representative Visa is processed efficiently and quickly, consider speaking to one of our expert immigration law Solicitors by calling us on 020 3744 2797, who can advise you on the process and handle this on your behalf if you prefer.

1. Represent an overseas business

As an applicant for a Sole Representative Visa, no other representatives of the overseas business must be 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.

If the current sole representative of your overseas employer is due to end their role in the UK, you may be able to apply for a Sole Representative Visa to replace them.

2. Hold a senior position within the overseas business

Only senior employees can apply under the Representative of an Overseas Business Visa route. This is because the visa route requires the sole representative to have the full authority to make top-level business decisions for the company. It is considered an advantage for the sole representative to have held a similar role in another country and/or is familiar with best practices in a wide variety of working environments.

3. Have the necessary skills

Applicants for a Sole Representative Visa must be able to show they have the skills necessary to perform their intended function in the UK. As a person coming to the UK to establish a new subsidiary or branch, for example, it may be necessary to possess skills in the areas of contract negotiation, sales, commercial markets, and logistics. A letter will be required from the applicant’s employer confirming the candidate has the necessary skills and experience needed.

4. Applicants must not own a majority of the overseas company

Sole representatives cannot be majority shareholders in the overseas company. The rules state that applicants must not:

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

5. Genuinely intend to establish the first commercial presence in the UK

UKVI must be satisfied that the applicant is a genuine representative of an overseas business. This also means that there should be no grounds to believe that the overseas business’s decision to “establish a UK presence or the business decision to appoint the applicant as their representative has been done mainly so the applicant can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay”.

6. Financial and support requirements

The overseas business does not need to show any strong financial standings to make a Sole Representative Visa application for any of their senior employees, neither does the sole representative need to have or provide any financial resources 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. As such, UKVI must be satisfied that applicants are able to maintain and accommodate themselves and their dependants in the UK without access to public funds; however, there is no specified amount of money that an applicant must have available.

7. Meet the English language requirement

Applicants for a Sole Representative Visa must have the necessary English language skills. There are 3 ways this can be proven:

(1). Passing an English language test

You will meet the English language requirements if you pass a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) English test from an approved testing centre. This must be at least level A1 in speaking and writing.

(2). Academic qualifications

You will also meet the English language requirements if you have a degree or other academic qualification which was taught in English.

(3). Exemption

You will not need to meet the English language requirements if you are exempt, including if:

  • You are over 65 years of age
  • You have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from meeting the requirement
  • You come from any of the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, USA

The benefits and conditions of stay for a Sole Representative Visa

If you are granted a Representative of an Overseas Business Visa, you will be able to:

  • work for your overseas employer
  • bring your dependant family members to the UK
  • extend your visa after the initial 3 year period
  • apply to settle in the UK after 5 years

The immigration rules state that as a Representative of an Overseas Business Visa holder, you will not be permitted to:

  • work for yourself or any other employer
  • remain in the UK if the sole representative arrangement is ended by your employer
  • switch to this visa from any other visa category
  • access public funds in the UK

Sole Representative Visa required documents

When applying for a Sole Representative visa, you will need to provide several documents to prove both your personal suitability and that the overseas company meets the requirements outlined above. UKVI will explain which documents you will need to provide based on your circumstances; these may include:

  • Your current passport
  • Bank statements or payslips for the last 6 months (to show you have the financial means to support yourself and your dependants in the UK)
  • Evidence that you meet the English requirement (e.g. A test pass certificate or evidence of a degree taught in English)
  • Details of where you will be staying in the UK
  • Tb test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test
  • A full description of your employer’s business activities, including details of assets and accounts
  • A letter from the overseas business confirming:
    • Its intention to establish a wholly-owned subsidiary or register a branch in the UK in the same area of business as it operates overseas
    • Your job description, employment contract and salary details
    • That you are familiar with their business and have the power to make operational decisions
    • You are directly employed by the overseas business and are not acting as a sales agent and not through an intermediary
    • You were recruited to the overseas business outside of the UK
    • You hold a senior position
    • You have the proper business authority to make decisions on its behalf and set up and run a registered branch or wholly-owned subsidiary
    • You will only work full time for the business, and you will not work for another employer
    • You do not own or control a majority of the overseas business

If applying as an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation, you will be required to provide:

  • A detailed description of the overseas parent company’s business activities, including details of assets and accounts
  • Confirmation that you will be representing them in the UK in a long term, full-time role

How to apply for a UK sole representative visa?

The application process for a Representative of an Overseas Business Visa is completed online (on the Home Office website). The application steps are as follows:

  1. Check your eligibility for a Representative of an Overseas Business Visa
  2. Prepare the documents you will need to prove your eligibility
  3. Complete the online application form – the form you need to complete depends on whether applying from within the UK or outside.
  4. Pay the application fees:
    • £610 if applying outside the UK or £704 if applying in the UK
    • £19.20 biometric information fee.
    • £624 per year for the healthcare surcharge
  5. Upload any documents required to support your application
  6. Arrange a biometric appointment to have your fingerprints and photo taken

Sole Representative Visa extension

After the initial period of 3 years, it is possible to extend a Representative of an Overseas Business Visa for a further 2 years. You will need to meet the following requirements:

  • The company’s headquarters and principal business place must remain outside the UK
  • You must still be employed and actively involved full time as the sole representative - 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

UK Sole Representative Visa to ILR

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.

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


References:

GOV.UK: Representative of an Overseas Business Visa

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