SOLE REPRESENTATIVE OF AN OVERSEAS BUSINESS VISA
The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa category is for businesses that would like to send a senior employee to the UK in order to establish a commercial presence for the company in the UK.
What is a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa?
The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa allows a senior employee of an overseas business to come to the UK to set up and run a UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of the overseas parent company. Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) can be achieved after 5 years in the Representative of an Overseas Business visa category.
What are the requirements for a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa?
In order to qualify for a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that your overseas company:
- Is a genuine, trading business;
- Has no branch, subsidiary or other representative in the UK;
- Intends to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK, operating in the same type of business as the overseas business;
- Intends to maintain the centre of its operations overseas.
You will also need to demonstrate that you:
- Are a senior employee in the business;
- Have been recruited outside of the UK;
- Have full authority to take operational decisions on behalf of the business;
- Do not hold more than 50% of the shares in the business;
- Do not intend to take employment other than for your business;
- Are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level A1 (speaking and listening);
- Can maintain and accommodate yourself and your dependants.
The exact requirements that you will need to satisfy will vary depending on your circumstances. You may want to speak to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.
Is your business eligible to establish a UK branch or subsidiary?
For an employee to qualify for a UK Overseas Business Representative visa, the parent company must have its headquarters and principal place of business outside the UK. The overseas business must also have an established presence outside the UK and be genuinely trading. If the parent company already has a representative or branch in the UK then the business will be excluded. Even where there is no representative in the UK, the business will be disqualified if the employee setting up a branch or subsidiary in the UK would involve the business effectively moving the centre of its business operations to the UK.
Choosing a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa candidate
The Sole Representative visa applicant must have been recruited and joined the company outside the UK. They will either have been employed by the parent company for some time and hold a senior position there or be able to demonstrate a good track record in the same or in a closely related field. The Sole Representative visa candidate will have authority to make decisions on behalf of the company and intend to work full-time for the UK branch/subsidiary of the company.
Can Sole Representatives be shareholders?
The Immigration Rules require that an applicant for a Sole Representative visa is not a majority shareholder in the overseas business. This means that the applicant must not own more than 50% of the available shares in the business at the point of application. Existing majority shareholders may qualify for a Sole Representative visa if they reduce their shareholding prior to applying. For further information regarding the shareholding requirement for a Sole Representative visa, contact our immigration lawyers in London.
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What are the terms of employment of an Overseas Business Sole Representative?
A Sole Representative must have authority to set up and operate a UK branch or subsidiary and take the majority of key operational business decisions locally on behalf of the company. Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa holders are also required to work full-time. Sole Representative visa holders are not required to earn any particular minimum level of salary or receive any particular benefits. However, their remuneration package should be appropriate for a senior employee in the company.
What is the centre of operations test for a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa?
For a parent company to satisfy the requirements of the UK’s Representative of an Overseas Business visa it must intend to keeps its main centre of operations abroad. The Home Office will refuse an application for a Sole Representative visa if it is clear that the intention is to move the main centre of business to the UK and effectively cease trading outside the UK.
An intention to move the main centre of business to the UK may be inferred if, for example, the visa applicant is a major shareholder, if they are the driving force behind the parent company, if no or few senior employees will remain abroad or if the company’s success seems linked to the applicant’s specific talents and performance. You can speak to our immigration lawyers for expert advice.
What are the conditions of stay for a Sole Representative?
As with all categories of the immigration rules, a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa holder must comply with certain conditions of stay. The most important condition is that Sole Representatives are only able to be employed by the company that sent them to the UK. It is not possible to have any other business interests, or undertake any part-time or consulting work in the UK on the side of employment for the business.
Can a Sole Representative bring family members to the UK?
Yes. A Sole Representative of an Overseas Business may bring, or be joined by, their spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner and any children under the age of 18. Unfortunately, as with most other categories of the Immigration Rules, Sole Representatives cannot bring their parents, siblings or other extended family members.
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When should I apply for a UK Sole Representative visa?
You should make an application for a UK Sole Representative visa no more than 3 months before you intend to travel.
How much does a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa cost?
The Home Office application fee for a Representative of an Overseas Business visa is currently £610.
How long will it take for my UK Representative of an Overseas Business visa application to be decided?
Most Sole Representative visa applications are decided within 3 weeks. Many visa application centres outside the UK also offer a priority service which allows Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa applicants to receive a decision on their applications for entry clearance within 5 working days.
How can I extend my Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa?
If your application for a Sole Representative visa is approved, you will be given permission to enter and remain in the UK for up to 3 years initially. Beyond this, you will need to submit a further application for leave to remain, which would be valid for 2 years.
In order to qualify for an extension of stay as a Representative of an Overseas Business, you will need to still be working for the same employer as when your initial visa was issued and still be working to establish the parent company’s first presence in the UK. The employer’s headquarters and principal place of business must still be outside the UK. You will need to show that you have generated business (principally with UK firms) on behalf of your employer since you were granted the visa and that you are in receipt of a salary from your employer. Advice from an immigration lawyer will ensure that your extension application is professionally presented and technically correct.
How can I settle in the UK as a Sole Representative visa holder?
After five years in the UK as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business, you may be eligible to apply for settlement. In addition to continuing to meet the requirements for an extension of stay, you will also need to show that you have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK, you have spent a continuous period of five years in the UK and you have not been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any of the five years prior to the date of application.
How our immigration barristers can help your UK Sole Representative visa application
The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the documents that must be provided in support of a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa application. It can be helpful to get advice from an immigration lawyer in order to ensure that your application is professionally presented and technically correct.
Our business immigration barristers have experience in assisting all types of companies and partnerships to secure Sole Representative visas for their employees. Whether you are a small business or a large multinational looking to expand into the UK, our barristers are experts in the immigration options available and will guide you through the complex Home Office rules and policies.
We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to businesses as part of a professional and friendly service.
We can also assist with
Drafting of business plans for Sole Representative of Overseas Business visa applications
As part of your Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa application, it may be helpful to include a detailed business plan. We can assist you to identify a suitably qualified business plan writer, instruct the business plan writer on your behalf and then liaise with the business plan writer to ensure that your business plan satisfies the requirements of the Immigration Rules.
Applications for extension of stay as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business
In order to extend your stay as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business, you will need to show that your business:
- Has its headquarters outside of the UK;
- Still requires you to be in the UK;
- Has generated business in the UK since the last grant of leave;
You will also need to show that:
- You are employed full time by your business;
- You are in receipt of a salary from your employer;
- You do not intend to take other employment;
- You can maintain and accommodate yourself and your dependants.
Applications for settlement as a Sole Representative of Overseas Business
After spending a continuous period of 5 years in the UK as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa holder, you may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
In addition to continuing to meet the requirements as set out above for an extension of stay, you will also need to show that:
- You have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK;
- You have spent a continuous period of five years in the UK;
- You have not been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any of the five years prior to the date of application.
Fresh applications and Judicial reviews for Sole Representatives of Overseas Businesses
If your application for entry clearance, leave to remain or settlement as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business has been refused, our immigration barristers can advise on the merits of making a fresh application or challenging the refusal decision.
If your application for leave as a Sole Representative has been refused and the decision is unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally improper, our immigration barristers can apply for Judicial Review and provide representation at Judicial Review hearings.
Sponsor Licence applications
Once your Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa application has been approved and you have established a commercial presence in the UK, you may wish to recruit employees for your business. You might need a Sponsor Licence if you wish to employ workers from outside the EEA to work for your business in the UK.
Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer visa applications
If your business already holds a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence, the Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa enables multinational employers to transfer their existing employees from outside the EEA to their UK branch for training purposes or to fill a specific vacancy.
Business Visit visa applications
The Visit (Standard) – Business visa is designed for non-EEA nationals who wish to come to the UK for the purpose of undertaking business activities. Visit (Standard) – Business visa holders may undertake a wide range of business activities in the UK.