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SOLE REPRESENTATIVE OF AN OVERSEAS BUSINESS VISA

SOLE REPRESENTATIVE OF AN OVERSEAS BUSINESS VISA

The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa category is for businesses that wish 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.

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 an active and trading overseas business;
  • Has its headquarters and principal place of business outside the United Kingdom;
  • Has no other active branch, subsidiary or representative in the UK;
  • Intends to establish a registered branch or wholly-owned subsidiary in the UK that will actively trade in the same business activity as the overseas business;
  • The overseas business will not be established or the sole representative appointed mainly for the purpose of facilitating the entry or stay of the sole representative; 
  • Intends to maintain the centre of its operations overseas.

You will also need to demonstrate that you:

  • Are a genuine Representative of an Overseas Business;
  • Are an existing senior employee of the overseas business;
  • Have been recruited and taken on as an employee of the overseas business outside of the UK;
  • Have the skills, experience and knowledge of the business necessary to undertake the role of sole representative of the overseas business in the UK;
  • Have full authority to negotiate and take operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business;
  • Intend to work full-time as a representative of the overseas business;
  • Do not intend to engage in business of your own or work for any other business; 
  • Do not have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control, a majority of the overseas business, whether that ownership or control is by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement;
  • Can show English language ability to at least CEFR Level A1 (speaking and listening);
  • Can show you can adequately maintain and accommodate yourself and your dependants in the UK, without recourse to public funds.

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.

To discuss your Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa application with one of our immigration barristers, contact our UK Representative of an Overseas Business visa lawyers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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 be an active and trading overseas business.  The overseas parent company must have, and intend to continue to have, its headquarters and principal place of business outside the UK.  If the parent company already has a branch, subsidiary or other representative 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 the branch or subsidiary in the UK would involve the business effectively moving the centre of its business operations to the UK.  The Home Office will also need to be satisfied that the branch or wholly-owned subsidiary in the UK intends to actively trade in the same type of business as the overseas business and is not being established solely for the purpose of facilitating the entry and stay of the sole representative.

Choosing a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa candidate 

The Sole Representative visa applicant must genuinely be an existing senior employee of the overseas business who was recruited and taken on as an employee of the overseas business outside of the UK. They will genuinely have the skills, experience and knowledge of the overseas business necessary to undertake the role of sole representative of the overseas business in the UK. The Sole Representative visa candidate will have full authority to negotiate and take operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business and genuinely intend to be employed full-time as a representative of the overseas business.  They must genuinely intend to not engage in business of their own or represent any other business’s interest in the United Kingdom.

Can Sole Representatives be shareholders?

The Immigration Rules require that an applicant for a Sole Representative visa must not have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control, the overseas business, whether that ownership or control is by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement.

This means that applicants can be shareholders, but they 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.  However, applicants should note that the Home Office will look at the company share distribution in both the current and the previous year.

Applicants (both shareholders and non-shareholders) should also note that the requirements of the route go beyond ownership to cover control.  Regardless of the stake in ownership, applicants must not control the overseas business by means of any other arrangement. 

For further information regarding the ownership and control requirement for a Sole Representative visa, contact our immigration lawyers in London.

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 keep its main centre of business 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. 

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 other 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?

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.   

Where a spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner is accompanying or joining a Sole Representative, that partner must not themselves have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control, the overseas business.  This rule applies whether the ownership or control is by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement.

When should you 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 a 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.

Extension of stay as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business

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 have established 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.

Settlement 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.

WHAT CAN WE HELP YOU WITH?

To discuss your Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa application with one of our business immigration barristers, contact our UK Sole Representative visa team on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form.

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