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Sole Representative Visa: Skills, Experience and Knowledge

As explained in my earlier posts, the amendments to the sole representative visa category revealed four anxieties that the Home Office had, regarding:

  1. Majority ownership and control of the parent company by the representative and/or their partner;
  2. The representative’s skills, experience and knowledge (or lack thereof); 
  3. The branch/subsidiary being established solely for the purpose of facilitating the entry and stay of the representative; and 
  4. Genuineness.

My prior post considered the first anxiety, regarding ownership and control. This post considers the second anxiety: skills, experience and knowledge.

Sole Representative Visa: Skills, Experience and Knowledge

Previously, the Rules and Guidance had no reference to the “skills, experience and knowledge” necessary to undertake the role of sole representative of the overseas business, which are now required by the amendment. 

All the Guidance stated was that, “You can expect the sole representative to have:

  • been employed by the parent company in a senior job role within the company
  • a track record of setting up branches for other companies, if they have been employed specifically to undertake this role
  • authority to take operational decisions once in the UK, as indicated by their role in the company hierarchy”.

The amended Rules require the employer to provide a letter confirming the applicant has the relevant skills, experience, knowledge and authority to negotiate and take operational decisions on behalf of the business. However, it is not clear whether the employer certifying this will be sufficient for the Home Office’s purposes. 

No further evidence is required which would enable explicit scrutiny of the recruitment or selection process via the advertisements, applicants for the role, job description, and their qualifications (as there is with Tier 2 resident labour market tests). Nor is the sole representative required to provide their CV (as was referenced in the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Modernised Guidance). Therefore, these references remain vague, and open to the Home Office’s subjective consideration, unless the Home Office accepts the employer’s word in their letter. 

In other matters, I have seen Entry Clearance Officers refuse to accept matters as laid out by the employer in their notarised statement. However, no deception or falsity of the document is explicitly alleged, even if that is the implicit assertion. There is no reason to expect the Secretary of State will cease to sidestep her burden of proof and the ‘genuineness’ requirement will provide a graceful way to avoid allegations of deception. She could simply assert that she was not satisfied that the proposed sole representative “genuinely” had the relevant skills, experience, and knowledge, on the balance of probabilities.

In my experience it is best to support a representative’s claimed skills, experience and knowledge wherever possible. Corresponding to their CV or resume, evidence can be provided of their professional work experience, educational background, and references. 

Given the new emphasis on genuine employment and recruitment, it is likely to be helpful to show there was a genuine selection and recruitment process. The parent company can also explain why that employee was chosen for the role over others. If that employee has already spearheaded the opening of another branch or subsidiary, that will be highly relevant to the skills and knowledge required to open the branch or wholly owned subsidiary in the UK.  Evidence can be provided of any authority they currently have within the parent company (and to the extent confidentiality permits) any evidence of the decisions they have taken or their negotiations on behalf of the business. These will also help to show that they are a senior employee within the company’s hierarchy. 

The evidence that could be provided in each case will need to be considered against the specific circumstances of the business and the proposed sole representative. This new requirement, however, makes it less likely that less experienced employees, or those with fewer years of experience with the overseas business, will be granted under this route. The lack of specificity of evidence leaves openness for those with less traditional backgrounds, but also provides for a new reason for refusal.

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