Sole Representative Visa - Top 25 FAQ's Answered
The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa is for businesses that would like to send a senior employee to the UK in order to establish a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of the parent company. Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) can be achieved after 5 years in the Representative of an Overseas Business visa category. In this post we answer the top 25 most frequently asked questions about the Sole Representative visa route.
1. Am I eligible to be a representative of an overseas business?
You must be a senior employee of the overseas business who has been recruited and taken on outside the UK. You will need to have authority to take key operational decisions locally on behalf of the UK business and intend to work full-time as a representative of the overseas business in the UK. You must not be a majority shareholder in the parent company or otherwise control a majority stake in the business. The Home Office will take into account particular limitations on shareholding in the country in which the business operates. Read more.
2. How long do I need to have been employed by the company for?
You do not need to have been employed by the parent company for any particular period of time. However, if you have only been employed for a short time, a good track record in the same or in a closely related field will help to show that the reasons for your appointment were genuine. Your business or your role must not have been created mainly to facilitate your entry to the UK.
3. Do I need to earn a minimum level of salary?
Sole representative visa applicants are not required to earn any minimum level of salary or receive any particular benefits. However, your remuneration package should be appropriate for a senior employee in the company.
4. Can a sole representative be a shareholder of the parent company?
Yes, but you must not own more than 50% of the available shares in the overseas business at the point of application. Read more.
5. I am a majority shareholder, can I reduce my shareholding and then apply?
Existing majority shareholders may qualify for a sole representative visa if they reduce their shareholding below 50% prior to applying. However, you will be required to provide the previous year’s share register when applying, so you would need to provide evidence of selling your shares since then, and an updated share register.
6. Is my employer eligible to establish a UK branch or subsidiary?
The parent company must be a genuine business that has its headquarters and principal place of business outside the UK. It must intend to set up a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary in the UK. It must not already have a representative in the UK or any active branch or subsidiary. Read more.
7. Our business has already established a UK branch, can I still apply?
You can be admitted after a branch has been established in the UK, provided that the branch exists as a legal entity only, has set up a bank account and has identified, and set up, business premises. The UK branch must not employ any staff and must not have transacted any business.
8. Does the overseas business need to have any particular level of turnover or profit?
The parent company does not need to demonstrate any minimum level of turnover or profit in order to send a senior employee to the UK as a sole representative. However, the parent company must be a genuine commercial enterprise with its principal place of business outside the UK. The business must not be established in order to facilitate your entry to the UK.
9. What sort of business activities can the UK entity undertake?
The UK branch or subsidiary must operate in the same type of business as the overseas parent company. For example, it must supply a similar product or service. An overseas manufacturing company can establish a UK branch for the sale or servicing of their products in the UK.
10. Can the overseas company send more than one senior representative to the UK?
No, the parent company can only send one representative to the UK. However, if the company wishes to send two representatives, one may be admitted, and then later apply as a sponsor to allow the other employee to apply under the Skilled Worker route.
11. Can a sole representative be a shareholder of the UK branch or subsidiary?
In order to qualify for an extension of stay as a sole representative, all shares issued by the UK entity must be held by the parent company.
12. Can the sole representative visa be used to relocate our parent company to the UK?
No, the setting up of the branch or subsidiary in the UK must not result in the overseas business effectively moving the centre of its business operations to the UK.
13. How will the Home Office approach the centre of business operations test?
An intention to move the main centre of business to the UK and cease trading outside the UK may be inferred if, for example, you are a major shareholder, if you 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 your specific talents and performance.
14. Will I need a business plan?
The Immigration Rules do not require sole representative visa applicants to provide a business plan in support of their application. However, including a business plan can help to satisfy several requirements of the Immigration Rules, including that the parent company genuinely intends to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK, will operate in the same type of business as the overseas business and intends to keep its main centre of business operations overseas.
15. Can I be employed by the UK branch or subsidiary in the UK?
You must be employed directly by the overseas parent company at the date of your initial visa application. You may be employed by the UK branch or subsidiary at a later date. However, if you cease to have sole executive responsibility for the direction of the UK business then you will need to switch into the Skilled Worker route.
16. Will I be able to work for another company in the UK?
As a sole representative, you may only be employed by the company that sent you to the UK. It is not possible to have any other business interests, or undertake any part-time, full-time or consulting work for other businesses in the UK.
17. When should I apply for a sole representative visa?
You should make an application for a sole representative visa no more than 3 months before you intend to travel.
18. Can I apply for a sole representative visa from within the UK?
It is not possible to switch into the sole representative visa category from within the UK. Applications for extension of stay and settlement can be made from within the UK.
19. 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. In addition, you will need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is currently £624 per person per year of the visa.
20. How long will it take for my sole representative 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.
21. How long will my sole representative visa be valid for?
You will be given permission to enter and remain in the UK as a sole representative for up to 3 years initially. Beyond this, you will need to submit a further application for leave to remain, which will be valid for 2 years. After 5 years in the UK as a sole representative of an overseas business, you may be eligible to apply for settlement.
22. Can a sole representative visa lead to British citizenship?
Yes, subject to meeting various requirements, sole representative visa holders can qualify for British citizenship once they have held indefinite leave to remain in the UK for a period of 12 months (unless married to a British citizen, in which case they may qualify immediately upon being granted ILR).
23. Can a sole representative bring family members to the UK?
Yes, sole representatives may bring, or be joined by, their spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner and any children under the age of 18. Sole representatives cannot bring their parents, siblings or other extended family members.
24. What documents do I need to provide in support of my application?
The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the documents that must be submitted in support of a sole representative visa application, as well as the content and format of these documents. Our immigration barristers can advise in detail as to the required documents, and check all documents for compliance with the Immigration Rules, as part of our visa application preparation and submission service.
25. Where can I find out more about the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa?
For general guidance you are welcome to visit the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa page on our website.
If you would like to discuss your Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa application in detail then we would be pleased to arrange an initial consultation meeting with one of our business immigration barristers.
Contact our Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance regarding an application for a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa, contact our business immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.