Personal Immigration
Business Immigration

Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Sole Representative of Overseas Business?

Most individuals looking to come to the UK to run a business will consider the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category as the most appropriate visa category, however, if you are already running a business overseas the better application to make may be as a Representative of an Overseas Business.

Who is the Representative of an Overseas Business visa category for?

While anyone could theoretically make a successful application as a Tier 1 Entrepreneur, the categories of people who could succeed as the Representative of an Overseas Business are smaller. The main difference is that someone applying as a Representative must be employed by an overseas business but not be a majority shareholder, and they must be coming to the UK to set up a branch or subsidiary of the existing overseas business.

This means that the category is not suitable for those who own more than 50% of the shares of the overseas business. Nor is it suitable for those who want to run a completely different type of business in the UK. For example if you are a senior employee in an IT company abroad, but want to come to the UK to start a ballet school, this category is not for you. The other limit to this category is that you have to be supported by your employer. This is not a decision that you can make unilaterally, but instead your employer must intend for you to open the branch or subsidiary in the UK.

If you fit into this limited category of people who:

  • Are employed by an overseas company
  • Hold a senior position
  • Have been recruited outside of the UK
  • Are not a majority shareholder
  • Your employer intends to open a branch or subsidiary in the UK

Then it may be that the category of Representative of an Overseas Business is appropriate for you.

What do I need to make the application?

In comparison to the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category, the requirements for Sole Representatives are simpler and there are less specified evidence requirements. This means that you don’t need bank letters that say particular things or declarations containing specific wordings. There is also, theoretically, no genuineness test.

However, the Home Office will look closely at your individual intention to set up a company in the UK and the intention of your employer to have you set up a UK branch. This operates in a similar way to the genuine entrepreneur test.

Although there is no investment funds requirement, the Home Office will want to see that there are sufficient funds available to the business to cover their set up costs in the UK, whatever this amount may be. The Home Office might want to check that these funds are actually available to the business. There is no set amount that they will look for, but the amount available should be justified in a business plan.

Unlike the Entrepreneur visa category there is no requirement to provide a business plan with the application. But, the Home Office are likely to find a business plan useful to assess the intentions of the overseas business and to confirm that the UK business will be engaged in the same business activity as the overseas business.

They will also want to see documents to show that the overseas business is trading and that the applicant is a senior employee of that business.

It is clear that the assessment of intentions for Sole Representatives is in practice very similar to the assessment of genuineness for Entrepreneurs. However, there is not the same in depth guidance on what should be expected and there is not the same provision in the Rules to invite applicants to interview or to submit further documents if the Immigration Officer has any concerns about the application.

Therefore, while the Immigration Rules for those applying in the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa category are much shorter, it is important to prepare any application properly and ensure that sufficient documents are provided to demonstrate  both the applicant’s and the business’s intentions.

How long can I stay and can I bring my family?

Similar to the Entrepreneur category, if your application is successful you will initially be granted leave for a period of three years. Your leave can then be extended for a further two years. At this stage, and subject to meeting the requirements of the rules for example relating to absences, you will be able to settle in the UK.

There is no accelerated route option to settle any quicker.

You are permitted to bring family members with you such as a Spouse, Civil Partner or Unmarried Partner and children.

What do I need to do if I want to extend my stay?

In order to extend your stay in the Sole Representative visa category you will need to show that you are employed full time as a representative of an overseas business and are in charge of the registered branch or wholly owned subsidiary. The business will need to confirm that you are still required for this position.

You will also need to show that the business is still trading outside of the UK and that the principle place of business is not the UK. Therefore, if your intention is to move all operations to the UK, this is not the right category and the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa may be more appropriate.

Unlike the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa category, for Sole Representatives there is no requirement to show that a particular amount of money has been spent on the business and you do not need to have created any jobs in your company for the settled population. As with the initial application stage, this means that there are not the same specified evidence requirements that Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrants have to meet when they extend.

Which category should I make my application in?

The right category for you and your business will depend on your individual circumstances. There are limitations on your ability to work in both categories so you need to be clear on the plans for your business in order to ensure that you choose the right category from the start.

Contact Us

For advice about which category is most appropriate for your circumstances or if would like professional assistance with an application as either a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or as the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business then contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or by email to


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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