In our recent post, we listed the Sole Representative visa category as one of the visa routes for starting a business in the UK. The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa category is for overseas businesses wishing to send a senior employee to the UK to set up a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of the parent company. In this article, we will look at the requirements that need to be satisfied in order to qualify for a Representative of an Overseas Business visa.
Requirements for the Overseas Business
In order to be eligible for a Sole Representative visa, the following requirements will need to be met by the overseas business:
- the overseas parent company must be active and trading;
- the parent company's headquarters and principal place of business must be outside the United Kingdom;
- the parent company must not have any active branch, subsidiary or representative in the UK;
- the UK branch or subsidiary must intend to undertake the same type of activity as the parent company;
- the overseas business must intend for its operations to remain centred outside the UK;
Requirements for the Applicant
In order to qualify as a Sole Representative, the visa applicant will need:
- to be a senior employee of the parent company;
- have been recruited outside the UK;
- to be an existing employee of the parent company;
- have full authority to make operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business;
- not be a majority shareholder;
- have the skills, experience and knowledge of the business to take up the role of a sole representative;
The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the documents that must be provided in support of a Sole Representative visa application. We encourage you to seek legal advice to discuss your visa application in order to ensure that you have the correct documentation.
Other Requirements for a Sole Representative Visa
You will also need to meet the English language requirement by passing an approved English language test to at least CEFR Level A1 (speaking and listening). You can also meet the requirement if you have a degree awarded in the UK or a degree which meets the recognised standard of a bachelor's degree in the UK.
You must have sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate yourself and any dependants without recourse to public funds.
Depending on the country you are applying from, you may also need to provide a valid TB certificate.
In our previous blog post, we answered the top 25 most frequently asked questions about the Sole Representative visa category. When considering whether a business is genuine, it is worth taking note of the following:
- Business plan – although it is not a requirement, it may be worth having a business plan to show that the overseas business genuinely intends to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK;
- Turnover or profit – there is no strict amount of turnover or profit, the parent company has to be genuine and trading;
- The centre of the operations must remain overseas – the setting up of the UK branch must not result in the parent company ceasing its business operations overseas;
- If the parent company has a branch or subsidiary in the UK, it should not be active and should not employ any staff.
Conditions of Stay
If you hold a Representative of an Overseas Business visa you must not intend to undertake employment for any other businesses or engage in your own business. You will also not be allowed to claim public funds.
Dependants of Sole Representatives
You are allowed to bring your partner and any children under the age of 18 to the UK. Your partner cannot own more than 50% of the shares in the overseas business.
Extension of Stay
Your initial Sole Representative visa will be valid for a period not exceeding 3 years. You can then submit an application for leave to remain, which would be valid for 2 years.
When preparing your application for leave to remain, you must demonstrate that the UK company has been set up and trading. The parent company's headquarters and principal place of business must continue to be outside the UK. You will need to continue to be working for the same employer and in full time employment. It is also vital that you are being paid by your employer.
Indefinite Leave to Remain
You may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after residing continuously in the UK for five years. The UK company must continue to be trading and the parent company's headquarters must remain outside the UK. You will need to continue to receive the appropriate salary from your employer. The English language and Knowledge of life in the UK requirements will also have to be met. You will have to demonstrate that you have not been outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period.
Which Visa Categories Are Not Allowed to Switch Into the Sole Representative Route?
If you are in the UK on the following visas, you will not be able to switch into the Sole Representative route from within the UK (unless a coronavirus exception applies):
- Short-term Student;
- Parent of a Child Student;
- Seasonal Worker;
- Domestic Worker in a Private Household; or
- Outside the Immigration Rules.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.