What is the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa?
You may also see this visa referred to as a Representative of an Overseas Business Visa or a Sole Representative Visa. You will only be able to apply for this visa if you are from a country outside Switzerland or the EU/EEA.
The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa is a longer-term visa forthe sole representative of an overseas business planning to set up either a UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary.
An overseas company can choose one employee to come to the UK and they will be allowed an initial stay of up to three years to conduct this business.
The Sole Representative Visa has many benefits, but also very strict eligibility requirements, along with restrictions on the representative and what they are allowed to do while in the UK.
How we can help you
We offer the highest quality service so you can be confident that we will handle your application with the utmost care and attention and will obtain the successful outcome you desire.
Our Client Liaison Team are approachable, friendly and will be able to make your options clear and understandable.
If you are unsure whether you qualify for the Overseas Sole Representative Visa then simply complete the enquiry form or call our specialists on 0330 3800 599 for a free assessment.
With many business visas, you are not allowed to work during your stay in the UK, but with the sole representative visa, you are getting a visa that allows you to work full time for your overseas company in the UK, with costs paid for by the business.
You are allowed to establish a registered UK branch of your company or a fully owned subsidiary of it, and run it on this visa.
You are also allowed to study while you are in the UK, with no limit on the number of hours you study as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work. The following countries do not need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate to study, but if you are not from one of these areas or countries, you will need to apply for one:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- Any EU countries are members of the European Economic Area (EEA).
There may also be other requirements for an ATAS certificate, including the subject you are studying and what level. It can be difficult to work out what you need in order to study during your stay in the UK, but Optimus Law are specialists in immigration and would be happy to help with this.
You can also bring your family with you on this visa, including your partner and any children under 18, which saves you from needing to apply for individual visas for them and to go through the expense and the difficulties that can be involved in applying.
With this visa, you can apply to extend it for a further two years and, after you’ve lived in the UK for five years, you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
For businesses, an obvious benefit is that they can send just one person to test the market and look into setting up their branch or subsidiary, without having to send in a whole team at greater expense.
A Sole Representative visa is for successful companies who have registered abroad and are currently trading, who want to set up a subsidiary or branch of their business in the UK. The company cannot have been set up just to apply for this visa. The move must be for expansion only and not for relocation, and the company will need to provide a business plan to show that this is the case.
Your business headquarters and main place of business must be, and remain, outside the UK and you cannot already have a representative, branch or subsidiary in the UK. You must also be intending to run the same type of business in the UK.
Your company will need to detail the full current ownership of the company and ownership information for the previous year.
The company can choose one representative to set up and run the new branch or subsidiary and this person is the one who should apply for the visa.
To be eligible for this visa, you must be an overseas national who is employed outside the UK by the overseas company planning to set up a UK branch or subsidiary. You must be at a senior level and have the experience, knowledge, skills and authority to successfully run the new branch or subsidiary and make decisions on behalf of the overseas company.
You cannot be the owner of the company, and you cannot own more than 50% of the company’s shares. The majority shareholders or owners cannot send their partner as a sole representative and then come to the UK with them on the Sole Representative visa as a family member.
You must intend to work full time for your overseas company, with no other work outside this, and the intent behind your application must be genuinely to set up another branch or subsidiary, and not simply to try to remain in the UK.
Journalists and employees of broadcasting companies or news agencies can also apply for this visa if they are sent by their company to take up a long-term assignment in the UK.
For the company:
- The overseas company must genuinely intend to open up a new branch or subsidiary in the UK.
- The company should be planning to keep their current centre of operations abroad, and not to close operations abroad and relocate to the UK.
- The company must be a genuine business that is currently trading outside the UK.
- The company cannot already have a representative in the UK, or an existing branch or subsidiary.
- The new branch or subsidiary must be the same type of business as your existing overseas business.
- The company cannot have been set up just so that someone can apply for the Sole Representative Visa and aim to remain in the UK.
- The company must provide a full business plan to show that they genuinely intend to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK that continues the same business that they have abroad.
- The company must also provide proof of current ownership and proof of the previous year’s company ownership to prove that their visa application is not an owner or a major shareholder.
For the individual:
- You must be an overseas national and an employee of the overseas company that intends to set up a new UK branch or subsidiary.
- You must work at a senior level and have the full skills, knowledge and experience needed for the role. You will need to show that your salary and benefits match your senior position.
- You must be able to make business decisions on behalf of the company and perform all tasks needed to set up the branch or subsidiary in the UK.
- Your intention must only be to work on the company’s behalf, setting up their UK branch or subsidiary, and you cannot apply for this visa just to get leave to remain in the UK.
- You must be able to speak English to the A1 standard of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework for Language Learning. From the UK government’s website, you may be able to prove this without a test, if you have “having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD.”
- If your company is already working on setting up a new branch or subsidiary in the UK, but it has not yet been set up, you can replace a previous representative of your company.
- You must intend to work full time only for your overseas employer, with no other work.
- You can show that you have the funds to support yourself when living and working in the UK, including travel, food, accommodation, and other expenses. This must also be the case if you are bringing your family with you.
- You cannot apply if you have ever breached immigration law, or if you have any criminal convictions.
- You, and any family members that will be travelling with you, must be healthy.
- You may also need to provide a test for tuberculosis.
You will need to provide your passport, which must have a blank page available for the visa. You will also need to provide travel documents.
You will need evidence to prove that you have the funds to support yourself and your family. This can be payslips or bank statements covering the last six months.
You will need to give your address and contact details for where you will be staying in the UK.
You must provide evidence that you can speak English to level A1 or better of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework for Language Learning.
If you are from a country that requires it, you will need to show the results of a tuberculosis test.
You must be able to show that you have worked abroad for over 12 months.
Your company must provide you with a full business plan showing why they are setting up a branch or subsidiary and what the company aims are.
You must be able to show that you are employed directly by your overseas company and that you were not recruited from the UK. Your company contract of employment should cover this. You must also be able to prove that you work at a senior level and have the experience and knowledge to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK and that you can make high-level decisions on behalf of your company. You will need a letter from your company stating that they do intend to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK.
You will need to prove that you only intend to work for your company and not to take any outside work and that you are not a major shareholder.
You will also need to provide a detailed description of what your company does, including accounts showing assets and liabilities.
Any documents that are not in English or Welsh must come with a certified translation.
For media representatives applying for this visa, you will need a letter from your company stating that you will be coming to the UK to represent them on a full time, long-term assignment.
You will also need a document describing your company, including accounts and assets.
You can stay for three years initially on this visa. If you would then like to stay in the UK for longer and, if successful during your time in the UK, you will be able to apply to extend your visa for a further two years.
The current fee is £610 per person and you may be charged extra to take biometrics.
You will also pay immigration health surcharge fees which will cost $624 per person each year for adults, or £470 every year for each child under 18 years old.
How long does it take to get a decision for a Sole Representative visa application?
You can apply for your visa three months before you are due to travel.
Applications generally take around 4 – 6 weeks, but it is always advisable to apply as soon as possible, just in case your application takes longer.
Some countries also have a premium service for an extra fee, which can get you your visa in only 5 working days. Again, check this before you rely on it as not every country has this option available.
Yes, it is. You can apply to extend your visa for up to two years, as long as you meet certain criteria. It can take around 8 weeks to process your application, so make sure to apply in plenty of time.
Firstly, you must apply from the UK. You can’t apply from overseas.
You must still be working for the same employer and you must have set up your company’s branch or subsidiary and be supervising this activity.
You must be able to show that you are receiving a salary from your employer and that your efforts have generated business for your company during your initial stay.
Your company must still be based overseas, with its main area of operations outside the UK.
Current costs on the UK government website are £704 per person applying to extend their visa, plus the healthcare surcharge at the time of application, and currently, it is £19.20 to get your biometric information taken.
Be aware that you mustn’t travel outside of the UK until you receive your extension decision, or your application will be withdrawn.
Getting a Sole Representative Visa can be a time consuming and complicated process. It is not easy to do it yourself and it is possible that your application may be refused, either for the initial visa or for an extension.
If this happens, you can ask for what’s known as an Administrative Review, and if this is not successful, you can apply for a Judicial Review.
If your application as a Sole Representative has been refused and the decision is unlawful, unreasonable or procedurally improper, our immigration lawyers can appeal and arrange for leading barristers to represent you at your hearing.
We shall ensure we project manage the application from start to finish to secure the visa for you:
- Direct access to an immigration lawyer
- Advice on eligibility & evidence in support
- A detailed consultation for any proposed application
- A thorough assessment of the business aims and objectives.
- A dedicated caseworker to advise and assist with your application
- Assistance completing your application & collating documentation
- Application form & document check
- Legal advice & steps taken confirmed in writing
- Full discretion & client confidentiality
Yes. One of the largest benefits of this visa is that you can bring your family members with you. You can bring your partner or spouse and any children under the age of 18.
Your family members will have to pay the same application fees to accompany you and must also have a visa.
If you have more children while you are staying in the UK, you can apply to add them to your visa as a dependent. You can apply to do this online and will need to provide a full birth certificate that shows both parents’ names. This is necessary if you want to be able to travel from and to the UK with your children.
Note that it is not possible to bring any family members who either own the overseas company that you work for or own over 50% of the shares.
Yes, after five years, you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
With ILR, you cannot stay outside of the UK for longer than twenty-four continuous months. If you are absent for longer and your immigration officer notices that on your return, you would then lose your indefinite leave to remain.
To apply for ILR, you will need to meet the same criteria that you would for a visa extension, which are that you are still working for the same employer on the company’s new UK subsidiary or branch and you are receiving a salary from your employer. You will have to show that your company has been generating business in the UK and that your business is still based overseas, with no plans to relocate to the UK.
You will also need to show that you have been a resident of the UK for a continuous five-year period.
To apply, you must not have left the UK for more than 180 days in each year of the five years you need to apply.
Yes. After five years you can apply for settlement in the UK.
To apply, everything is the same as for indefinite leave to remain, as listed above.
The only difference with the settlement is that you are allowed to be away from the UK for up to five years without it affecting your right to stay.
This can be ideal if you often need to travel back and forth on business for your overseas company.
After you have been in the UK for six years, you can also apply for full British citizenship, as long as you still remain eligible and have no criminal convictions.
To apply, you cannot be absent from the UK during the five years before your application, for more than 450 days in total.
Your sole representative application can be a complicated process that may be best handled by a qualified and experienced immigration lawyer. If you need any help with your application, please get in touch with Optimus Law. Our expert team is happy to help answer any questions you may have.
To apply for your Sole Representative Visa, you must read the Representative of an Overseas Business guidance from the UK government. You can find this here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/942821/reps-overseas-business-v19.0ext.pdf.
This document talks you through all aspects of eligibility and what you need to apply and also gives you an insight into what immigration officials are looking for and why they might refuse an application.
If you are applying from overseas, you will need to apply online for your visa. You can apply from three months before your travel date, and it is advised to apply early to give yourself and your company plenty of time. You will also need to have your photograph taken, and your fingerprints, which are your biometric data. This should be done at a visa application centre.
Your application can take around 4 – 6 weeks, but you may be able to pay more for a premium service that will get your application done in 5 working days. This service is not available in every country, so please check that you can do this before you rely on it.
There is a long list of documents needed to apply for this visa, and both you and your company will need to provide information.
You must check your eligibility criteria before you apply, for both yourself and your company. This includes making sure that your company is based overseas and has no intention of using your visit to relocate to the UK. Your company must also be genuinely trading and cannot have been set up just to acquire a sole representative visa for you.
On your part, you must be a senior employee of the company with the capabilities, knowledge and experience to be able to set up a new UK branch or subsidiary for your employer. You cannot be a major shareholder or owner of the company to do this.
You can find more details on eligibility criteria in our answers above, where we also cover the benefits of applying for this type of visa.
- Your passport, with two new passport photos, and travel documents.
- The details of where you will be staying in the UK.
- Proof that you can support yourself and your family while you are here in the UK.
- Evidence that you can speak English to CEFR level A1 or better.
- Proof, such as your contract of employment, that you are a senior employee, directly employed by your company, with the right background to succeed in setting up a new UK branch or subsidiary.
Your company must also provide a business plan showing the company’s aims and reasons for creating a new branch in the UK and a letter stating that they are genuinely going to set up a new branch or subsidiary and that you are coming to the UK solely to represent them. They must also produce a document with a full description of the company, including what it does, its assets and a copy of its accounts.
For media representatives applying for the Sole Representative Visa, you will need to show a document that describes your company, including their accounts. You will also need a confirmation letter from your company that you are here in the UK to represent them on a long-term assignment.
You can find a full list of required documents in the Representative of an Overseas Business Visa guide, from the UK government: https://www.gov.uk/representative-overseas-business/documents-you-must-provide.
Once your company’s new branch or subsidiary has been established in the UK, you will have one month to contact Companies House and register the business. To bring in any other representatives or employees, your UK branch will need to apply for a sponsorship license and then your employees can apply to come to the UK and work for you by using the UK points system.
Applying for your Sole Representative Visa can take up a lot of time and effort while you are already busy with planning to move to another country and set up a new business, either one of which can be stressful on its own. At Optimus Law, we pride ourselves on our expertise and knowledge in the field of immigration and if you would rather let the professional help, you with your application, please contact our professional team today.
There is no investment required for the Overseas Sole Representative Visa which makes it a popular route for businesses and entrepreneurs wishing to enter the UK market.
The overseas representative visa lasts for three years and can be extended after this for a further two years. After the holder has been in the UK for a total period of five years, they can then apply for permission to settle permanently in the United Kingdom.
In order to make a successful visa extension after 3 years, the applicant must continue to be employed as a senior employee by the company he or she is representing in the UK. The company must show the applicant is still required to be in the UK as part of their expansion plan. The applicant will need to show evidence of financial transactions for the subsidiary in the UK.
Yes, any dependents for the main applicant can enter and settle under the Overseas Sole Representative Visa category. Dependents are able to work and study whilst in the UK.
Applicants who have spent a continuous period of 5 years in the UK as a overseas sole representative will need to show they have remained employed for the whole 5 years. Documents such as P60 and payslips will be sufficient for this. Once the applicant has obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain for 1 year it is possible to apply for naturalisation. The requirements for the applicant to be able to apply for naturalisation are:
Not breached any immigration laws and is of good character.
Not spent more than 450 days outside of the UK
Has passed the English Language Test and Life in the UK Test-
Some of our clients who have already obtained a Sole Representative Visa in the following areas
- IT Companies
- Medical & Blockchain
- Charitable Organisations
- Financial Services
- Logistics Companies
- Investment Services
Our business immigration team has extensive experience assisting with the Overseas Sole Representative Visa to help businesses expand into the UK, our lawyers are experts in the immigration rules and will guide you based on your circumstances.
We are exceedingly determined team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration guidance.
We carry out a comprehensive service which will include completing your application, booking your biometric appointment, checking your documents and submitting the reports to the Home Office on your behalf. In addition to this, we will be drafting legal representations to the Home Office arguing how your application meets the Immigration Rules. We will be your first point of contact with the Home Office.
As the company will need to show how they intend to operate their business whilst setting up the new subsidiary in the UK, it may be helpful to include a detailed business plan.
We can assist you with creating and reviewing a business plan that will highlight the businesses key strengths and weaknesses. We will also help you with the Company Registration, Bank Account and any dependent visas as part of the Sole Representative Visa service.
We always seek to build and maintain a professional relationship with our clients, handling all their long-term immigration matters.
Once your presence in the UK has been established and your representative has obtained the Sole Representative Visa, we can advise you on how to recruit employees from overseas. It may be advisable applying for a Sponsor License if you wish to recruit workers from outside the EEA.
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