Sole representation - representing an overseas company in the UK
From 11 April 2022 the Sole Representative visa route closed to new applicants for business
The Sole Representative immigration category allows an individual to come to the UK to set up a UK branch or subsidiary on behalf of an overseas company, where the overseas company does not already have a representative in the UK and will continue to have its principle place of business outside the UK. Applicants seeking to enter the UK in this capacity must first obtain entry clearance from a British diplomatic post overseas before travelling to the UK.
A. Applying for the initial Sole Representative Visa
The individual who will represent the company in the UK as the Sole Representative must be someone who is an existing senior employee of the overseas company. Someone can be recruited specifically for this role but they would have to be recruited overseas and have a track record of setting up branches for other companies.
The individual cannot be a majority shareholder in the overseas company but must be senior enough to have full authority to take operational decisions in respect of the UK operation without referral to the parent business.
In particular, the applicant is allowed to have no more than 50% of the shares of the parent company.
In this regard, there are the following restrictions about the 50% shareholding –
- Sole Representatives must also not be party to any other arrangement in relation to the overseas business whereby they are effectively the majority owner, controller, or the main beneficiary of that business, even though they may not actually own more than 50% of the business. For example, an applicant would be ineligible if a silent partner owns the majority of the overseas business but has agreed to give majority control and profits to the applicant.
- Where a Sole Representative owns or controls a stake in the overseas business, you must be satisfied that this does not amount to them owning or controlling a majority of that business. This principle applies whether that ownership or control is by shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship, or any other arrangement.
Sole Representatives of overseas companies are required to pass an approved English language test to the basic user standard (A1 of CEFR) or to have the equivalent of a UK bachelors degree that was taught in English.
The distinct advantage of this category is that the individual is not required to have any defined financial resources with which to establish the UK branch, as it is expected that the parent company would provide the necessary capital necessary. The personal financial consideration is that the individual must have adequate monies available to him or her to allow him or her to maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants without recourse to public funds.
A Sole Representative must not intend to take any other employment and must intend to work full-time in their role as a representative of the parent company. There is no requirement that a minimum amount of money must be earned or that the individual must have a minimum level of educational attainment.
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B. Applying for extension of the Sole Representative Visa
The initial visa is issued for 3 years. At the end of this period, the visa can be extended for another 2 years. When extending the visa, the applicant must prove the economic activity of the branch/representative office.
There are no requirements for the minimum turnover of the branch/representative office, but it will be necessary to prove that the branch/representative office is financially stable and has permanent commercial obligations.
C. Applying for permanent residence (ILR) under the Sole Representative Visa
At the end of the five-year period of residence in the UK on the Sole Representative visa, the applicant can apply for permanent residence (ILR - Indefinite Leave to Remain). When applying for an ILR, it will be necessary to prove the commercial activity of the branch/representative office in the UK for all 5 years.
Accounting reports, contracts, invoices, tax reports, etc. are usually used for this purpose. It will also be necessary to demonstrate that the parent foreign company continued to remain as such throughout the five-year period.
Necessary conditions for obtaining permanent residence (ILR)
- the applicant met the conditions of the immigration category 'Sole Representative Visa’ during all five years;
- the employer is still interested in this employee;
- the applicant has organized a stable branch/representative office of a foreign company;
- the applicant received a salary from the parent company for five years in accordance with the contract;
- the applicant will have to pass the Life in the UK test;
- The applicant will have to pass English language test at the B1 level.
D. What is allowed and prohibited on the Sole Representative Visa
On this visa, you are allowed to:
- work for your employer, full time
- bring your family (‘dependants’) with you to the UK – spouse and children below 18 years old
- apply to extend your visa
- apply to settle in the UK after you’ve been here for 5 years
On this visa, you are not allowed to:
- work for yourself or any other business
- stay in the UK if the sole representative arrangement is ended by your employer
- switch to this visa from any other visa category
- get public funds
E. Administrative Review (Entry clearance, extension and settlement applications)
If the entry clearance, extension or settlement application is refused by the ECO in the British Diplomatic post or by the Home Office, the applicant will be given a right to make a request for a review of the decision that must be exercised within 28 days of the date of service of the decision if application was submitted outside the UK or 14 days if application is made inside the UK. The applicant will only be able to rely on the information/documents already submitted with the application and will not be allowed to provide or submit any fresh evidence with the review request.
It is therefore strongly advised to take professional help while making grounds for making review request.
What services can we offer?
We can advise on the procedure, requirements and merits of making an application to the Home Office/British Diplomatic post.
We can advise and represent our clients in making representations in support of their immigration matters.
We can advise and represent our clients’ dependants to seek dependant visas in line with the visa of the main applicant.
We can make a request for an Administrative Review if the applicant`s entry clearance, extension or settlement application is refused.
We can advise in making applications for Indefinite Leave to Remain for those who have already completed their five years’ period in the UK.
Whatever the case, we are here to help, assist, advise and represent our clients in relation to any aspect of their immigration matters.