Representative of an Overseas Business Visa (UK)

IMPORTANT: I would not recommend applying for this visa if you are, or were, the ‘owner-manager’ of your business. The rules have been tightened up recently to prevent people from effectively ‘sending themselves’ to the UK. This visa route is designed for companies sending senior employees.

There was a practice which become quite prevalent of applicants diluting their shares, transferring them to a business associate or even family member, in order to satisfy the rule on not having majority shares. This is definitely a bad idea. If you are the ‘owner-manager’ of your business, then there may be other visa options available (feel free to speak with me about them), but do not start ‘structuring’ your business to suit the rules, it won’t work. If you get a refusal for a sole representative visa, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to secure any other business visa for the UK.

Overview

This visa route is for employees of foreign businesses who, with the authority of their employer, are permitted to enter the UK as their “sole representative” for the purposes of establishing and managing a UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary of that foreign business. This route allows you to bring your dependents with you to the UK and has the possibility of leading to settlement and citizenship if you wish.

Eligibility

In order to meet the requirements for the sole representative visa you will need to:

1. be an employee in a business outside of the UK which currently (and will subsequent to your arrival in the UK) has its HQ and principal place of business outside the UK (Paragraph 144(i) Immigration Rules);
2. be a senior employee of that business (the business must not currently have an active or trading branch outside the UK) and intend to establish and operate a branch or wholly owned subsidiary of that business in the UK (Paragraph144(ii)(a) Immigration Rules);
3. prove that you have the skills, experience and knowledge of the business necessary to undertake the role in the UK and that you will have full authority to negotiate and take operational decision on behalf of the UK arm of the business (Paragraph 144(iii)(a);
4. prove that you are able to speak English to the required level (A1); and
5. be able to maintain and accommodate yourself and your dependents.

You will not be permitted to engage in any other business in the UK, you must work full time for the UK business (para 144(iii)(b). You must not have a majority stake in, other otherwise own or control, the overseas business (paragraph 144(iii)(c).

Own or control a stake in the overseas business” – To clarify, sole representatives cannot:

· own more than 50% of the shares;
· control more than 50% of the voting rights;
· be the self-employed owner of that business;
· be the sole-proprietor of that business; or
· be in a partnership agreement in which they own more than 50% of that business.

Additionally, if any of your dependents hold a “majority stake” as per the above, they will not be able to accompany the applicant (para 194(ix) Immigration Rules).

Documents You Will Need

Business Documents

· A full description of the overseas company’s activities, including details of the company’s assets and accounts and the company share distribution or ownership for the previous year;
· A letter which confirms the overseas company will establish a wholly-owned subsidiary or register a branch in the UK in the same business activity as the parent company;
· Job description, salary details and contract of employment for the applicant;
· A letter confirming the applicant has the relevant skills, experience, knowledge and authority; and
· A notarised statement which confirms the applicant will be their sole representative in the UK; the company has no other active branch, subsidiary or representative in the UK; its operations will remain centred overseas; and the applicant will not engage in business of their own nor represent any other company’s interest (Paragraph 144(iii)(d)); and
· An overseas business hierarchy chart and a business plan for the UK entity.

Personal Documents

· Current valid passport or other valid identity document;
· Your current CV and professional profile (optional, but recommended);
· Document(s) proving English language proficiency;
· Bank statements proving maintenance for yourself and your dependents (there is no set amount of maintenance);
· Details of where you will be staying (optional, but recommended);
· Evidence of relationship between you and any dependents applying i.e. birth certificate/marriage certificate etc. (if applicable)
· Tuberculosis screening test (if you are applying from a country where this is a requirement)

Can I bring my family members?

Under the Sole Representative Visa route, you are permitted to bring your spouse or civil partner and any dependent children under 18. Leave will be granted for the same length as the main applicant and partners and children may apply for settlement and naturalisation.

Application Process

STEP 1 – If your employer has not done so already, they should:

· open a UK bank account;
· identify premises for the UK office; and
· register a UK branch or incorporate a wholly owned subsidiary in UK.

N.B. Please note that no further steps towards establishing the UK business should be taken.

STEP 2 – Gather supporting documents from your overseas employer and your own personal documents and submit an application for you and your dependents online. The earliest you can submit your visa application is 3 months prior to your arrival in the UK.

STEP 3 – You will then need to book an appointment at your local British embassy or consulate to submit your original documents and biometric information. Once you have submitted your documents, the application processing period will be around 3 weeks.

STEP 4 – If your visa application is successful you will receive a visa vignette valid for 30 days and instructions for collecting your BRP. Once you have arrived in the UK you will need to attend the designated BRP collection centre within 10 days of arrival in the UK or before your letter expires (whichever is later). You will also need to register with the police (if required) within 7 days of arrival in the UK.

Pathway to citizenship

STAGE 1 – An initial grant of leave in this category will be up to 3 years. At least 3 months before the via period expires, you should apply for extension. In order to qualify for extension, you must continue to meet the requirements set out for entry clearance (above). You will also need to prove that you have been in receipt of your salary from the business from the last 12 months (and evidence of the constitution of the remuneration package) and provide evidence that you have generated business, principally with firms in the UK, on behalf of their employer since they were granted entry clearance (Paragraph 147 Immigration Rules). The extension will be granted for a period of 2 years (Paragraph 148 Immigration Rules).

STAGE 2 – After 5 years continuous residence you can apply for ILR. You must continue to meet the requirements for extension and additionally you must pass the English language test (B1) and the “Life in the UK test”. You must not have been absent from the UK for more than 180 days per year during any continuous 12 month period in the 5 years (Paragraph 150 Immigration Rules).

STAGE 3 – After 1 year with ILR status, you will be eligible to apply for British citizenship. In order to apply for British Citizenship you must not have been absent from the UK for more than 450 days in the preceding 5 year period and you must not be absent for more than 90 days in the preceding 12 months (Section 6(1), paragraph 2 (a) & (b) British Nationality Act 1981). You must also have passed the Knowledge of Life in the UK Test and have sufficient knowledge of the English language (Section 6(1), paragraph 1 (c) & (ca) British nationality Act 1981).

Visa Fees

Visa Application Fee: £610 per person
Immigration Health Surcharge: £624 per year per person
Priority Visa Service: £212 per person
Super Priority Visa Service: £956 per person

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