Sole representative of an overseas business visa

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Sole representative of an overseas business is a route which has been closed to new entrants. It has been replaced by the Expansion Worker route under the Global Business Mobility scheme which allows overseas firms to send a representative to the UK in order to set up and operate a branch or a wholly owned subsidiary of their company.

Holders of the Sole Representative visa can still apply for extension of stay and indefinite leave to remain after five years of residence in this category.


Initial requirements for sole representative visa

  • The representative or “sole representative” of an overseas business has to be recruited and employed outside the UK by the business seeking to establish its presence in the UK.
  • The sole representative has to be a senior employee with authority to take operational decisions on behalf of the business in the UK.
  • The sole representative has to be engaged in the UK on a full time basis and should have sufficient funds not to be a burden on the state in the UK.
  • Knowledge of English is required at A1 level (speaking and listening).
  • The sole representative cannot own or control more than 50% of the business or be effectively the majority owner, controller or main beneficiary of the business.

Requirements to the employer:

  • The employer should be an active and trading business which intends to retain its headquarters and principal place of business outside the UK;
  • Should have no active branch, subsidiary or other representative in the UK. 

Factors to be taken into account in the assessment of the business

  • Turnover – this will reflect if the business is actively trading
  • The overseas business should be providing the same or similar services or offer the same or similar products to those intended for the UK market
  • The number of employees – this will reflect on the intention to keep the principal place of business outside the UK
  • Finances and market share in its country of operation and the plan for expansion in the UK.  This will be taken into account in assessing whether there is a genuine intention to set up a UK branch
  • The application will be refused if the overseas business was established solely for the purpose of facilitating the entry and stay of the representative. 

Activities permitted in the UK BEFORE seconding a representative

If the company already has a business presence in the UK, they won’t be permitted to send a sole representative. It is therefore advisable to check carefully what a business can do and cannot do.

You are permitted to trade with the UK from overseas using brokers, distributors or intermediaries. Sales on commission basis is allowed, but the business should not have any employees in the UK.

You are permitted to register a branch or a subsidiary before seconding a representative provided there have been no business transactions. 

You may also open a bank account and set up the premises for the business. However, the UK based branch should not start trading before secondment of their sole representative.

Representatives who are part owners or controllers of the business

The representative of the overseas business may be part owner of the business as long as they do not effectively own or control a majority of the business. 

The shareholding or ownership structure is normally required with the application to prove the ownership of the business. Where the representative owns a considerable share but less than 50% a more detailed explanation may be required.

If the business is owned or controlled by the partner of the proposed representative, the owner is not allowed to join the representative in the UK as a dependant.

What the employment contract should include

  • Regular hours and confirmation that this is full time employment; 
  • Salary package;
  • Entitlement to holidays, sick pay, maternity or paternity leave;
  • Redundancy procedures. 

Evidence required in support of the sole representative visa application

You would normally be required to provide the following documents: 

  • Company registration documents, and evidence of the ownership structure
  • Evidence of the business activities, the company turnover and the number of employee;
  • Description of the business and business plan for UK operations;
  • Employment contract of the proposed representative;
  • Job description of the representative to be seconded in the UK;
  • Payslips as evidence of the employee’s current salary;
  • Evidence of the salary to be paid to them in the UK;
  • If the representative was hired for the purpose of setting up the UK branch, evidence of previous experience of setting up branches of multinational businesses;
  • Notarised statement of the employer confirming that 
    the applicant will be their sole representative in the UK and
    • the business has no other branch, subsidiary or representative in the UK;
    • the operations will remain centred overseas;
    • the applicant will not engage in a business of their own or seek other employment in the UK.
  • Evidence of meeting the English language requirement;
  • TB test certificate where required.

Extension of leave to remain as the representative of an overseas business

When the time comes to apply for extension of your leave to remain, you will need to demonstrate the following: 

  • The overseas business has established a branch or a fully owned subsidiary in the UK; 
  • The UK business is trading;
  • The nature of the UK business is the same as that of the parent company;
  • The parent company continues to operate outside the UK and its main operations are outside the UK;
  • The representative has to be employed by the overseas parent company, not the UK business;
  • The representative’s salary is in accordance with the employment contract and complies with the UK legislation in relation to holiday entitlement, minimum pay, sick pay, etc.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, you can switch into sole representative route in the UK provided your previous visa was not as a visitor, a short-term student, as a parent of a child at school, as a domestic worker, or granted outside the immigration rules.

Yes, as long as the salary element is enough to support the employee and their dependent family members in the UK without recourse to public funds.

Yes, they can bring their spouse or unmarried partner and children who are under the age of 18 at the time of the initial application for entry clearance.

Yes, the representative of an overseas business and their dependants are allowed to study. There is no limit on the number of study hours as long as it doesn’t interfere with their job.

No, sole representative visa only allows to work for the business that seconded the representative. No additional employment or free lance activity is permitted.

It is not possible to have the representative visa for two employees. One has to come first and set up the UK branch of the business. The business can then apply for the sponsorship licence and sponsor other employees if necessary.

The business can employ other staff within the UK without a sponsor licence if the candidates have an independent permission to work in the UK.

The initial entry clearance is granted for three years. After that, extension of leave is granted for another two years.

It is possible to apply for settlement in the UK after five years of residence in this category.

No, this is not allowed. The representative of an overseas business can only work for the overseas employer and is not allowed to engage in a business of their own or work in the UK for another employer. Dependants of the sole representatives are free to take any employment they like and can run a business of their own.


How immigration solicitors can help businesses establish presence in the UK

Legal representation

We make sure that all legal requirements for the sole representative visa are met so that it goes as smoothly as possible. We normally anticipate any additional questions that may be asked by the caseworker and this reduces the likelihood of an interview for our clients.

Our success rate in this type of application is 100% and we are intent on keeping it this way. 

Identify your needs

You may have already done all the background work and know exactly what your representative will be doing in the UK, who your clients or customers, who you will be competing against and what your strategy is going to be. In this case you will be able to provide a business plan for the UK branch, description of the parent business and description of the role of your representative. We will carefully check these documents and will guide you if anything else is required.

If you haven’t we are happy to help with any preliminaries. Depending on the nature of your business we may help you find the information your need or the best people to do the research for you. 

Help with registering a branch or subsidiary and UK payroll

A team of accountants will be at your service to ensure that you fully comply with the UK requirements regarding registration of a business, reporting to the Companies’ House and tax authorities and that your payroll is run as required. 

We are experts

and we are happy to help

Last updated on November 19, 2021

Last updated on November 19, 2021

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