The Representative of an Overseas Business visa, often referred to as the ‘Sole Representative’ visa, is a great way for an overseas company to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK. Associate solicitor Nick Gore looks at the main requirements to be met in an entry clearance application.
The Representative of an Overseas Business visa allows a senior employee of an overseas company to transfer to the UK in order to launch a branch or subsidiary. Permission to come to the UK (known as ‘leave’) is initially granted for up to three years and applicants can then apply to extend their stay for a further two years.
Once they have resided in the UK for five continuous years applicants can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘ILR’). This allows them to be free from immigration control.
When the applicant applies for entry clearance, they will need to provide supporting evidence and information about themselves, the overseas parent company, and the branch or subsidiary they intend to establish in the UK.
The person who will be the sole representative
The person who will be the organisation’s sole representative in the UK must have been recruited and employed outside the UK and must be a senior employee of the overseas company. Their seniority should be reflected in their title, salary and position in the hierarchy chart.
Their employment contract and further information about their role in the company should be provided as part of an application. They should also provide background information about themselves and their expertise in order to demonstrate that they have the skills and experience to establish the UK branch or subsidiary.
Sole representatives must, in general, also demonstrate that they:
- are not a majority shareholder in the overseas parent company (although they can hold shares);
- have full authority to take operational decisions and negotiate on behalf of the overseas parent company for the purpose of representing it in the UK;
- are fully familiar with the company’s activities;
- meet the required standard of English language
- have sufficient funds for themselves and any dependants joining them; and
- will be employed full time as a representative of the overseas parent company and not undertake any other work.
A letter and a notarised statement from the overseas parent company must be provided. This must contain specific information about the applicant and the company’s plans and it can also be used to help to demonstrate other important considerations, such as the shareholdings of the company.
The overseas parent company
The application evidence must clearly demonstrate that the overseas parent company is a genuine business and has the capacity to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK.
In general, the overseas parent company must demonstrate that:
- the applicant will be the sole representative present in the UK;
- the operations of the parent company will remain centred overseas;
- it intends to establish a registered branch or wholly owned subsidiary; and
- it has no other active branch, subsidiary or representative in the UK.
In some cases, an overseas parent company may already have taken some steps to establish the UK entity before the sole representative enters the UK. Certain basic steps are allowed, such as forming a limited company, identifying premises and opening a bank account, for example. However, if the UK entity is already active it is unlikely that an application will succeed.
The Home Office guidance to caseworkers provides some further explanation about how ‘active’ a branch can be. Providing that the branch exists only as a legal entity, for instance, or it has not yet transacted any business, and no staff have been employed, an application under this route may still be possible.
The overseas parent company must provide a full description of the company’s activities, including the details of the company’s assets, accounts and share distribution for the previous year. Ideally, the overseas parent company will be able to demonstrate it is well-established, has the financial resources to establish a branch or subsidiary, and has the capacity to run a global organisation.
The branch or subsidiary in the UK
The application must contain information regarding the plans for the business in the UK. This can take the form of a business plan (but this is not a mandatory document), contracts from prospective clients, letters of support from well-known UK organisations and government departments, or further documentation from the overseas parent company.
It should be clear from the application documents that the branch or subsidiary will be concerned with the same type of business activity as the parent company. Evidence should be provided showing how the UK entity will operate, such as whether it will be a branch or subsidiary, where it will operate from, etc. There should also be information about the role of the sole representative, including their salary in the UK and their new duties.
How we can help
We have assisted many businesses in gaining a sole representative visa for a senior employee who will be transferred to the UK. We are experienced in preparing successful applications spanning a range of industries and sectors.
If you need further information about the sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa, please contact us.