Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa update – June 2020

The Home Office has announced several changes to the Sole Representative visa category which came into effect on June 4th, 2020. This article discusses them for new applicants applying under this route.

What is the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa?

This is an immigration category visa for those who want to establish a branch of their business in the UK. Essentially this visa allows a senior employee of an overseas business, who is not a majority shareholder in the parent overseas business, to come to the UK to set up and run a UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of the overseas parent company and is only open to applicants from outside of the EU/EEA and Switzerland.

This visa route is suitable for those who cannot enter the UK under any other business category, such as Tier 1 entrepreneur (this route is now closed) or under the start-up or innovator categories, as these routes are difficult to succeed under, and there have to date been only a handful of successful applications under them. Furthermore, it is an alternative route to the Tier 1 investor, which requires an investment of £2million in a UK registered company. 

What changes have therefore come into effect as from June 4th, 2020?

In fact, just about all the “changes” that have been set out in the new immigration rules, are not new at all and have always existed since the inception of this category of visa over 40 years ago, and have been well recorded in the decided tribunal and higher court decision in the past and also in past immigration rules. What the new rules, therefore, seek to do, is to consolidate all the requirements in one set of rules, whereas before, much of the information could have been found by looking up several sources.   

These “consolidated “rules on sole representatives set out the following requirements:
  • The sole representative UK branch or subsidiary must have its headquarters and principal place of business outside the UK and must be an active trading company.
  • The applicant must work for the overseas company as its sole representative in the UK and cannot start their own business in the UK if granted this visa to represent the parent company here.
  • The applicant must meet the genuine eligibility criteria of this visa route; this is said to be a “new” test that has been introduced to crack down on applicants who have at times misused this visa route simply to gain a path to settlement in the UK. However, it has always been the case that the intention must be genuine and indeed when the time has come to extend the visa, the Home office has always required the applicant to show evidence of the business they have transacted for their parent company during the previous limited leave to remain under the route.
  • The parent company must be a genuine active and trading company, and not set up for the primary purpose of applying for a sole representative visa for the applicant with the primary aim of gaining settlement in the UK.
  • There must be evidence that the individual making this application has the relevant skills, experience and knowledge of the business in question. Again, this is not a new requirement, as entry clearance officers have in the past questioned the skills and knowledge of the applicant in the overseas interview for the visa.
  • The applicant must not have a majority stake in or ‘’otherwise own or control’’ the overseas parent company. This can be determined under the immigration rules through the distribution of shares, a partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement that an applicant may have. The applicant should, however, be a senior employee of the overseas parent company and can be a minority shareholder.
  • The parent company must provide all the details of current ownership and also ownership of the company for the preceding year. This is to ensure that the company and its activities are both genuine.
  • An individual majority shareholder cannot get their partner to apply as the primary visa applicant and then accompany them to the UK on a family visa route. 

Our team of expert business immigration solicitors London can advise you on your intended sole representative overseas business application route and can further clarify the documentary requirements that would need to be completed and submitted to the overseas diplomatic mission. 

Furthermore, the current Covid-19 pandemic has given the Home office discretion to consider certain applications that would otherwise have had to be made from abroad, to be made whilst the applicant in the UK, if there are good reasons why the application cannot be made from abroad.

Since this visa category came to form part of the immigration rules over 40 years ago, we have advised and assisted many individual applicants and businesses set up shop in the UK, and have handled many appeals (when the route was open to appeal which it is not now), administrative reviews and judicial reviews in the courts on this visa route.


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