The Overseas Business Representative Visa UK
What is the overseas business representative visa UK?
We have written many articles in the past on the sole representative visa but today it is one of our most popular services and we help many clients on a daily basis with the ins and outs of the particular UK business immigration visa application.
The sole representative of an overseas business visa has been around as an access route for many decades and allows foreign businesses a way to start a secondary office and operate within the borders of the UK.
If an application is approved, a foreign business can not only start a secondary office but also send a sole representative of the company to the UK to set it up and operate the UK branch or subsidiary.
Why is this a popular visa?
As the Tier 1 entrepreneur visa has closed for new applications, new visas such as the start-up, innovative and global talent visa have emerged under the UK’s current PBS (points-based system). However, these are complicated visas to secure, as applicants’ business plan’ must be endorsed by third party endorsers who may have their own agendas as a prelude to endorsing. Since the start of these visa routes in 2019/2020, only a hand full have to date have been issued and approved. Moreover, the Tier 1 investor visa is also not for most people, as it requires an investment of £2 million minimum. Accordingly, employers and their employees have gravitated towards the sole representative route as a way to not only start a branch of a business in the UK but also to gain eventual settlement here. This visa is not part of the UK’s PBS, so it is slightly different, but it has its own set of criteria that are knowing before you apply.
The new genuineness test
The UK government has now put in place a fairly new requirement of a genuineness test for your application. This new test was put in place because the immigration authorities have realised that the visa is open to abuse. If the Home Office considers that your visa application is not genuine, and has been made for an applicant to secure eventual residence in the UK, they will refuse it.
What is required to get this visa?
The applicant needs to be a senior employee in the parent company having worked there for a minimum of one year, and thus recruited from abroad. That person should not be the majority shareholder of the foreign enterprise, can be a minority shareholder, and cannot offload their majority shares on their spouse to come to the UK in effect to carry on a business on their own account, and not on behalf of the parent company. Such a dependent spouse who has been transferred shares in this way will not be able to obtain a dependency visa either. So it can be seen that the substratum of the foreign business must remain abroad.
As there is now a genuineness test which in our view is a subjective depending on how the immigration caseworker at the Home office in Sheffield views the application, it is totally crucial to have a proper business plan in place.
The business plan must include the reason for expansion of the parent company’s business into the UK, details of that parent company, and a business tree of the company’s personnel and the number of years it has traded abroad, (the more trading it has done the more reason there will be to hold the application as genuine), its profit and loss account; details of its shareholding, showing the applicant on the payroll of the company and the salary secured, the level of seniority, why it is considered that this particular person should be transferred to the UK, who will fill the position abroad, qualifications and skills acquired and required for the sole representation post; what qualities the individual has to show as to the ability to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary of the parent company or a registered office; Information that accordingly the sole representative will have control of the operational decision making process without interference from the parent company, and that there is no other representation of the parent company in the UK.
It will also be advisable to obtain a future forecast in terms of the profit and loss account of the sole representation business for the next say three years. This should take into account the nature of the business, the catchment area in the UK where the business will be located the type of clientele that the business will target, details of the premises where the business will operate from whether under a lease or licence, and confirmation that the business conducted in the UK will be the same as the foreign business.
There should also be a notarised statement made by the senior director of the parent company, setting out all matters touching and concerning the reasons why the particular individual proposed to be the parent company’s sole representative in the UK is the most appropriate individual taking into account all the circumstances.
A contract of employment between the employer and the sole representative, together with an up to date bank statement from the sole representative’s bank and recent payslips showing the representative has funds to look after self and family without being a charge on the public funds. Any documents in a foreign language should be translated into English by a qualified translator. Salary can be paid in the UK or abroad.
A letter signed by the senior director of the parent company, setting out why the UK is regarded as a good base for the parent company’s business operations.
A lease or licence of the proposed business premises in the UK, though it should be noted that it is not necessary for the sole representation to be conducted in this way, as the sole representative can conduct business from home using a particular part as business premises, with council evidence that this is so.
Details of the incorporation of the wholly-owned subsidiary of the parent company or the registered branch in the UK.
There may be the need for an appropriate English language test if the sole representative applicant does not have a degree taught in English or is not from a recognised English speaking country.
It should be noted that there can be only one sole representative. If the business improves requiring further personnel, these can be by way of a Tier 2 inter-company transfer to the UK business or by way of a tier 2 work permit. The sole representative can be replaced if the current one dies, or retires, and no doubt this will be dealt with in the employment contract.
If the application is refused, there is no appeal to the immigration Tribunal, but, there is an internal Administrative review procedure, followed by an application for permission to move for judicial review within three months of the review.
A successful application will secure a visa for a three year period and will enable the applicant to apply for a further two years after which an application can be made for settlement. In the application for a further two years leave, the sole representative will need to show reasonable business conducted in the UK on behalf of the parent company, with a top-up of the business plan to show developments that have been made in the business since the original grant of the visa.