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Sole Representative Visa - Representative of an Overseas Business visa

Sole Representative Visa is designed for companies wanting to expand their business abroad and set up in the United Kingdom. Overseas companies are permitted to send one representative to the UK to set up a branch or subsidiary office, including carrying out market research, registering the company in the UK and negotiating with suppliers and customers.

Although the nominated representative must have the authority to make day-to-day decisions in the UK, they cannot be a director or major shareholder in the company.

If you are a substantial trading company located outside the UK and have no current UK presence, you may be able to send a member of staff to the UK on a 'Sole Representative Visa'. The visa will permit them to set up the business in the UK and then the migrant can qualify for a settlement visa after 5 years.

You may be able to come to the UK under this immigration route if you are:

  • the sole representative of an overseas company, intending to set up a wholly owned subsidiary or register a UK branch for an overseas parent company; or 

  • an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation who is being posted on a long-term assignment as a representative of your overseas employer.

To find out whether you can come to the UK as a representative of overseas business, call ICS Legal on 0207 237 3388 or e-mail us your details on ICS Legal helps a number of organisations by setting up their migration program in the UK. Complete our contact form with as much information by clicking here.

Sole Representative Basic Requirements

To qualify for a Sole Representative visa, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Must have been recruited and taken on as an employee outside the UK as a representative of a company that has its main office outside of the UK without a branch, subsidiary or another representative in the UK;

  • Must be a senior employee with authority for decision making on behalf of the overseas company with respect to setting up the branch in the UK;

  • Must be employed full time as a representative of the overseas firm;

  • Must not be a majority shareholder in the overseas firm;

  • Must not take up any employment other than that relating to their work for the overseas firm;

  • Must be able to financially maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants without recourse to public funds; and

  • Must obtain entry clearance as a Sole Representative before entering the UK.

Sole Representative Visa Entitlements

Applicants applying for a Sole Representative visa can only work in the business for which the permission to enter the UK was originally sought. The visa is granted for three (3) years which can be extended for a further two (2)years. This category may lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain (IRL). ILR entitles individuals to permanent residency as well as visa-free travel to and from the UK. ILR holders may also be able to sponsor their non-British relatives into the UK and may also ultimately be eligible to apply for British citizenship.

Eligible dependents may also qualify to be included and upon obtaining the visa, they may also work without any restrictions.

How long it will take
You can apply for a visa up to 3 months before you travel to the UK. You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks. Check the guide processing times to find out how long getting a visa might take in your country.

A Representative of an Overseas Business visa costs £535. An employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation costs £535. You must pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. Check how much you need to pay before you apply.

How long you can stay
You can come to the UK for an initial period of 3 years. You may be able to extend your visa for another 2 years. After you’ve been in the UK for 5 years, you can apply for permission to settle permanently in the UK.

What you can and can’t do
You can:

  • work for your employer, full-time;

  • bring your family (‘dependants’) with you to the UK;

  • extend your visa multiple times;

  • apply to settle in the UK after you’ve been here for 5 years;

  • stay in the UK if your company’s circumstances change and you’ve been here for more than 2 years (eg if they appoint a superior in the UK).

You can’t:

  • work for yourself or any other business;

  • stay in the UK if the sole representative arrangement is ended by your employer;

  • switch to this visa from any other visa category;

  • get public funds.

Extend your visa
You can apply to extend your stay in the UK under a Representative of an Overseas Business visa. You should include any dependents who are on your current visa on your application to extend - including children who have turned 18 during your stay. You should apply before your current visa expires.

You must already have this visa as either:

  • a representative of an overseas business;

  • an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation.

You must also meet the following conditions:

  • you’re still working for the same employer as when you were issued your previous visa;

  • you’re still working to establish the company’s first presence in the UK;

  • your employer’s principal place of business is still outside the UK.

You must be in the UK to extend your visa. 

How long you can stay
A Representative of an Overseas Business visa can be extended for up to 2 years after the original visa duration of 3 years. Your visa can be extended for 3 years if your previous Representative of an Overseas Business visa was issued before 1 October 2009. You can apply to settle once you have been in the UK for 5 years and you have an ongoing job with the same company.

Biometric information
As part of your application, you’ll need to have your fingerprints and photograph (known as ‘biometric information’) taken at a Post Office. Find a Post Office that offers the enrolment service - choose ‘Home Office Biometric Enrolment’ from the drop down list.

How long it takes
A decision will be made within 8 weeks for online applications. You’ll be contacted if your application is complex and will take longer, eg:

  • if your supporting documents need to be verified;

  • if you need to attend an interview;

  • because of your personal circumstances (for example if you have a criminal conviction).

Once you’ve applied you can stay in the UK until you’ve been given a decision, as long as you applied before your last visa expired.

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