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Are you a sole representative of an overseas business intending to set up in the UK? Here is what you need to know. (15 February 2019)

Date: 15/02/2019
Duncan Lewis, Business Immigration Solicitors, Are you a sole representative of an overseas business intending to set up in the UK? Here is what you need to know.

If you are an overseas business from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland and you are planning to set up a branch in the UK, or a wholly owned subsidiary of an overseas parent company, you can apply to come and set up in the UK as a Representative of an Overseas Business under the Immigration Rules.

To qualify for the Representative of an Overseas Business visa you must:

  • Have relevant industry related knowledge and experience;

  • Be employed and recruited outside the UK by a company who is based outside the UK;

  • Not be a major shareholder, but must have full authority to make decisions and hold a senior position within the company;

  • Intend to establish the company’s first commercial presence in the UK; for example, as a registered branch, or wholly owned subsidiary;

  • Have sufficient money for support without assistance from public funds;

  • Apply from outside the EEA; and

  • Meet the English language requirement.

It may also be possible to apply if the company has a legal entity in the UK that does not employ staff or transact business, or if the company has been working to establish a UK branch or subsidiary, but it is not yet set up, making it possible for a previous sole representative to be replaced. Moreover, an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting company can come to the UK as a representative if they are being posted in the UK on a long-term assignment.

What you can and can’t do

Under the sole representative route you can work for your employer full-time but you cannot work for yourself or any other business. As a visa holder, you will be able to bring your family (dependents) to the UK and extend your visa on numerous occasions, and you can apply to settle after 5 years.

You would not be able to stay in the UK if the sole representative arrangement is ended by the employer and you would not be able to switch into this visa from any other visa or obtain public funds under this visa.

Timeline – when to apply

The earliest an application can be made is 3 months before travel (for example applying on 29th June if travelling 30th September). The decision regarding the visa application should be made within 3 weeks for applications outside the UK. It is possible to check the relevant guide available regarding processing times. The application holds a fee and the healthcare surcharge. A Representative of an Overseas Business can come to the UK for an initial period of 3 years and may be able to extend for another 2 years. After a period of 5 years a sole representative can apply to settle permanently in the UK.

Type of evidence/documents you need to apply:

  • A full description of the parent company’s activities, including details of assets and accounts;

  • A letter confirming the overseas company will establish a wholly-owned subsidiary or register a branch in the UK in the same business activity as the parent company;

  • Your job description, employment contract and salary details;

  • Evidence/letter to show you are directly employed by the parent company and are not acting as a sales agent;

  • Evidence you were recruited to the company outside of the UK and hold a senior position where you are able to make decisions and would have the authority to establish and operate a registered branch;

  • Evidence that you would be working full time for the company for the duration of stay and will not carry out any other work;

  • Evidence that you are not a majority shareholder in the company i.e. do not hold more than 50% of the shares in the business;

  • Your current passport or other valid travel identification;

  • Evidence that you can support yourself and any dependents, for example, bank statements or pay slips for the last 6 months;

  • Details and address of your residence;

  • Proof that the English language requirement is met;

  • Tuberculosis test results, if you are from a country where the test is required;

  • A certified translation of any documents that are not in English or Welsh.

It is highly likely additional documents will be needed pending the particular circumstances of each application.

Making the application and extending the visa

An applicant must apply online and will need to have fingerprints and photographs (known as ‘biometric information’) taken at a visa application centre as part of the application.

An applicant can extend their stay in the UK under this category and should include any dependants on the current visa on the extension application, including children who have turned 18 during the stay. An application should be made before the existing leave expires. The following are required to extend leave as a representative:

  • The applicant must still be working for the same employer as when the previous visa was issued;

  • The applicant must still be working to establish the company’s first presence in the UK;

  • The employer’s principal place of business must still be based outside the UK;

  • The applicant must be in the UK when making the application; and

  • The applicant must apply online.

Family members

As previously touched upon, it is possible for ‘dependants’ to come with the applicant to the UK on this visa. They must have a visa if they are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. A dependant for the purpose of this application constitutes a husband, wife or partner and child under 18 years of age. They must also apply online and will need to have their fingerprints and photograph (known as biometric information) taken at a visa application centre.

Any dependants can also apply to extend or switch their visas to stay with the main applicant if they are already in the UK and that application must be made online. It is highly recommended that dependant applications are made the same time as the main applicant.

It is important to note that family members cannot apply in the UK as dependants if they hold a visitor visa.

If an applicant has children whilst in the UK they can apply for permission for them to stay. This must be done if an applicant wants to travel in and out of the UK with the child. An applicant would need to provide a full UK birth certificate showing the names of both parents.

If you are an overseas business from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland and are planning to set up a UK branch, or wholly owned subsidiary of an overseas parent company, please contact author Ayan Yalchin, Director of Business Immigration, on +44 207 275 2011 or at ayany@duncanlewis.com. If you are a large multinational or small business looking to expand in the UK Ayan Yalchin can assist by providing specialist guidance through the complex Immigration rules and Home Office policies.

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