We recently had the pleasure of working with a film distribution company from the United States. They wanted to set up a branch in the UK, from which they can engage with the UK and European market. They had identified a member of staff who would move to the UK to represent the company. They needed our help to assist them through the process of applying for a Representative of an Overseas Business visa.
Sole Representative Guidance | Main Requirements
Belonging to part of the rules which predates the UK points-based system, the sole rep visa for the UK allows a company to send a senior member of their team to the UK to set up a commercial presence such as a registered branch or UK subsidiary, to operate in the same type of business activity as the overseas headquartered business.
The visa can also be used for overseas media employees, employed by an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation to be posted and based in the UK under long-term assignment. This includes journalists, front-of camera personnel, producers and news camera operators.
The visa enables an employee to come to the UK, set up the business or to be based in the country on long-term assignment. It is initially granted for 3 years and can be renewed for a further 2 years, totalling 5 years overall. Following completion of 5 years of residence in the UK, the sole rep can apply to settle in the UK. Sole representatives can also bring their family: a partner and their children.
Once in the UK, the sole rep would set up the business. If the company wishes to grow the branch and transfer additional employees, it can do so but would need to set up and operate a Tier 2 licence - something we can also assist with.
Beyond a brief, overview document which sets out the main requirements for the sole representative visa, detailed and prescriptive information is hard to find.
In order to be eligible to apply, the proposed sole rep must:
• be recruited and employed outside the UK by the same employer they intend to represent in the UK,
• intend to work full-time for the organisation and not take any other employment,
• intend to be the sole representative in the UK, to establish and operate a registered branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of that overseas business in the UK,
• operate in the same type of business activity as the overseas business,
• be a senior employee of the company and must not be a majority shareholder,
• have full authority to take operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business,
• be able to maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants adequately without recourse to public funds,
• meet the required standard in English language.
The employer must :
• retain its headquarters and principal place of business outside the UK,
• have no active branch, subsidiary or other representative already in the UK.
How to Apply | Sole Rep
As with all applications, evidence is everything! In preparing for the application, it is important be sure that each of the requirements are evidenced and substantiated in the documents provided.
The general evidence requirements are:
• full description of the company’s activities, including full company accounts for the most recently completed financial year,
• a business plan for the UK branch,
• a notarised statement from a senior or CEO level confirming a range of specific details about the intention to set up a branch in the UK,
• full job description, salary and contract of employment for the sole rep and details of their track record in the area of work,
• evidence which confirms the sole rep is fully familiar with the company’s activities and they have full authority to negotiate and take operational decisions.
• evidence that the sole representative will be able to maintain and accommodate themselves while in the UK.
Any documents which are not in English or bilingual to English should be professionally translated.
How we can help
In our most recent successful case of Representative of an Overseas Business, we worked with the company and their employee to:
• draft the online application taking into account all relevant details of the sole rep,
• provided a detailed and specific document checklist for all the evidence required,
• provided guidance on the difference between a branch and a wholly-owned subsidiary,
• carefully verified all the documents provided to ensure they met the rules,
• provided a template statement for notarisation based on the company's circumstances,
• assisted the employee to submit the visa application, including negotiating an earlier biometrics appointment and uploading documentation to the UK visa application service portal,
• provided a letter of legal representation outlining how the company and individual met all the requirements in the immigration rules,
• provided onward guidance on meeting the requirements for sole rep, to ensure a smooth extension process in 3 years time.
Throughout the process, we were available by phone, whatsapp and email to the employee as they navigated the visa application process. We were delighted when the visa was issued within 48 hours of applying: testament to a clear, concise but comprehensive visa application having been submitted.
Get in touch today
If you wish to discuss your company or organisation's options for setting up a presence in the United Kingdom, please contact us for an initial discussion.!
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Euan - Editor
It's often interesting how frequently patterns and themes emerge in the enquiries we receive at any given time.
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