Overseas businesses that intend to establish their first commercial presence in the UK can send one senior employee to the UK on a Representative of an Overseas Business visa (‘Sole Representative visa’). The Sole Representative’s wife and children under 18 can come to the UK as dependant family members. To qualify for the visa, certain criteria must be met by both the overseas business and by the individual visa applicant.
The overseas business must:
- have already traded for at least 12 months,
- intend to establish its first subsidiary or a branch in the UK,
- have no intention of moving its headquarters to the UK,
- give the Sole Representative full authority to take operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business for the purpose of representing it in the UK,
- provide financial statements (accounts) of the overseas business and prepare a business plan for the UK expansion.
The individual chosen for the Sole Representative role must:
- be recruited and employed outside the UK by the overseas business they intend to represent in the UK,
- be a senior employee of the overseas business,
- intend to work full-time for the overseas business that is sending them to the UK and not intend to take any other employment,
- not be a majority shareholder in the overseas business,
- have full authority to take operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business for the purpose of representing it in the UK,
- provide evidence that they can maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants (wife and children) adequately whilst in the UK,
- meet the required standard in English language (CEFR A1 – speaking and listening).
Sole Representative visa extension
The initial Sole Representative visa is granted for 3 years and it can be extended for a further 2 years. Dependent wife and children can apply to extend their visas in line with the Sole Representative. To receive the Sole Representative visa extension:
- the UK business must be registered,
- the UK business must be actively trading (generating business),
- the company’s headquarters and principal place of business must remain overseas,
- the Sole Representative employee must still be required for their role and continue as the most senior employee in the UK with full authority to take operational decisions,
- the Sole Representative must be in receipt of a salary from their employer.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (‘Settlement’) and UK Citizenship
After 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK, a Sole Representative visa holder may qualify for Settlement/Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK and subsequently for UK citizenship. Dependent wife and children can also apply for Settlement in line with the Sole Representative and then for UK citizenship.
To qualify for ILR a Sole Representative visa holder must still continue to meet the requirements as set out above for the visa extension and in addition will also need to:
- have sufficient knowledge of English language and life in the UK;
- have a continuous period of five years’ residence in the UK;
- not have been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any of the five years prior to the date of application.
To qualify for UK citizenship you must normally already hold an ILR for at least 1 year, you must not have been absent from the UK for more than 450 days during the 5 years preceding your application (out of the 450 days, in the final year you can be absent for no more than 90 days) and you must be of good character.