Sole Representative visa route has now been closed for new applicants. Only Sole Representative visa extension applications and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR’s) of the existing visa holders are allowed.
Sole representative visa is a popular option for overseas businesses planning to establish first presence in the UK.
- The Sole Representative visa allows overseas businesses to send one senior employee to the UK to establish the firm’s first commercial presence.
- If the overseas business already has an active branch or subsidiary in the UK the Sole Representative visa is normally not a suitable immigration route. The Sponsorship Licence is the correct immigration option for the already active UK company.
- Spouse and children under 18 can join the Sole Representative as dependant family members. They can apply at the same time or separately from the Sole Representative applicant. The Dependant spouse can work in the UK in any job and the children can attend school.
- The Sole Representative visa leads to settlement in the UK after 5 years residence in the UK. The dependant family members can also qualify for settlement and should apply at the same time as the Sole Representative.
- The dependant family members do not need to be in the UK for 5 years in order to apply for settlement. They can join the Sole Representative later and still apply for ILR at the same time as the Sole Representative.
Under the current immigration rules the Sole Representative visa is usually not a suitable option for family owned overseas companies that wish to send one of their senior employee who is also a family member and shareholder to the UK.
- To qualify for the Sole Representative visa, specific criteria must be met by both the overseas business and by the individual visa applicant.
The overseas business:
- already traded for at least 12 months,
- intend to establish its first wholly owned subsidiary or a branch in the UK,
- have no intention of moving its headquarters to the UK,
- has to 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,
- has to 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,
- must intend to work full-time for the overseas business that is sending them to the UK and not intend to take any other employment,
- is not be a majority shareholder in the overseas business (This needs to be closely examined before making the application. The Home Office takes a broad view on this point and checks if the applicant has overall control over the overseas business. The overall control disqualifies from applying for the visa.)
- must have full authority to take operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business for the purpose of representing it in the UK,
- has to provide evidence that they can maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants (spouse and children) adequately whilst in the UK,
- has to meet the required standard in English language (CEFR A1 – speaking and listening),
- *Family members who are majority shareholders in the overseas business will not be able to apply with the Sole Representative as dependants.
Information about the Representative of an Overseas Business visa can be found on the Home Office website.
Sole Representative visa extension
The initial Sole Representative visa is granted for 3 years and it can be extended for a further 2 years. Dependant spouse 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 as a branch or a wholly owned subsidiary,
- 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, the Sole Representative visa holder may qualify for Settlement/Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK and subsequently for British citizenship. Dependant spouse and children can also apply for Settlement in line with the Sole Representative and then for British citizenship. The Dependants do not require 5 years residence before applying for their ILR.
To qualify for ILR the 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 (Pass the Life in the UK Test and provide the specified evidence of English language);
- 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.
British citizenship – requirements
To qualify for British citizenship the applicant must normally already hold an ILR for at least 1 year, must not have been absent from the UK for more than 450 days during the 5 years preceding the application (out of the 450 days in total, in the final year the permitted absence is no more than 90 days) and must be of good character.