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Brexit Solutions and the Sole Representative Visa

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We have all heard of roadmaps in the UK as our way to navigate out of the COVID-19 pandemic but when it comes to Brexit it is equally important to have a plan in place to meet your business immigration law needs. That’s because with free movement for EU nationals ending on the 31 December 2020 many more international businesses are having to consider Brexit Immigration solutions. In this blog we look at the sole representative visa as one post Brexit Immigration option.

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London based OTS Solicitors are specialists in business immigration law. If your business needs advice on Brexit immigration solutions or the sole representative visa call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available by phone call or video call.

The sole representative visa option

Enquiries about Brexit solutions and the sole representative visa have risen, not only from overseas companies based in the EU but also those based in the Middle East, Pakistan, India and Armenia. That’s because the sole representative visa is seen as a flexible option for international businesses looking to gain a foothold in the UK, especially for those who see a financial or tactical advantage in doing so as the UK is no longer part of the EU.

Understanding the eligibility criteria for the sole representative visa is crucial as many entrepreneurs assume that they will meet the eligibility criteria for a sole representative visa because they want to set up business in the UK. They won't, unless they already have an established overseas business where their centre of operations will remain based, despite setting up a subsidiary or branch in the UK. If you are a new entrepreneur without an established overseas business then the option of the start-up visamay be best for you. If you are an experienced entrepreneur but you want to set up a new business in the UK, without an overseas parent company, then the innovator visa may be your best UK Immigration route.

Who can apply for a sole representative visa?

You can apply for a sole representative visa if you are:

  • The sole representative of an overseas business that wants to set up either a UK branch or a wholly owned subsidiary of the overseas parent company or
  • An employee of an overseas based newspaper, news agency or a broadcasting organisation and you are being posted on a long-term assignment to the UK.

The sole representative visa isn’t a back door route to getting a job with a UK employer as the sole representative visa allows you to work for the overseas business but doesn’t allow you to take up Employment with a UK employer. If you are looking to come to the UK for work purposes a skilled worker visa may be your best option. For a skilled worker visa, you will need a sponsoring UK employer to sponsor your visa. You also can't set up your own business whilst in the UK on a sole representative visa. If you want to do that then the start-up visa or the innovator visa may be your best option.

The sole representative eligibility criteria

When you drill down into the precise eligibility criteria for the sole representative visa, the sole representative must:

  • Be employed outside the UK by an active and trading business whose centre of operations or headquarters must be based outside the UK. The company must intend to remain principally based outside the UK as the sole representative visa can't be used a means to transfer the base of an overseas company to the UK
  • Have the experience and skills to carry out the role of a sole representative. In other words, the sole representative visa isn’t designed to let a relative come to the UK to do a job that they don’t have the qualifications or expertise to fulfil
  • Be employed in a senior position within the overseas business but the immigration rules say that the sole representative can't own or control the majority of the shares in the overseas parent company. In addition, the sole representative must have the authority of the overseas parent company to make decisions in the UK on the parent companies’ behalf
  • Plan to set up an overseas business’s first commercial presence in the UK as the registered branch or as a wholly owned subsidiary of the parent company
  • Meet the English language requirement and maintenance requirement.

The rules are different if you are a newspaper, news agency or broadcast employee as if you are an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation, you can come to the UK if you’re being posted to the UK on a long-term assignment.

How long does a sole representative visa last for?

Immigration solicitors get asked how long a sole representative visa will last for as no overseas business wants to go to the time or trouble of transferring an existing employee or recruiting a sole representative only to find that there is no continuity as the sole representative visa doesn’t last long enough for the representative to make any real progress in setting up the branch office or subsidiary.

A sole representative visa allows a sole representative to stay in the UK for an initial period of three years. An application can then be made to extend the sole representative visa for another two years. Once a sole representative has lived in the UK for five years then provided that they meet the continuous residence requirement they can apply to settle in the UK by securing indefinite leave to remain.

What paperwork is needed for a sole representative visa?

The paperwork needed for a sole representative visa are documents relevant to the individual and paperwork relevant to the overseas company.

The individual applicant needs to provide:

  • Their current passport or other valid travel identification and
  • Evidence that the maintenance requirement is met
  • Evidence that the English language requirement is met.

The company information required includes:

  • Details of the company business’s activities, including details of the company assets and accounts
  • A letter confirming the overseas business is setting up a wholly owned subsidiary of the overseas business or a branch in the UK and that the sole representative will have the authority to make decisions regarding the operation of the UK business
  • The job description of the sole representative together with their employment contract and salary details
  • Confirmation that the sole representative was recruited to the business outside of the UK and holds a senior position in the company and will be working full time for the business but doesn’t own or control a majority of the overseas business.

Next steps

Now, with all the concerns about the financial impact of COVID-19, may not seem the ideal time to branch out into setting up business in the UK but with Brexit the reality for many overseas companies is that there has never been a more opportune time to set up a subsidiary or a branch office of an overseas business in the UK. That way, an overseas company can either reap the advantages or Brexit or, depending on the nature of your business activities, use the sole representative visa and overseas UK branch, to minimise the financial impact of Brexit on the parent company.

UK online and London based business immigration and sole representative visa solicitors

London based OTS Solicitors specialise in business immigration law and sole representative visa applications. OTS Solicitors are recommended in the two leading law directories, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and Legal 500. For proactive expert advice on Brexit immigration solutions and all your business immigration law, employment law and corporate law needs contact OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.

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