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Planning for a Sole Representative Visa

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The UK government has said that it wants to promote business in the UK and if you are an overseas company looking to ‘set up shop’ in the UK then the Sole Representative visa is an attractive option. You may think that overseas business would be cautious of starting a new venture in the UK with continued uncertainties over Brexit trade deals but the election results have seen a real upsurge in enquiries about the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

Sole Representative Solicitors

If you want to apply for a Sole Representative visa or need advice on your appeal options if you’ve had a Sole Representative visa application refused then call the Sole Representative solicitors at London OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

What is a Sole Representative visa?

The full title of the Sole Representative visa is the ‘Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa‘ is a bit wordy but, in essence, a Sole Representative visa is a means of enabling a non-EEA citizen to come to the UK to set up a branch office or a subsidiary company of an overseas parent company.

The difference between Sole Representative and Start-up visas

Some people think that a Start-up visa is the right option for them to set up business in the UK. However, if you have an established overseas based company and you are setting up a branch office or a subsidiary company the best route may be the Sole Representative visa. That is because the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa is designed especially for individuals employed by an overseas business who are being dispatched to the UK by their overseas employer with a view to the opening of a branch or a subsidiary of the same business in the UK.

Is the overseas company suitable for a Sole Representative visa?

The Sole Representative visa is issued to the individual applicant or employee of the overseas company but the overseas parent company has to meet the following criteria for the employee to be eligible to apply for a Sole Representative visa:

• The company must be based overseas
• The company must have its centre of operations outside the UK – in other words a Sole Representative visa can't be used to transfer the business or its head office to the UK
• The company must have recruited the employee outside the UK to be the Sole Representative of the company in the UK and the plan must be to set up a branch office or subsidiary.

Individual requirements for a Sole Representative visa

In addition to the company requirements, the eligibility criteria for an applicant for a Sole Representative visa are:

• Must meet the English language requirement
• Must have enough money to support themselves in the UK without help from public funds
• Must have been recruited and employed outside the UK by the company
• Must have industry experience and knowledge and be a senior employee with the authority to make decisions on behalf of the company in the UK
• Cannot hold a majority shareholding in the overseas company
• Must plan to set up the company’s first branch or wholly-owned subsidiary in the UK and must intend their work as the sole representative of the company to be their only form of Employment in the UK.

The Sole Representative

Where overseas companies often struggle with the Sole Representative visa is getting the balance right. Often a company may think that one of the shareholders who set up the overseas company is the ideal candidate to carry out the same process again with a UK start-up. Alternatively, a company may think it is best to recruit someone who already has some business experience in the UK, but not necessarily in the same sector of industry.

The dilemma for overseas companies is to get the recruitment right so that they not only get the best candidate for the job but one that won't experience difficulties in securing a Sole Representative visa.

Immigration solicitors say that whoever the Sole Representative is that it is worth putting together a compelling case as to why the candidate is the ideal choice for the specific Sole Representative role based on the applicant’s industry experience and referencing the recruitment process.

The Immigration Rules say that the Sole Representative visa applicant must have been recruited and taken on as an employee outside the UK by an overseas based business which is headquartered abroad and has its principal place of business outside the UK.

The Immigration Rules do not specify that the Sole Representative applicant must have been working overseas at the time of their job appointment, simply that the recruitment should take place overseas. However, the candidate for the job must be recruited by the overseas company and cannot be freelance or an agency worker.

Unlike the details contained in some aspects of the Immigration Rules, such as the Resident Labour Market Test, the Immigration Rules on Sole Representatives do not specify how the candidate has to be recruited to fill the post of Sole Representative but the Home Office guidance says:

• If the recruit for the Sole Representative role is already an employee of the company they should have been employed in a senior role (the intention being to avoid the nephew or niece of the major shareholder being deemed suitable to be sent over to the UK ) or
• If the Sole Representative candidate has been recruited by the company to fill the Sole Representative job function they should have experience and a proven track record of setting up subsidiaries or branches for other companies and the decision making power to make the necessary day to day decisions about the operation of the company UK branch or subsidiary

Although there is no specific requirement to detail the recruitment process it can make the best sense, in terms of speed and ease of application process, to give the Home Office details to avoid the Sole Representative application being rejected and the decision then being subject to an administrative review application.

Immigration solicitors say that when it comes to selecting an existing or recruited employee for the role of Sole Representative it is best to take UK immigration law advice on how best to establish that the recruit meets the Sole Representative visa criteria.

Paperwork for the Sole Representative

The presentation of the application for a Sole Representative visa is the key to a successful visa application. To best secure a Sole Representative visa both the overseas company and the Sole Representative will need to supply the following company and personal information and paperwork:

The Sole Representative will need to supply:

• Their passport or travel documents
• Photograph – passport size and in colour
• Evidence they can support themselves and their dependant family
• Information about their planned accommodation in the UK
• Evidence they meet the English language requirement
• If relevant, TB test results.

The company will need to provide:

• A document confirming their plan is to establish a subsidiary company in the UK or a branch in the UK in the same business activity as the overseas company
• A business plan
• Information about the company’s financial activities such as assets, accounts and shareholdings
• Information about the recruitment process of the Sole Representative applicant together with the job description, Employment and salary details and confirmation that the Sole Representative will have authority to take UK based decisions on behalf of the company.

Choosing the best Sole Representative Job candidate and the manner in which their skills and attributes are presented to the Home Office can make the difference between the success and failure of the Sole Representative visa application. That is why it is essential that if you want to put forward the best case for a Sole Representative visa that you take early business immigration law advice to help you get the right candidate who is supported by the best documents in their quest for a Sole Representative visa.

Sole Representative Solicitors

Based in central London and specialising in business immigration law, OTS Solicitors are Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession recognised Immigration experts. Our Sole Representative solicitors have substantial experience in successfully applying for Sole Representative status and advising on visa conditions and compliance.

Call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form to discuss how we can help with your Sole Representative application or extension or appeal.

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