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Sole Representative Visa success for small US business

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By Kasia Janucik

Kasia Janucik is one of our experienced London business immigration lawyers and UK Employment lawyer at Legal 500 recommended Immigration firm OTS Solicitors. She regularly advises clients on all aspects of business immigration law, whether individuals, US business or from other countries seeking a sole representative visa, Tier 1 entrepreneur or Investor Visas, or companies looking for support with Tier 2 Sponsor Licence application and extensions and Intra-Company transfers. Her experience as an Employment lawyer is highly sought-after when advising on the ongoing obligations that must be met under business immigration routes.

Legal 500 recommended Immigration law firm OTS Solicitors, with its highly regarded track record in all business immigration matters, has recently been successful obtaining a Sole Representative visa for the representative of a small US business looking to open an office in the UK. The applicant was one of the Partners in a small business. The application included a number of non-standard features, not commonly encountered in sole representative visa applications, including a higher than normal shareholding.

Sole Representative visa route

The Sole Representative visa route is available to individuals who represent an overseas company and wish to come to the UK to set up a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of that overseas ‘parent’ company. It’s a fundamental aspect of the Sole Representative visa that there should be no intention of moving the centre of the business to the UK and that the company has no active presence in the UK. The visa is granted for an initial 3 years period with the option to extend for another 2 years. After 5 years, the visa holder can apply to settle permanently in the UK.

The Sole Representative visa allows the holder to work full time for the business concerned in the UK. He or she can bring family dependants with them to the UK and there is no restriction on applying for extensions to the visa. As already mentioned, there is the option to apply for settlement in the UK after 5 years on a Sole Representative visa. It’s important for applicants to be aware that the Sole Representative visa does not allow you to work for any other business or for yourself – you must work for your employer for whom you are the Sole Representative in the UK. Finally, you can’t access public funds if you’re in the UK on a sole representative visa.

Eligibility for a sole representative visa

To be eligible for a sole representative visa you must meet a number of criteria. You must apply from outside the EEA, have enough money to support yourself without recourse to public funds, and you must satisfy the English requirement – although in this particular case, as a US national representing a US business, the individual applicant was exempt from proving his knowledge of English.

Eligibility criteria include that the sole representative must:

“hold a senior position within the company (but not be a major shareholder) and have full authority to make decisions on its behalf”

• be recruited and employed outside the UK by a company whose headquarters and principal place of business are outside the UK

• have extensive related industry experience and knowledge

• intend to establish the company’s first commercial presence in the UK, eg a registered branch or a wholly owned subsidiary

Success in sole representative visa application for small US business

Our client has recently had news of the grant of his Sole Representative visa despite his application appearing ‘non-standard. In particular, the parent company was a small US business. The sole representative was a Partner in the US business with over 30% shareholding. Although the eligibility requirements refer to an applicant not being a ‘majority’ shareholder, the Home Office is likely to scrutinise more closely any applicant was more than a 30% holding. In this case, it is likely to have been relevant that the majority shareholder – the other Partner – was staying in the US while our client, the applicant, came to the UK with the intention of setting up the subsidiary. Another potential issue had been the fact that the individual had been a consultant with the US business but had only become an employee shortly before the visa application. However, overall, he was able to demonstrate his intention to come to the UK to set up a subsidiary of the wholly owned US parent company, and was granted the sole representative visa.

OTS Solicitors is highly recommended for all aspects of business immigration. We regularly offer advice and support for those applying under the sole representative visa route, and with applications under Tier 1 entrepreneur and Tier 1 Investor Visa routes. If you have any queries about your visa application, please get in touch by calling 0203 959 9123 to book your appointment.

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