Sole rep visas and Overseas Business Visas are certainly one of the most common types of visa out there today. No end of business associates are looking to get these visas. They are particularly popular and seen a lot with international business delegates looking to migrate around the world. This is for work and for delegates in highly powered jobs and positions too. In London for example, there are literally thousands of law firms offering assistance for this. This is from the paperwork preparation right through to overseeing the process and if needed, the appeals.
You can apply for sole rep visa if you want to establish a wholly owned subsidiary or a branch in the UK of an overseas parent company. This is seen a great deal for delegates where they may be a company based in the UAE and looking to set up new operations in the UK – and this is where and how they will often need this kind and type of visa to help make the process a smooth one.
Recent changes in the manner of how this visa will work
In the recent changes to the Immigration Rules on 6 October 2021, the Secretary of State drastically changed the requirements for representatives of an overseas business to qualify for indefinite leave to remain.
These changes were implemented with little notice (less than a month) and went relatively unnoticed by practitioners, but they signal the tightening of this route before the opening of the Global Business Mobility Visa route in Spring 2022. It is best to keep a close eye out for any new developments due to happen in the market at it is for these kinds of visas.
The new requirements now in place for this kind of visa
The validity and suitability requirements remain the same following the rule change. However, the eligibility requirements for ILR as a sole representative of an overseas business have significantly changed, and are an amalgamation of the previous requirements for settlement together with the more rigorous requirements for initial and extension applications.
In addition to the prior eligibility requirements, sole representatives must also show that throughout the 5-year period before the date of application:
- The overseas business that they represent has been active and trading with its headquarters and principal place of business remaining outside the UK;
- That they have been employed and worked full time for the overseas business they represent, or for that business’s UK branch or subsidiary;
- They’ve not undertaken work for any other business or engaged in business of their own;
- To date they have not had a majority stake in, or otherwise owned or controlled a majority of the overseas business they represent, by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement;
- That they have established and then supervised the registered a branch or wholly owned subsidiary of the overseas business they represent in the UK, where that branch or subsidiary was actively trading in the same type of business as the overseas business.
Additionally, sole representatives must be required by their employer. This is to continue in the role for which their last period of permission was granted and they must provide specified documents:
- Evidence of the salary paid by their employer in the 12 months immediately before the date of application. This should include details of their remuneration package;
- A letter from their employer confirming that they still require the representative to work for them. This is also that the representative will be required for the foreseeable future;
- Evidence of business that has been generated, principally with firms in the UK, on behalf of their employer. This is since the representative’s last grant of permission, in the form of accounts. Also in the form of copies of invoices or letters from businesses with whom they have done business, including the value of transactions;
- Either a copy of the share register or a letter from the overseas business’s accountant. This is confirming that the UK business is wholly owned by the overseas business; and
- A letter from their employer confirming that they have supervised the UK branch or subsidiary since the last grant of permission.
All of the above needs to be addressed and taken into close consideration. This is if the visa application is to be a successful one first time round for the applicant themselves. After all, there are times when and where an application can fail. When this does occur this can be painful for the applicant and also very stressful in terms of the uncertainty of what is to come next with regards the application also.
Just to recap
As indicated previously, presuming that you meet the criteria above, the application process is fairly straightforward. When Sole Representative visa applications do go wrong and are refused, it is typically because the applicant provided inadequate supporting documents to back themselves up. This is where and why it pays to have your documents well laid out. It helps to be ahead of the game and have all bases covered too. After all, this is a very in demand type of visa in this day and age.
Typical mistakes made
This is an easy and also a very common overall mistake to make as the application form is very sparse. It can be generic and it doesn’t reflect all of the requirements that actually have to be met. It is critically important, therefore, to include a covering letter and a comprehensive business plan. This is if you want to ensure that your application is approved the first time. Also this is the case if you want this without either an outright refusal or a request for further information.
The sole representative business plan needs to set out the details of the business outside of the UK. The rationale for operating a registered branch in the UK and the vision for the long-term growth of the business. It needs to show a strong rationale for expansion. The opening of the representative branch in the UK market, it is important not to overstate the plan. Instead, the business plan needs to strike the balance. This is between showing why there’s a business case for expanding into the UK. This is also whilst also explaining why the center of operations will remain overseas.
This delicate balance is not easily struck. The consequences of submitting a poorly written business plan that does not address can be bad. All of these key points is very likely to be the refusal of your sole representative application. You need to be as on point as you can. All of the facts need to be in place. You need to also specify key information to do with your new venture. Overall, you need to invest time yourself and with the right sole rep visa lawyers for the very best possible outcome for the via application.
There are a number of law firms out there able to do this work. It will help to make sure you do your homework. This is in getting the best people and firm hired for the job in hand. London has a lot of immigration lawyers able to undertake sole rep via work and applications. This can also be said too for a lot of the other cities around the UK. Look at reviews and look at the legal society websites. Undertake this to ensure you are getting the best people to carry out your work.