The Representative of an Overseas Business visa is a specialised UK immigration route designed for senior employees of overseas companies who intend to establish their company's first commercial presence in the UK. This visa allows you to live and work in the UK, initially for three years, with the possibility of an extension.
It's an ideal pathway for companies looking to test the UK market without the need for significant investment.
Who Can Apply?
- Senior Position: You must hold a senior position within the company (but not be a majority shareholder).
- Authority: You should have full authority to make decisions on behalf of the company.
- Employment Status: You must be recruited and employed outside the UK by a company whose headquarters are also outside the UK.
- Financial Stability: You must have sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK.
- English Proficiency: You must meet the English language requirement, which typically requires a CEFR Level A1 in speaking and listening.
Visa Duration and Extensions
- Initial Duration: The visa grants entry for an initial period of 3 years.
- Extension: It can be extended for another 2 years.
- Permanent Settlement: After 5 years in the UK, you can apply for permission to settle permanently.
The exact requirements that you will need to satisfy will vary depending on your circumstances. You may want to speak to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is my business eligible to establish a UK branch or subsidiary?
For an employee to qualify for a UK Overseas Business Representative visa, the parent company must be an active and trading overseas business. The overseas parent company must have and intend to continue to have, its headquarters and principal place of business outside the UK. If the parent company already has a branch, subsidiary, or other representative in the UK then the business will be excluded.
Even where there is no representative in the UK, the business will be disqualified if the employee setting up the branch or subsidiary in the UK would involve the business effectively moving the centre of its business operations to the UK. The Home Office will also need to be satisfied that the branch or wholly-owned subsidiary in the UK intends to actively trade in the same type of business as the overseas business and is not being established solely for the purpose of facilitating the entry and stay of the sole representative.
Can Sole Representatives be shareholders?
The Immigration Rules require that an applicant for a Sole Representative visa must not have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control, the overseas business, whether that ownership or control is by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement.
This means that applicants can be shareholders, but they must not own more than 50% of the available shares in the business at the point of application. Existing majority shareholders may qualify for a Sole Representative visa if they reduce their shareholding prior to applying. However, applicants should note that the Home Office will look at the company share distribution in both the current and the previous year.
Applicants (both shareholders and non-shareholders) should also note that the requirements of the route go beyond ownership to cover control. Regardless of the stake in ownership, applicants must not control the overseas business by means of any other arrangement.
Can a Sole Representative bring family members to the UK?
A Sole Representative of an Overseas Business may bring, or be joined by, their spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner and any children under the age of 18. Unfortunately, as with most other categories of the Immigration Rules, Sole Representatives cannot bring their parents, siblings or other extended family members.
Where a spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner is accompanying or joining a Sole Representative, that partner must not themselves have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control, the overseas business. This rule applies whether the ownership or control is by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship, or any other arrangement.
When should you apply for a UK Sole Representative visa?
You should make an application for a UK Sole Representative visa no more than 3 months before you intend to travel.
How much does a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa cost?
The Home Office application fee for a Representative of an Overseas Business visa is currently £610.
How long will it take for an application to be decided?
Most Sole Representative visa applications are decided within 3 weeks. Many visa application centres outside the UK also offer a priority service which allows Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa applicants to receive a decision on their applications for entry clearance within 5 working days.
Does this route lead to settlement?
After five years in the UK as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business, you may be eligible to apply for settlement. In addition to continuing to meet the requirements for an extension of stay, you will also need to show that you have spent the last 5 years before the date of application in the UK with permission as a Representative of an Overseas Business, you have spent a continuous period of five years in the UK and you have not been absent from the UK for more than 180 days in any of the five years prior to the date of application.
Unless aged 65 or over, you will also need to have English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in speaking and listening to at least level B1 and meet the Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement.
Your employer will also need to confirm that they still require you to work for them and that you have been, and will continue to be, paid the appropriate salary, and that you will be required for the foreseeable future.
Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) can be achieved after 5 years in the Representative of an Overseas Business visa category. Sadly, this route is now closed to new main applicants.
If you already have permission to stay as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business, then you may apply for an extension of stay or for indefinite leave to remain.
If you are a senior manager or specialist employee wishing to set up a branch of an overseas business in the UK for the first time then you may qualify for a Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker Visa instead.
If you are interested in setting up a new business in the UK, or you own an existing UK business, you may also be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa via self-sponsorship, that is by being sponsored by your own UK company.
The Sole Representative route is still open to dependent partners and children of Sole Representatives.
You can apply as a representative of an overseas business if you’re an employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation posted on a long-term assignment to the UK.
If you’re a representative of an overseas business planning to set up its first UK branch, apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) instead.
How long will it take to get the visa?
- Initial Application: The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you intend to travel to the UK.
- Priority Service: May result in a decision within 10 – 15 days.
- Standard Time: Approximately 3 weeks for applications from outside the UK and 8 – 12 weeks for applications from within the UK.
Why Choose UK Visas?
UK Visas provides a comprehensive Skilled Worker Visa Service. Whether you’re arranging sponsorship for the first time, or need ongoing support for your recruitment requirements, the rules and regulations can seem overwhelming.
As UK Visa experts, we steer thousands of companies through the licence process. We’ll support your application so you can rest assured your experience will be as stress-free as possible.
Whether you are a small business or a large multinational looking to expand into the UK, our experts will guide you through the complex Home Office rules and policies.
We pride ourselves on being approachable and proactive in understanding and meeting our clients’ needs. We are a highly driven team, dedicated to providing clear and reliable immigration advice to businesses as part of a professional and friendly service.