on May 17, 2022
Read Time: 10 Minutes
In May 2020, the Secretary of State announced that there were going to be changes to the Representative of an Overseas Business visa – otherwise widely known as the ‘Sole Representative visa’.
This tightening of the rules took effect from 4th June 2020. The old system was open to problems with the way it was applied, and the new rules would make the process of trying to get approved for this visa even more difficult, not least by increasing the evidential burden on the sole representative.
It has been nearly two years since the updated application process was implemented. What have the changes done to the difficulty of applying for a Sole Representative visa, and what else does a would-be applicant need to know about the process now? Below, we have explored the key questions.
Businesses in certain parts of the world sometimes want to set up a branch of their company in other countries. This could be because of high sales in that country, or because it gives them access to other business opportunities.
The UK set up the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa to allow a representative of an overseas company to come to the UK to see if setting up a branch is feasible and to get the process started.
Under the old system, the burden of proof for the visa was largely with the organisation, and required certain criteria to be met for the visa to be issued.
The Immigration Rules set out certain criteria that both the representative and the organisation had to satisfy before the visa would be granted. Here is a brief description of those criteria.
A. ) The overseas company had to prove the following:
B.) Proposed representatives needed to show the following:
C. ) In terms of evidence, the overseas organisation had to provide:
Under the old rules, the sole representative only needed to provide evidence of the English language level, and that they could provide for themselves and any dependents without recourse to public funds.
Changes made to the Sole Representative visa application concentrated on the proof that was needed to fulfil the criteria.
The overseas parent company now needed to prove the following:
With regard to the Sole Representative, the following now has to be genuinely the case:
The spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner of the Sole Representative now also has to meet the following requirement just like the Sole Representative:
However, there appears to be no rule that says they cannot have a majority share between them.
With the introduction of the new rules, there has been an increase in the burden of proof for not only overseas organisations, but Sole Representatives as well.
In the ‘Representative of an Overseas Business’ document that was published on October 2021, it states that:
“You will not need to take these actions for most applicants and will only do so when you have some reason to doubt their eligibility”.
Some of the reasons that the Home Office may become concerned about an application would include any “overseas business [that] has only a small number of staff or trading premises” or “the overseas business only has a trading presence in one other country and no track record of international expansion”.
Another possible warning mentioned is if there is “little evidence of the overseas business’s trading presence and business activities (whether physical or internet-based)”.
Possible concerns are also listed against the Sole Representative if “the applicant has previous activity in the UK that is not related to the business they now represent, or there is some similar reason to doubt they will only work in accordance the conditions of their permission”.
However, the document does clarify that “These reasons will not automatically indicate a lack of genuineness in every case, and therefore are to be regarded as indicators of a need to obtain further information rather than as grounds for refusal in themselves. The above list is not exhaustive and if you have any other reasons to doubt eligibility then you should make additional enquiries”.
When the Immigration Rules were changed on 6th October 2021, there was an overhaul of the requirements for representatives of an overseas business that affected their qualification for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
Under the old requirements, Sole Representatives needed to show that:
Under the new requirements, the prior eligibility requirements are still in force; however, there are now additional requirements that need to be satisfied. It is required that throughout the five-year period before application, the following was the case:
Sole Representatives must be required by their overseas employer to continue in the same job role as their last period of permission, and they provide the following documents:
A confirmation letter that the overseas company has supervised the UK branch since the last period of the permission was granted
One thing that stands out with the new application process is that there appears to be less room for mistakes in the application.
If there has been any breach in the rules under the previous permission as a Sole Representative, then this is taken into account when the subject applies for ILR. This is still the case even if the applicant has solved the issue in the previous five years.
There is also no appeal allowed against the decision, so the only alternative is to apply for an extension and have another five years without any breach of the rules.
A new Global Business Mobility visa is set to be launched in the spring of 2022. This new visa may give overseas companies a new way to get employees transferred to the UK.
The new visa will cover five types of temporary workers from overseas companies:
This new visa will effectively change the previous requirement under Sole Representative of an Overseas Business. Under the old rules, only one person could be sent to the UK as a representative of the overseas company. However, the new visa allows for a small team of employees to come over to the UK.
While this looks like a big boost for overseas companies, there are still few details about this new visa or its effect on other claims.
There could also be a change to the length of the visa. Under the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa, you could be granted for three years with a possible two-year extension. However, it may be that under the Global Business Mobility Visa, a person would be granted only two years. If they wanted to extend their stay, they may be required to switch to another visa type.
For tailored advice on your own circumstances and needs as a business or individual, contact our award-winning team in central London today, on 0208 215 0053.