Sole Representative of an Overseas Company

Sole representative is one of the few remaining non-points based work categories, and provides an attractive option to foreign investors and business people looking to expand their activity into the UK.


How to Qualify

To qualify as a sole representative, the following must be shown:

  • You are a senior employee of a business which has no active branch, subsidiary or other representative in the United Kingdom
  • You were recruited outside the United Kingdom by the business, which has its headquarters and principal place of business overseas
  • You have full authority to take operational decisions on behalf of the business, and will establish and operate a registered branch or wholly owned subsidiary in the UK doing the same kind of work
  • You must be employed full time in the business, and cannot be a majority shareholder
  • You have sufficient English language ability (CEFR level A1), and can maintain and accommodate yourself and any dependants without recourse to public funds

What are the Key Features?

The rules provide some attractive opportunities to foreign investors and businesspeople beyond the UK’s point-based system:

  • As long as you do not own a majority shareholding in your overseas company, you can qualify for entry as a sole representative.  Even a 50% shareholding is fine
  • Your business overseas doesn’t need to be a certain size; even small trading companies may be able to set up a UK subsidiary
  • The rules do not require you to set up your company in the UK in advance; this can be sorted out once the visa is issued, and you have relocated to the UK
  • The English language requirement for your visa application (CEFR A1) is easier than that required in the Tier 1 entrepreneur category (B1)
  • Once living in the UK, you can build your business here.  You do not need to remain a sole representative – instead, you may expand your business, employ other people, even apply for a Tier 2 sponsor licence to take on more overseas (non-EU) staff.
  • The sole representative category does not have a strict 180 / 365 days residence requirement at extension stage.  You must, however, prove that you are engaged full-time in the business here
  • The 180 / 365 day residence requirement becomes relevant when you are applying for indefinite leave to remain
  • Also remember that there are residence requirements – basically, 450 days permitted absences over 5 years / 90 days permitted in the last 12 months – if you are intending to apply for British citizenship in the future

If your visa application is successful, you will be granted an initial 3 years’ leave; you may extend this up to 5 years, at which point you and your dependents become eligible for settlement (subject to meeting relevant residence, English language and life in the UK requirements).  Note there is no accelerated settlement route in this category.

The rules and policy require the sole representative of an overseas business to establish and operate a wholly owned subsidiary of an overseas entity (engaged in the same business as the overseas parent).  The sole representative must not engage in business of their own nor represent any other company’s interests. We have received confirmation from UK Visas and Immigration that the establishment of a UK holding company (not operating in the same business as its overseas parent, only providing administrative functions to the new UK enterprise) is acceptable, so long as the new enterprise is involved in the same business activity as the overseas parent.

How we can help

Our aim is to give you the best chance of successfully securing your sole representative visa so you can pursue your business plans in the UK. We pride ourselves on the efficiency of our processes and aim to be responsive, and proactive in the pursuit of your case.

Why choose Latitude Law?

Latitude’s team has many years’ experience advising on the sole representative category, one of the few remaining non-points-based work categories. It is often a convenient option, particularly where you have not worked for your overseas employer for at least 12 months.

We are known for going that extra mile to ensure clients are successful in their endeavours whilst maintaining professionalism and ethical standards at all times. Our team is friendly and approachable and are always willing to answer any questions you might have.

We can meet you in our London, Liverpool or Manchester offices or take your instructions via telephone or video conference.