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Access the UK Market: What you should know about the Sole Representative Visa

Access the UK Market: What you should know about the Sole Representative Visa

Dec 16, 2019
Last Updated on May 22, 2024

The Home Office has confirmed that effective from 9AM on 11 April 2022, the Sole Representative visa route will be closed to new applicants.

Self Sponsorship is a good alternative to consider if you’re considering business opportunities within the UK. A UK Sponsor is not required and this can lead to permanent residency and British citizenship for yourself and your family.

Thinking of your next business move considering international expansion?  The Sole Representative Visa could be the perfect opportunity to access the UK market.

Although entry requirements do not hold the notorious reputation as those under the points-based system, the application should be approached with the same tenacity.

The Rules and guidance under this category are not wholly comprehensive, considering the scrutiny applied by caseworkers in their decisions.  An Applicant should be aware of certain intricacies in order to ensure the best chances of success.

Whilst preparing the application, there are many considerations to be aware of. Three important aspects

  • Business Plan – Relevant, to the Rules and Reasons for the application

The Sole Representative visa is a working visa, assuming a profitable company identified opportunity for expansion to the UK, and their senior employee is undertaking lead on the same.  It should address relevant details for the expansion in a succinct manner to meet the Rules.  It is important to look out for the following;

  • Ownership – who will own the UK company? It must be specified that the parent company will hold 100% of the shareholding where relevant – not by the Applicant. This intention should be obvious from the outset
  • Financial status and means of setting up a UK branch – is this financially viable for the company? Evidence should be referenced, corporate accounts, balance sheets
  • Keep it concise – pertinent to the purposes of the visa, to avoid delays in reviewing irrelevant content

You should not be trapped into paying large fees for the drafting of a lengthy and unnecessary business plan.

You may have a business plan already, or you may need assistance in preparing one, either way, our experts can help you.  Our fees reflect a tailored service with rounded advice and the incorporation of a legal opinion/review of your plan, without falling at the excessive fees charged by external consultants.

  • Inferred control of the parent company found by an Applicant without a majority shareholding – not covered in the guidance

The Sole Representative must hold a senior position in the company, and the Rules eliminate a majority shareholder (at least 51%) from being appointed.  When tackling this aspect of an application, one should be cautious.  The Home Office may and can find that the Applicant effectively has control of the company, even without a majority shareholding.

Whilst the Rules are silent on this matter, and the Home Office may find inferred control by the Applicant where remaining shares are held for example by one or more family members, whether that be a spouse or other relatives.

We find transparency is key and submission of a detailed representation together with additional evidence based on the facts of the case can be the difference between a successful application and a refusal.

For example, the success of ‘Company A’, based on our advice and representations.

  • The Centre of Operations test

The parent company must be a genuine commercial entity – evidencing its intention to retain its centre of operations abroad.

The Guidance for Home Office Staff states;

This does not mean that you must refuse a company if there is evidence that it intends its UK branch or subsidiary to flourish, so in the long term, it might overshadow its parent company.

For the parent company to satisfy this requirement, it must show it does not intend to effectively cease trading outside the UK. As can be inferred, for example, in a small company with few employees, where the success of that company is linked to the Applicant’s individual experience and expertise.  While a notarised statement confirming their intentions, together with evidence of the Applicant’s minority shareholding are specified, the caseworker will look beyond this and take a holistic approach in their assessment.

A previous client of ours faced the same complexity. The Applicant held the second most senior position within a small business, and the majority shareholder was a relative. Anticipating the scrutiny of the caseworker, we made a detailed representation and ensured additional evidence was provided, including but not limited to evidence of a candidate identified to take the Applicant’s senior position.

Highlighting the genuineness of the position and the intention to fill the Applicant’s vacancy in the company is one way to show the success of the company is not tied to the Applicant.

There can be a lot at stake for a company facing a refusal, without an appeal right. Challenging a decision at administrative review based on a case working error can prove difficult. Judicial Review proceedings if pursued, are costly and timely, and at a time the company is looking to expand and increase profits, not a desirable outcome.

Legal advice can be invaluable to prevent losing big fees to the Home Office, disappointment and delays.  Time and money better spent on the development and expansion of your business.

A Y & J Solicitors, an award-winning Immigration Law Firm in London, are specialists in UK immigration law based in central London.  If you would like more information about UK Immigration or UK Visa application, please contact us at [email protected] or call +44 20 7404 7933.

Disclaimer: No material/information provided on this website should be construed as legal advice. Readers should seek an appropriate professional advice for their immigration matters.

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