UK News

Guide to obtaining a Representative of an Overseas Business visa

May 2016

If your organisation is looking to set up in the UK, you might be able to bring a senior employee to start up a UK branch on a ‘Representative of an Overseas Business’ visa.  As this visa is designed to facilitate foreign organisations establishing a UK presence, rather than for immigration convenience, there must be a genuine and sensible reason for expansion to the UK, along with extensive documented evidence that supports this.

Below we provide an overview of the main considerations your organisation needs to address when obtaining a representative of an overseas business visa for a senior employee.

Who can apply?

If your organisation is from outside the EEA and Switzerland, your employee can apply to come to the UK as a representative of an overseas business either as:

  • The sole representative of an overseas company planning to set up a UK branch or a wholly owned subsidiary for an overseas parent company; or
  • An employee of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation posted on a long-term assignment to the UK.

Eligibility requirements

In order to be eligible for such a visa:

  • The application must be made from outside the EEA;
  • The applicant must be able to support themselves financially throughout the visa period without help from public funds; and
  • The applicant must meet the ‘English language requirement’ (i.e. have sufficient knowledge of the English language).  Evidence will be required by either passing an approved English language test, or having a recognised academic qualification that was taught in English (something equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in the UK) or being a national of an English speaking country.

The headquarters and principal place of business for the organisation must be outside the UK, and where the applicant is seeking entry as a sole representative, the company should have no other branch, subsidiary or representative in the UK (although if it has a UK entity which does not employ staff or transact business it may still be possible).

Sole representatives:

  • Must have been recruited overseas by the overseas company;
  • Must have extensive related industry experience and knowledge;
  • Must hold a senior position within the company and have full authority to make decisions on behalf of the overseas company in the UK;
  • Must intend to establish the company’s first commercial presence in the UK;
  • Cannot be a majority shareholder of the company; and
  • May still be eligible if the company has a legal entity in the UK that doesn’t employ staff or transact business.

Employees of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation can be eligible for such a visa if they are posted here on a long-term assignment.

There can only be one representative of the overseas business setting up in the UK, however, an overseas media company may have more than one representative in the UK at the same time, due to their different purposes of coming to the UK.

Application process

Duration and cost

The visa application can be made up to three months before travelling to the UK, and a decision on the visa should be made within three weeks by the issuing authority.  The application costs £546*, but the employee must also pay the healthcare surcharge (£200* per year) on top of that cost.

Validity

The visa is valid for an initial period of three years in the UK, but an extension of up to two years is available.  This route can lead to permanent settlement for the applicant (indefinite leave to remain) after staying in the UK for five successive years.

Required documents

The representative will need to provide:

  • A valid passport;
  • A passport photo;
  • Evidence of their ability to support themselves financially;
  • Details of residency throughout the visa period; and
  • Proof of meeting the ‘English requirement’.

As a sole representative, additional documents must be provided on top of those mentioned above:

  • A full description of the parent company’s activities, including details of assets and accounts;
  • A letter from the parent company confirming it will either be establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary or registering a branch in the UK in the same business activity as the parent company;
  • The employee’s job description, employment contract and salary details; and
  • A letter from the parent company confirming the senior employee has extensive knowledge of the business and is authorised to make operational decisions.

The sole representative must also provide evidence that they:

  • Hold a senior position;
  • Are directly employed by the parent company and do not act as a sales agent;
  • Do not own a majority or controlling interest in either the overseas firm or the proposed new UK entity; and
  • Will be working full time for the company throughout the visa, confirming they won’t carry out any other work (including their own).

The employee will also need to provide evidence that the parent company is established outside the UK.

Employees of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation must provide:

  • A full description of the parent company’s activities, including details of assets and accounts; and
  • Confirmation from your organisation that it will be representing the employees in the UK in a long term, full-time role.

Permissions and restrictions

During the visa period, the employee may bring their family members (dependents) with them, who will also need to apply for visas.  After living in the UK for 5 years, the employee may then apply for permanent residence.  The representative can also stay in the UK if there is a change in the company’s circumstances (e.g. if a superior is appointed in the UK) and they have already been here for more than 2 years.

However, if the organisation ends the sole representative arrangement, the representative will no longer able to stay in the UK.  It is also not possible to switch to this visa from any other visa category to prolong the stay. 

The representative of an overseas business visa can be extended multiple times, but the employee will need to reapply each time and provide evidence that they are still required by the company as a sole representative, including proof of salary and accounts of the business generated in the first year of UK presence, amongst other things.

Business expansion

If the company would like to expand beyond the sole representative, they can employ people with permission to work in the UK once the company is established (i.e. the business is trading).  However if they want to hire staff from overseas, the company could apply for a sponsor licence and bring other workers over using the Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer process.  As the company grows, the sole representative can still remain under that visa (as it is valid for 3 years), and later choose to either extend or apply for another visa. 

How can we help?

Abbiss Cadres offers a unique blend of skills to enable businesses to tackle complex talent management issues such as immigration and global mobility.

Our expert team can help you:

  • Prepare and submit your employee’s representative of an overseas visa application, ensuring the necessary documentation is provided;
  • Prepare and submit an extension application to your employee’s representative of an overseas visa; and
  • Prepare and submit visa applications for your employee’s dependents.

Our global mobility specialists can also assist with:

  • The physical move and relocation of your employee to the UK (we can help find accommodation, schools and manage the moving process as a whole to help ensure it runs as smoothly as possible).

Our unique service model incorporates all the expertise needed to help you manage the complexities of your employment and people issues.  As well as immigration and global mobility expertise, our team include employment, tax, compensation and benefits, pensions, operational HR, people consulting and communication specialists.

If you have any questions, or to discuss how we can help you, speak to our team on +44(0)203 051 5711 or email us.

*Note: These details are correct as at the date approved for publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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