On 29 March 2019 the Home Office introduced new Immigration Rules for those who want to run a business in the UK. The new announcements bring into effect Appendix W of the Immigration Rules which includes the Innovator visa and Start-up visa categories.
The proper name of the new visa route is the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business category. It is not an entirely new route but more of an amendment to an old route which existed in a different format before.
The following are the basic requirements that applicants need to meet as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business:
Entry Requirements for a Sole Representative Visa
- In order to enter the UK in this category, an individual will need to be employed by an overseas business in a senior role with full authority to take decisions on behalf of the business. There is no set amount of time for which an applicant must have been employed, though the Home Office expect to see evidence of previous employment with the company, or evidence that the applicant has been specifically hired for the role of setting up a UK branch. Applicants will need to prove that they have some experience of setting up branches, even if this is for other companies.
- Another requirement is that the applicant must not be a majority shareholder in the company. Therefore this route will not be appropriate if the applicant is in effect the owner of the business. It needs to be made clear that the applicant is specifically employed by the overseas business to set up a branch in the UK. Therefore individuals who are the sole or majority shareholder of their own business will not be able to take advantage of this route.
- In addition it is a requirement that as the main operations of the business must remain outside of the UK. The Home Office will scrutinise the application to ensure that the business is not in effect moving with the applicant.
- The Overseas Company must be able to produce evidence that it is a genuine, trading business and that it has no existing branch or subsidiary in the UK. The Home Office will want to see documentary evidence of the economic activities of the business abroad as well as evidence of previous trading. Therefore new businesses will not be able to take advantage of this visa route.
- The UK branch or subsidiary and the overseas company must be involved in the same type of business, so it will not possible to come to the UK to run an entirely different type of business.
Some Differences between Sole Representative Visa & Innovator Visa
Unlike the Innovator Visa route, there is no limit to the number of places offered or the fields or profession the business must operate in, as long as it is the same as the overseas company. This means that in effect the Home Office is free to grant as many of these visas as are necessary.
There is no set minimum amount of income or savings that the individual or business must have available to them in order to start the company in the UK. However, it is a requirement that the Home Office be satisfied that there is a genuine intention to open a branch in the UK. It follows that part of that assessment might include consideration of how much opening the UK branch will cost and what level of funds are available to the business. It also follows that applicants in this category would need to show that there are economic prospects to setting up a branch office in the UK.
Applicants must be able to show that they will be able to support & maintain themselves in the UK, and this can be through their expected salary or with reference to savings.
The English Language requirement is at CEFR level A1, which is a lower level than that required for Innovator Visa applicants.
Settlement as a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business
The route to settlement for those in the Sole Representative category requires at least five years continuous residence in the UK, as opposed to the three years required for Innovator Visa. However, in reality due to the qualifying criteria for the Innovator category being so strict, the reality may be that many businesses will need far longer than three years, before they are able to meet the criteria for settlement in the Innovator Visa route. Therefore the criteria to settle in the Sole Representative route will be, for most businesses, easier than those for innovators.
Conditions of Stay as a Sole Representative
A Sole Representative is only permitted to work for the business which has sent them to the UK. Applicants are not permitted to take up any other employment or to run any other businesses.
Applicants under the Sole Representative Visa Route are able to bring their dependant family with them. This will usually mean their spouse and children under the age of 18.
If you are considering applying for a visa under the new Sole Representative Visa Route, contact us for a assessment and consultation.