The UK Sole Representative Visa, formally known as the UK Representative of an Overseas Business Visa, enables qualifying senior executives of non-EEA based companies to apply for residency and eventual Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. As has been the case with the Tier 1 Investor Visa, the British government has not been actively promoting this investor visa category since the Brexit vote, and the number of applicants receiving approval has been in decline since 2016.
Nonetheless, for non-UK based company executives able to prove that they run established businesses, with demonstrable intentions to expand trade into the UK market, the Sole Representative Visa can be a game-changer. While increased application scrutiny will be a given as of 4 June 2020, the business visa program, in its current format, still offers unrivalled value for money.
Applicants must have been recruited into their current role outside of the UK, and the parent company should not yet have established a subsidiary UK branch. In addition, applicants are not allowed to be majority shareholders in the business, and as of 4 June 2020 they are not allowed to dilute their shareholding by awarding shares to their spouse or children. In essence, the new changes to the UK Sole Rep Visa Program seeks to ensure that the “genuineness” criterion is met. Applicants must be senior company employees with the ability to make executive level business decisions independently, and applicants cannot switch for other UK visa categories to the Sole Rep Visa.
While foreign applicants across a range of sectors and industries have historically been successful in obtaining UK residency and eventual citizenship via the Sole Representative Visa Program, the trend has increasingly been for scalable technology businesses to be appraised more favourably.