UK Overseas Business Representative Visa Guidelines 2021

A brief introduction to the program’s requirements, exclusions and eligibility criteria.

Looking to obtain an Overseas Business Representative Visa by establishing a UK branch for your overseas business in 2021? The Sole Representative Visa, as it is widely known, allows senior executives or minority shareholders of foreign businesses to gain UK residency, settlement and even eventual British citizenship, by opening a branch or full owned subsidiary in the UK. The complexity of the program, combined with the recent rule changes,  however, makes this the one category of UK visa you don’t want to apply for without expert guidance.

Find out more about how our team can help you navigate the program requirements and application process with ease below, or contact us now for more information.

NB: Important points to note BEFORE you start applying for the UK Overseas Business Representative Visa

  1. The Representative of an Overseas Business Visa is a compelling option for established non-EEA businesses seeking to establish a branch in the UK while still maintaining their head office operations overseas. The foreign business must have been in existence and trading for at least 12 months prior to the visa application, and may not have been established solely for the purpose of supporting a UK new business visa application.

  2. The program does not allow the overseas company to move their core operations and head office to the UK initially. The program is therefore not suitable for sole traders and small, single-person operations seeking to immigrate to the UK.

  3. In part to ensure that the overseas operations test is met continually, majority shareholders (50% to 100% shareholding) in an overseas business are not eligible to apply for the Sole Rep Visa.

  4. The legitimacy and establishedness of the overseas business itself is scrutinized extensively. By the same token, the legitimacy and potential viability of the UK branch or subsidiary is weighted heavily, making a compelling business plan and realistic go-to-market strategy essential.

  5. As of 4 June 2020, majority shareholders are no longer allowed to pass shares on to their spouse or any other dependent applicants, nor is their spouse allowed to act as the primary applicant and sole business representative in the UK.

  6. It is important to note that the applicant has to be a senior employee of the overseas business. The applicant has to have been recruited to the overseas business outside of the UK, and have had to be in the employ of the company for at least 12 months prior to the date of application.

  7. Where an outside party is recruited, outside the UK, to act as an overseas company’s operational head in the UK, extensive proof of this person’s track record in setting up overseas branches for other companies will have to be submitted.

  8. The overseas business must genuinely intend to use the new branch or subsidiary to do business in the UK; the branch cannot merely be set up for the purposes of attaining UK residency and settlement status.

  9. The overseas business is not allowed to have had a UK branch previously. It is therefore highly advisable to apply for the Overseas Business Representative Visa before legally establishing a branch or subsidiary, opening a bank account or recruiting staff, as any of these activities could potentially create complications pertaining to this requirement having been violated.

  10. The UK authorities are under no obligation to enter into any correspondence with applicants should their application be deemed incomplete or incorrectly structured, and appealing a Sole Representative Visa rejection is extremely onerous – not to mention frequently futile. It is therefore highly recommended to contract an experienced UK business immigration firm with experienced solicitors and a track record of success – ideally with an approval rate of around 100%.

  11. While the UK government does provide extensive guidance for the Overseas Business Representative Program online, it is can be confusing and does not provided templated examples of what your branch business plan and application structure should look like.

    Moreover, the most recent requirements may not be fully covered by much of the guidance material available online. Again, it is advisable to work with expert UK immigration solicitors who specialise in assisting foreign business with new branch setup, sole representative business plan writing and Overseas Representative Visa applications.

Which types of businesses are eligible to apply?

Unlike with the Tier 1 Investor Visa Program, which frequently favours scalable technologically oriented business with hyper-growth potential, the Representative of an Overseas Business Visa is the more appropriate path to UK residency for a far greater range of businesses.

Recent applicants have been employed by overseas businesses ranging from import and export business, life assurance and short term brokerages, financial services providers, manufacturing companies, freight and forwarding companies as well as logistics, software as a service (SAAS) businesses and construction companies, to name but a few.

What is the most common reasons for applicant rejections?

While rejections are far less likely to occur on technical grounds provided that you work with UK immigration experts specialising in Overseas Representative Visa applications, these typically stem from insufficient supporting documentation, insufficient financial means or concerns around the legitimacy of the parent company or the commercial viability of the proposed UK branch or subsidiary. Working with an expert team of UK immigration professionals and solicitors and employing a proven application approach, these risks can be largely mitigated, however for applicants lodging their submissions independently, the pitfalls are manifold and hard to anticipate.

Contact us now for more information and to set up a free pre-qualification call with an expert UK immigration consultant now.

DISCLAIMER: The above information does not constitute legal advice and are intended to be viewed as general information on the topic only. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the content on this site, regulations change frequently and the veracity of the information is not guaranteed. By accessing this site you understand and acknowledge that there is no solicitor and client relationship between you or your company and the site owners or the UK immigration firm we work with. Legal advice is only provided to contracted clients.


How should I go about selecting a UK business immigration advisor?

Be sure to choose your UK business immigration carefully. Selecting a specialist UK immigration firm and working with seasoned solicitors can help maximise the probability of your visa application being approved by the UK authorities. Be sure to ask them about their client success rate, and consider asking them for a recommendation from past clients who managed to obtain the UK Overseas Business Representative Visa successfully.

Our UK team can assist you with the entire process, from pre-qualification and branch business plan compilation to spousal work permit applications, renewals and Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) applications. We can also assist you with the selection of schools and the sourcing of offices, property and potential partners on the ground.  Contact us now to learn more about our concierge-style immigration service offering and to start your Sole Rep Visa application today.