Ultimate Guide – Overseas Representative Visa
The overseas representative (some times called the sole representative visa) is a visa category that allows a senior employee of an overseas company to enter the UK and set up the first commercial presence of the parent company in the UK. Once the visa is obtained the migrant is able to remain in the UK in order to run and transact business for the new UK branch.
Since the closure of other visa categories the Overseas representative visa has become the most popular business visa categories.
This visa is open to all nationalises and has no upper age restriction.
This visa leads to indefinite leave to remain and British Nationality.
How long is the visa issued for?
The Overseas representative visa can only be applied for from outside the UK, unless you are extending your visa.
The initial visa is granted for a period of 3 years. Each subsequent extension would be granted for a period of 2 years.
How log does it take to get Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Indefinite leave to remain can be applied for by you and your dependants after a minimum period of 5 years on the visa.
When can you apply for British Nationality?
You can apply for British nationality after you have obtained and held ILR for a minimum period of 12 months, that would take you to year 6.
Brining family with you
Dependants can come with the main applicant, provided that a genuine relationship can be evidenced (birth, marriage certificates etc.) and adequate maintenance is covered for each dependant.
– Children under 18
Quick overview of the visa timeline
Step 1 – Initial Visa application, if granted then a visa of 3 years will be issued.
Step 2 – Set up branch or subsidiary after grant of visa
Step 3 – Start trading using the UK company
Step 4 – Apply for extension, if granted a visa of 2 years will be issued
Step 5 – Continue running the UK company
Step 6 – Apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain once 5 years has been reached. Step 7 – Apply for British Nationality 1 year after obtaining ILR.
What are the Initial Visa requirements?
Requirements for the parent company:
- The company must be registered outside of the UK and be actively trading.
- The company must not already have another representative, branch or subsidiary established inside the UK.
- The headquarters of the company and their principle base must be overseas.
- The registered branch or subsidiary company must operate the same type of business activity as the parent company abroad.
- The business must not intend to cease trading outside of the UK. A successful branch or subsidiary which outperforms the overseas business is allowed, as long as the parent company is still trading overseas.
Requirements for the employee:
- You as the employee must have been recruited and employed by the parent company for a significant amount of time, from outside of the UK.
- You must occupy a senior position in the company. The Home Office will expect to see the authority to make key operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business.
- You must intend to work full-time and only as a representative of that overseas business. We will need to satisfy the Home Office you will not represent any other company or take up any other employment.
- You must not be a majority shareholder of the overseas business you are representing. Therefore you cannot own more than 50% of shares in the parent company.
- You must show adequate maintenance and accommodation to maintain yourself and any dependants. The exact amount may vary case to case and will depend on where in the UK you live and what your UK salary will be
- You shall have to have a degree taught in English or have passed an English language test that is approved by the Home Office. Unless you are exempt based on nationality.
Provided you meet the above requirements you will be granted residency for an initial period of 3 years.
What are the requirements for extension?
You can receive an extension for a further 2 years, provided:
Regarding the Company:
- The employee has registered a Branch or wholly owned subsidiary of the parent company in the UK which is active and trading
- The company is still registered and their headquarters and principle place of business is outside of the UK,
- The UK branch has mainly transacted business with UK firms during the 3 years
Regarding the Employee:
- The employee is still required to fulfil the same role i.e, the employee is still a representative of an overseas business,
- The Employee is in receipt of a salary from either the parent company or the UK branch during the visa
- The employee must still adequately maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants,
- The employee must not have been in breach of any immigration conditions during the initial period- i.e. no additional employment.
Subsequently you will be eligible for indefinite leave to remain at the 5 year point.
What are the requirements for Indefinite Leave Remain?
The requirements for ILR are largely the same as those for the extension with some added requirements;
Regarding the company Employee:
- The UK branch or subsidiary is still active and trading in the UK
- The still has its headquarters outside the UK
- The UK branch has mainly transacted business with UK firms during the last 2 years
Regarding the Employee:
- The employee is still required to fulfil the same role,
- The Employee is in receipt of a salary,
- The employee must still adequately maintain and accommodate themselves and any dependants,
- The employee must not have been in breach of any immigration conditions during the initial period
- The employee must have had absences of less than 180 days per year over the 5 year period Regarding knowledge of English
- If the employee is not from a majority English speaking country or have a degree that meets the English language requirements then they must pass an English test at level B1 (Speaking & listening)
- Passed a Knowledge of life in the UK test.
Can I apply as a team?
It is not possible to apply for the overseas representative as a team, therefore only one person can hold the visa per company.
Do I have to have shares in the parent company?
You do not need to have any shares in the parent company when you apply, in-fact any applicant with more than 50% of shares will automatically be refused.
How big does the overseas company need to be?
There is no specific requirement on the size of the company both in terms of number of staff or its income. It does however have to be realistic for you to come to the UK and for the Parent company to keep trading as normal without you.
As such even companies of just 2-3 staff may qualify.
How much investment funds does the company needed for the visa?
Unlike other business visa categories, under the Overseas representative visa the parent company does not need to have any specific amount of funds available for investment, however they should have enough cash or projected turnover to cover the cost of the UK plan. As such this can be assessed on a case-by-case basis and depends on how big the UK operation is expected to be. Westkin together with our expert business consultants will advise you on the level of funds you should be able to show.
Do I have to receive a salary?
Yes you are required to receive a salary from either the parent company or the UK branch at all times during your visa. The exact amount should be appropriate for a senior employee in your position but can be made up of a mixture of salary and bonus.
What can I do on the visa?
- You are able to work full time on behalf of the parent company in the UK, including setting up and managing the UK branch or subsidiary.
- You are able to study part time providing it does not interfere with your employment.
- Your dependants can work or study without any restriction.
What can’t I do on the visa?
- Receive any public benefits (however use of the NHS is allowed)
- Work for any other business apart from the parent company or UK subsidiary.
- Run any other business.
How much does the Overseas Representative visa cost?
At the time of writing entry clearance applications are currently £610 per person and extensions are charged at £704 per person. The home office fees change on a regular basis so it’s always best to check the latest fees using the Home office fee calculator
Are there any other fees to pay for?
Apart from the visa fee itself and any additional priority service that you wish to purchase, the only additional fees are for the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) The IHS gives migrants the right to use the UK health service during their visa. This is a mandatory payment that you must make before you apply and is only retained if your visa is granted. The surcharge is circa £400 per year of your visa, per person. So for the first visa you will pay £1200 per person and for the extension you will pay £800 per person.
How long does it take to get an Overseas representative visa?
Processing times vary depending on which country you apply for, the facts of your case and how busy the Home office are at any one time. However as a general overview it takes around 14 working days from outside the UK or 5 working days if you use the priority service. In-country extensions take around 8-12 weeks.
How do you apply for an overseas representative visa?
To apply for an Overseas representative visa you must first fill in the online application form. Once the form is finished and you have all your documents ready you will submit and pay your visa and IHS fee.
Once you have paid all the required fees you can book your in-person submission appointment.
When you attend your appointment you will provide your biometric data and any required documents. Once this appointment has been completed your case is automatically sent to the Home Office for consideration.
What happens after my visa is granted?
Once your visa is granted, then you will have 30 days to enter the UK using your initial-entry visa. This is so you can pick up your full visa that is valid for 3 years and is issued on a biometric residence permit (BRP Card)
Once you have your BRP card you can begin working on behalf of the parent company in the UK.
For some nationalities you may also be required to register with the Police within a few days of arriving in the UK.
How do I set up a UK branch or subsidiary?
Setting up a company in the UK is quite straightforward and does not cost very much. You can do this yourself or get the help from a lawyer or accountant. Speak with your lawyer first to ensure that you are opening the right type of company with the correct ownership structure.
Can I bring other staff to the UK?
Yes, once the branch is established and trading you can obtain a Sponsorship licence for the UK company in order to sponsor other migrant staff. This is known as Tier 2.
The Tier 2 visa comes in two forms; Tier 2 (General) which is for senior permanent staff. These staff would be able to apply for ILR after 5 years.
The other category is Tier 2 (intra-company transfer) these are staff that you can move from your parent company to the UK very easily and can stay up to 9 years but they are not able to settle in the UK. We can assist you in obtaining the Tier 2 Sponsorship licence for your company
What happens if my visa application is refused ?
If your initial visa, extension or ILR application is refused then there are likely two routes forward;
- You can apply for an Administrative review, or
- You can re-apply
An administrative review is a way to ask the Home office to review your case for a legal error, there is a time limit to apply for an Administrative review of 14 days if you are in the UK and 28 days if your application was made from outside the UK. The time starts from the date of your decision.
It is important to get the refusal letter as soon as possible so you can discuss your case with a lawyer, this is because although an administrative review is a good strategy if there is an obvious legal error by the Home office, in many cases a fresh application may be a better option. There is also no minimum time that you must wait before you can came a fresh application.
Please contact us as soon as possible if you have received a refusal for your application.