From 29 March 2019, Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa route has been closed. New applications are not accepted and switching from another category is not possible, except when you switch from Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa. Applicants that had their visa granted before that date can still extend their visas, apply for permanent residence (ILR) and bring family members.
If you want to set up and run a business in the United Kingdom, you have three visa options at the moment. They differ in terms of initial investment, requirements to an applicant, criteria for extension, validity and whether they lead to British citizenship or not. But they are all business visas for either starting or seasoned entrepreneurs that have an innovative idea or expanding an existing international business.
Taxes paid by small and medium-sized companies are a large contribution to the UK treasury; therefore, immigration authorities have several visa categories for foreign entrepreneurs. However, in most cases an applicant must meet one of the following criteria in order to get a UK business visa:
For a sole representative visa to the UK, you do not need millions of pounds or a break-through business idea. It is an ideal solution for a co-owner of a successful company planning to set up its representation in the UK. If you are a top manager in such company, a sole representative visa can be your chance to relocate to the United Kingdom.
A sole representative visa is a work visa with a job offer. No need to look for a job as you are transferred from a parent company to the UK subsidiary. Besides, you get a company to run on a daily basis and a business to develop on a new market.
Moreover, you will not spend a penny of your own money. It is the beauty of this visa category – a representative does not have any significant costs as they will be borne by the company. Application fee is only £610 per person.
A representative of an overseas business visa is the only visa that you will not be able to switch to from another category.
The parent company must be registered and trading abroad and you must be a top manager there with decision-making rights. The main thing for you is not to own more than 50% shares of the parent company. Besides, you must have a relevant education, experience and skills to run a UK subsidiary.
You must be hired by the head office to be their sole representative in the UK with necessary powers to carry out your duties. You must work nowhere else but for the British subsidiary.
A Home Office caseworker must be 100% sure that a successful foreign business is planning to set up its branch or subsidiary in the UK for the sole purpose of expanding its operations abroad and not for relocation purposes. Therefore, it is important to submit a well-prepared business plan with your application explaining what you are going to achieve and how you are going to do it.
It is one of the most time-consuming visas. The whole process of applying for a sole representative visa to the UK, including preparation of required documents, incorporation of a subsidiary and submission of an application form, takes 4 to 8 weeks.
Once your application is submitted to the Home Office and you enrol your biometrics, it will be at least 3 weeks before a decision is made on your case. To speed it up, you can pay an extra fee for a priority service.
It is recommended to have at least 3 months at your disposal when applying for a sole representative visa. If you need to arrive in the UK on 10 May, submit your application not later than 10 February.
spouse, children under 18 Eligible dependants
not required Personal investment
2 – 4 months Processing time
in 5 years Permanent residence in the UK
in 6 years British passport
First sole representative visa is valid for 3 years and must be extended before it expires. It can be extended for another 2 years provided you comply with the following conditions:
Your dependants from the initial application can also extend their visas together with you, including children who turned 18 after first visas were granted.
You and all family members must enrol biometrics once again. If you are too busy to go to or wait for an appointment, the HomeOffice offers a special biometrics enrolment service when they come to you to take your fingerprints and photos. However, this will not speed up the processing of your extension application.
You can apply for an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK after 5 years of arriving in the country provided you have been complying with all terms and conditions of your visa. If you plan to settle in the UK, make sure you do not spend more than 180 days outside the country in any 12-month period from your first entry on a sole representative visa to the date of application. You must demonstrate to the immigration authorities that you have been and intend to continue carrying out your duties.
Your ILR application will also depend on the level of your integration in the British society. It is determined through two tests:
All dependants that applied with you for a UK sole representative visa can be added to your ILR application, including children over 18 if they still rely on you for financial support.
It normally takes the Home Office 1 to 2 months to process an ILR application. Once granted, a settled status gives the same rights as British citizenship. If, however, you want to get a UK passport, you can apply for it one year after obtaining ILR.
You and your family members can apply for naturalisation a year after you get a settled status and at least 6 years after first arriving in the UK on a representative of an overseas business visa. Besides, all of you must comply with the following requirements.
You would usually need to wait 4 to 6 weeks from submitting a naturalisation application to receiving your first British passport. The United Kingdom allows dual nationality. However, to get your certificate of naturalisation, you must make an oath or pledge of allegiance to your new home country.
Our immigration advisers will assess your case and give detailed information about a sole representative visa and its requirements. We can meet in our office or have a chat over the phone, or a video call on WhatsApp/Zoom/Skype. We will need a copy of your passport and address to prepare a client agreement.
Imperial & Legal team will help you prepare, translate and certify all necessary documents in strict compliance with the UK Immigration Rules. Our experts will also draft a detailed cover letter to be submitted with your application where they will explain how you fulfil all the requirements of a sole representative visa to the UK. Moreover, we can help you draft a proper business plan and, if necessary, incorporate a subsidiary.
Collecting your sole representative visa and relocating to the UK
The Home Office would normally make a decision on your application within 3 weeks of submission. If it is approved, you can enter the UK. We have a dedicated team that offers relocation assistance including school search and finding an accommodation to rent, opening a bank account and other services.
Applying for an indefinite leave to remain in the UK
You can apply for ILR in five years after first arriving in the UK on a sole representative visa if all the requirements are met. Immigration advisers at Imperial & Legal will help you prepare for an English test and Life in the UK test. We will check how many days you have been absent from the country and whether they are within prescribed limits. We will prepare all the documents to demonstrate that both you and your business are compliant.
Citizenship applications can be made one year after obtaining ILR. If you have not done so already, we will help you prepare and take necessary tests. We will fill in and submit your naturalisation application to the Home Office. Once approved, you will need to give an oath or pledge of allegiance after which you will be issued with a certificate of naturalisation. With that in hand, our team will apply for your first British passport.
This category is a type of a work visa, but you will be director in your own company and the representative office does not need to apply for a sponsor licence to employ you.
Another advantage is that you will have almost no personal costs, especially if you have been an employee in the parent company and not a co-owner.
Moreover, it is also important that you can bring your spouse and minor children with you. If your children want to go to college after finishing school, they can do so without applying for a student visa because their visas as your dependants on the UK sole representative route can be extended even if they turn 18 in the process.
It is not mandatory, but experts at Imperial & Legal strongly recommend submitting it with your visa application as it will show how serious plans and intentions of the parent company are. We can help you draft a business plan.
The key condition on which the Home Office will agree to extend your visa will be a productive operation of the representative office in the UK under your management and no significant changes in the operation of the parent company. It means that the head office is still based and trading outside the United Kingdom. Both the parent company and the subsidiary are selling the same goods and/or services.
Full legal support from experienced advisers will save your time and money when applying for a sole representative visa to the UK and extending it as it minimises mistakes and allows you to prepare all documents and fill in your application correctly.
Qualified immigration advisers at Imperial & Legal will also help you avoid pitfalls and common mistakes when applying for an indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship. We practice an individual approach to our clients and offer assistance in various matters where immigration is only one of them. Our team is here to help you register a UK company and relocate to the UK stress-free.
We have been helping successful entrepreneurs worldwide to obtain a Sole Representative visa. Contact us to start your application today.
British citizenship by investment
Extend your Entrepreneur visa
Second passport by investment
Start a business in UK
Open a bank account