Sole Representative Visas for Employees

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If you are going to be sent to the UK by a company which does not have an existing UK presence, you may be able to come to the UK using a sole representative visa. However, this sort of visa is designed to be of assistance to established overseas companies - it is not supposed to be used for your own immigration convenience, so any application must show that expansion to the UK is viable and sensible for the overseas company.

If you are an entrepreneur coming to establish and run your own business, you will not qualify for a sole representative visa – Click Here for details of visas for Entrepreneurs.

Does my Company Qualify to send a Sole Representative to the UK?

The company must be a genuine existing enterprise; if it has been established for less than a year it is unlikely to be considered a suitable sponsor under this category.

The sending of a Sole Representative to the UK must be for the company’s benefit, and not for the immigration convenience of the candidate, so the budget allocated to the UK expansion should not be unrealistic in the context of the company’s size, trading activities or profitability.

In general, the commercial logic of the proposed expansion into the UK will be called into question if it is a small concern and the new UK presence will represent a diversification into an area in which you have no existing overseas involvement.

Once the company has sent the representative to the UK, the majority of its business should continue to be overseas. If it appears that the sending of the representative to the UK will result in a general move of corporate operations so that they are based/headquartered in the UK, the application will not be approved.

Am I a suitable person to be sent to the UK as a Sole Representative?

In order to be sent as a Sole Representative of your company to the UK, you should be a senior employee recruited outside the United Kingdom.

Your suitability is enhanced if you have been employed overseas for a significant period of time and are fully familiar with the company’s business and procedures. If you have been newly recruited specifically to start a UK office, you will need to demonstrate a strong background which makes you particularly well suited to the role.

If the business is a family concern, and you are a junior member of the family, the application will attract particularly rigorous scrutiny; generally it will not succeed unless you have the qualifications and experience that would be required by commercial as opposed to family concerns.

If you own a majority or a controlling interest in either the Overseas firm, or the proposed new UK entity, you will not be suitable (In practice, the maximum permissible shareholding is not 49% but 30-35%). The Sole Representative visa is not designed for owner-managers or entrepreneurs.

As a Sole Representative you will generally be given an initial visa for 12 months, once in the UK you will usually be entitled to healthcare from the UK’s National Health Service. You will therefore have to pass an examination to check that you have no serious medical conditions.

What about the spouse / children of the Sole Representative?

You may apply for your spouse and children to accompany you as your dependants.


Your children entering the UK as your dependants are entitled to the same free education as British children. You may choose to send your children to a private school if you wish.

Health care

You and your family are eligible to free health care provided by the National Health Service. You are not required to take out private health insurance.


Your spouse is entitled to take up any lawful employment.

How can a UK Sole Representative visa be Extended?

Sole representative visas are usually granted for an initial twelve month period.

Once you have been in the UK for 12 months, it is generally possible to extend their stay for a further 3 years. This application will be made while you are in the UK, but will necessitate the temporary surrender of the your passport to the home office while the application is considered.

The extension application will need to be accompanied by

After a total of 4 years in the UK as a Sole Representative, you may apply for settlement (permanent residence) if your employer still requires you to continue in your role.

What Data and Documents are required to make a UK Sole Representative Visa Application?



UK Sole Representative Visa FAQs

Q: What happens if the company has already incorporated a UK branch / subsidiary?

A: Sole Representative Visas are only available to overseas firms that have no branch, subsidiary, or other representative in the United Kingdom. However, It is permissible to form a UK company in anticipation of such an appointment so long as that UK company exists only as a shell which has not yet started to trade.

Q: Are Sole Representatives allowed to be Shareholders in the Parent Company?

A: A Sole Representative may not be the majority shareholder in the parent company. Further, the view taken is that removing a major share holder is indicative of the centre of operations moving to the United Kingdom - This is not permitted. Shareholdings in excess of 30% in the parent are likely to result in rigorous scrutiny of the application.

Q: Can Sole Representatives Act as Agents?

A: No, the sole representative must be engaged full-time in establishing a commercial presence for the parent company in the United Kingdom. This precludes taking secondary employment or acting on behalf of anyone other than the parent company.

Q: How long will it take to process a Sole Representative Visa Application?

A: If the application is deemed to be simple, it will probably be processed by the Entry Clearance Officer at the Overseas British Consular Post. Where this is the case, an application will usually not take longer than ten working days.

Where an application is deemed to be complex, or where particularly rigorous scrutiny is called for, it will be referred back to the Home Office in the UK. Such applications will usually take over nine months to process.

All applications where the candidate is Russian, Chinese (PRC), North Korean, or Libyan, will be referred back to the UK, and will consequently take over nine months to process.

If you would like to apply for Sole Representative Visa, please fill out our on-line form.