Sole Representative Visas for Employers

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If you are a substantial trading company located outside the UK, and have no current UK presence, you may be able to send a member of staff to the UK on a ‘Sole Representative Visa’.

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

You must be a genuine existing enterprise. If you have been established for less than a year you are unlikely to be considered suitable sponsors under this category.

The sending of a Sole Representative to the UK must be for your 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 your size, trading activities or profitability.

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

Once you have sent the representative to the UK, the majority of your 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 your operations so that they are based/headquartered in the UK, the application will not be approved.

Who can be sent to the UK as a Sole Representative?

The candidate should be a senior employee recruited outside the United Kingdom. In most cases, he or she will have been employed by you overseas for a significant period of time and be fully familiar with your business and procedures. This may not be the case when the individual has been recruited specifically to fulfil the role but in these circumstances, the applicant will need to demonstrate a background appropriate to the role.

If you are a family concern, the attempt to use a Sole Representative visa to send a junior member of the family to the United Kingdom will attract particularly rigorous scrutiny and will generally not succeed where they are unsuitably qualified or experienced

The Sole Representative visa is not designed for owner-managers or entrepreneurs (if you fall into this category, please click here). The rules prohibit the candidate from owing a majority or a controlling interest in either the Overseas firm, or the proposed new UK entity. In practice the maximum permissible shareholding is not 49% but 30-35%

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

What about the spouse / children of the Sole Representative?

You may apply for the candidates spouse and children to accompany them as their dependants.


The children of persons entering the UK as sole representatives are entitled to the same free education as British children. The candidate may choose to send their children to a private school if they wish.

Health care

A sole representative and their family here as their dependants are eligible to free health care provided by the National Health Service. They are not required to take out private health insurance.


The spouse of a sole representative is entitled to take up any employment.

How can a UK Sole Representative visa be Extended?

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

Once your representative has 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 they are in the UK, but will necessitate the temporary surrender of the candidate’s 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 your Sole Representative, the candidate may apply for settlement (permanent residence) if s/he is still required by you to continue in his/her role.

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



UK Sole Representative Visa FAQs

Q: What happens if I have 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.