Quick read

Setting up a UK Office or Branch of an Overseas Company

Gateley Legal's logo Gateley Legal

The Sole Representative visa is the only visa that allows overseas companies to assign a non-EU national the task of setting up a UK office. 

The visa itself is for a senior employee of an overseas company to live and work in the UK with a view to setting up a UK branch or subsidiary of the overseas company. This employee would then remain employed by the company, whether through the overseas office or directly by the UK entity, for a period of five years, during which time he or she can recruit workers from the domestic labour market and even apply for a sponsor licence in order to hire non-EU workers in the UK. 

The visa allows the Sole Representative to be accompanied or joined by his or her partner and minor children. After five years, the Sole Representative and any dependants can then apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. 

The visa is one of three work visas types that permit a foreign worker to set up a company in the UK and not require sponsorship by a UK company. The alternatives are the Tier 1 (Investor) visa, which requires £2 million cash in the applicant’s possession, or the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa, which requires between £50k and £200k of start-up capital. The Sole Representative visa does not have a requirement for a specific level of cash to be evidenced in a particular way. The emphasis is on the rationale for the company to have a UK entity and the rationale for the individual being entrusted to establish it.

Who qualifies for the Sole Representative visa?

The visa is designed for senior members of an overseas company, but not typically for owners or senior executives of a company. The emphasis is on the company remaining headquartered overseas and it is argued that this cannot be the case if the visa holder is too senior a member-of-staff. Therefore, there are restrictions on the percentage of company shares owned by the applicant, for example.

The overseas company or be hired specifically for the task of establishing an overseas branch. In both cases, the role needs to be suitable in terms of the authority that the individual will need to make relevant operational decisions relevant to the establishment of the UK entity.

How do I apply for the Sole Representative visa?

The Sole Representative visa needs to be applied for online from outside of the UK. Once the online form is complete and paid for, the applicant will need to attend a Visa Application Centre (VAC) is his or her country of residence to submit his or her paperwork to support the application. The VAC will then forward the application to the Home Office in the UK who will make a decision on the application.

How we can help you:

  1. Offer strategic advice on how to apply for the Sole Representative visa
  2. Complete guidance on meeting the evidential requirements of the visa
  3. Expert advice on continuing to meet the requirements of the visa
  4. Access to business and financial professionals to complete the setting up of your UK office

Gateley Plc is authorised and regulated by the SRA (Solicitors' Regulation Authority). Please visit the SRA website for details of the professional conduct rules which Gateley Legal must comply with.