Replacing Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa

On 15 March 2022, the Home Office introduced the statement of changes. In summary, this is where the Home Office updates and/or replaces parts of the Immigration Rules in the various application categories. Read an overview of the recent changes here.

The most noticeable change was the ending of the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa route, which no longer took effect as of 11 April 2022 at 9 am.

In this article, Immigration partner Christine Chiew and paralegal Chelsea Qu explain what will replace the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa and highlight why those who are already on the Sole Representative visa route will not be affected by the changes.

What follows after the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business comes to an end?

The Home Office has confirmed that the replacement will come in the form of a new category entitled Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa.

The Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa is targeted at businesses outside the United Kingdom which seek to expand their presence from within the United Kingdom. It is worth highlighting that this visa covers businesses that have not started trading in the UK.

What are the features of the Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa?

The Home Office has introduced a new points-based visa system. Before considering an application, it should be noted that the overseas business will need to acquire a Sponsor Licence for the UK company they plan to set up in the UK. It will then be for the UK company to apply for a certificate of sponsorship and sponsor the applicant to meet the initial eligibility under this route, which we have set out below.

There will be 60 points in total awarded under this category. This amounts to 20 for sponsorship (as highlighted above), 20 for the job at an appropriate level, and 20 for salary at a required level. All should be met for the satisfaction of the visa route.

In general terms, the following should be met:

  • The applicant is aged 18 years of age or over.
  • The job is genuine and not created to facilitate an entry into the UK or for undertaking work for a third party who has not been given a certificate of sponsorship.
  • The applicant is currently working for the overseas business linked to the UK sponsor (a branch that will be created in the UK) by common ownership or control, or by a joint venture. This will mean in practice that the applicant must be given a certificate of sponsorship before the application can be accepted (highlighted above).
  • The applicant has worked outside the UK for the overseas linked business for a cumulative period of at least 12 months. The 12-month rule does not apply if the applicant is earning £73,900 per year or more or the applicant is a Japanese national seeking to establish a UK branch or subsidiary of the linked business or organisation under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
  • Where the applicant has worked for at least 12 months, the salary must be equal to or exceed both £42,400 per year and the ‘going rate’ for the job. This going rate will depend on the occupation of the job. A full list of the going rate per job will be released by the Home Office once the route opens.

There will be general requirements to meet in addition to the above, such as the applicant being able to maintain themselves without access to public funds and being in possession of a Tuberculosis certificate (if from a country that is on the list of those requiring a Tuberculosis certificate). There are also specific consideration factors to be considered regarding the salary. We will therefore advise any business that wishes to consider this route to seek legal advice.

What are the differences between the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa and the Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa?

There are a few key differences between the new Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa and the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa. Some are advantageous, whilst others will clearly not be fully welcomed by applicants under the new route.

Key difference: English language requirement

Under the Sole Representative route, the applicant must prove knowledge of English.

Under the new route, there are no present English language requirements to be met.

Key difference: Shareholding requirement

Another advantage to the new visa route is the changes made to the shareholding percentage rule which is a main feature of the Sole Representative route.

Under the Sole Representative route, where an applicant owns or controls a stake in the overseas business, they cannot own or control a majority of that business. This principle applies whether that ownership or control is by shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship, or any other arrangement.

However, under the Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa, there are no current limits to the shareholding and percent of shares owned. Noticeably, where the Sole Representative visa focuses on sole applicants, a further advantage under the new visa is that a group of individuals can apply at the same time (providing they meet the requirements of the application). If the business intends to apply for multiple positions at once, seeking legal advice is advised.

Key difference: Settlement

A major setback is that the Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa does not lead to settlement. The initial grant will be two years and the maximum period of stay under the new visa route is up to five years within a six-year period. This is a stark contrast to the Sole Representative visa which leads to settlement after five years.

What are the rules on dependents under the Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa?

Rules on partners and children have generally remained the same. Partners and children are eligible to apply as dependents. This applies from entry clearance applications and also in the country if the applicant is residing in the UK.

The changes in place highlight how the role of sponsor licences will be a very important part of future Immigration Rule policies. The Global Business Mobility routes are designed for businesses and workers undertaking temporary business assignments in the UK and therefore will not lead directly to settlement in the UK.

If you are looking to apply for a Global Mobility UK Expansion Worker visa, our immigration lawyers Christine Chiew and Chelsea Qu can provide guidance to applicants and enable them to meet the requirements of settlement by taking advantage of switching into different categories, which is permitted in certain immigration categories under this visa route. Therefore, although this route does not count or lead to settlement per se, the potential of an applicant meeting the requirements for settlement cannot be disregarded altogether.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.