Evidencing skills and
experience for Sole
Representative applicants

Smith Stone Walters recently published an update on key changes the Home Office will be introducing to the sole representative visa route, taking effect from 4th June 2020.

The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules issued by the government on 14th May appears to tighten the rules surrounding the Representative of Overseas Business visa category, in a move to prevent what the Home Office perceives as abuse of this route into the UK.

One of the amendments focuses on the suitability of the employee chosen to represent the company and facilitate the establishment of a new branch or subsidiary in the UK. Specifically, applicants must now be able to prove they have the necessary skills, experience, knowledge and authority to represent the overseas business in the UK.

So what constitutes a suitably qualified representative under the new rules, and what evidence will be required to tick the box on skills and experience?

Skills, experience, knowledge and authority

Previously, the guidance only specified that the sole representative should be employed by the overseas company in a senior role and have the authority to make operational decisions once in the UK.

Normally employers would provide a letter confirming the applicant’s skills, experience and authority to make decisions on behalf of the company.

However, going forward more evidence may be required to support the claimed skills and experience of the chosen candidate, details of which will be issued in updated casework guidance for Home Office assessors.

Such evidence requested in the future could include:

  • Providing evidence of the applicant’s professional work experience, educational background and references
  • Demonstrating that the applicant was hired following a fair recruitment and selection process, explaining why they were hired over other candidates
  • Providing evidence of the employee’s authority within the parent company, including previous negotiations or operational decisions they have made on behalf of the business

These new conditions on skills and experience appear to tie in with the overriding requirement for applicants to prove they have a ‘genuine intention’ to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK, and are using the Sole Representative visa for the right reasons.

However, the guidance remains vague on what constitutes ‘genuineness’, and it is not yet clear whether the Home Office will be able to lean on this subjective requirement as grounds to refuse applications.

A viable route for business growth

Despite the introduction of stricter eligibility criteria, the Sole Representative visa route remains an effective means for overseas companies to expand into the UK market whilst keeping their primary business operations outside of the UK.

With the right applicant, companies will be able to establish a presence in the UK led by a known employee they can trust to represent the business in a new market. This makes the Sole Representative route an attractive prospect for employers looking to avoid the risks and investment associated with employing staff in the UK to establish a branch.

However, in order to give your business the best chance of success, it is critical to select the best applicant from your organisation to give strength to your application. With the new rules making this route even more challenging for businesses to touchdown in the UK, getting your application right is now more important than ever.

Get help with your Sole Representative application

If your business is looking to expand into the UK market, Smith Stone Walters would be delighted to help. We regularly file Sole Representative visa applications for a range of clients, helping overseas organisations establish their first presence in the UK.

Our team of immigration experts will assess all of the visa options available to your business and advise you on how to comply with the latest requirements. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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