New guidance for Sole Representative
visa applications

The Home Office has published updated guidance for its caseworkers on assessing applications to the Representatives of Overseas Businesses visa category, otherwise known as the ‘Sole Representative visa’.

The new guidance comes after a ‘Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules’ released by the Home Office in May showed significant tightening of the rules surrounding this route into the UK.

The changes came into effect on 4 June 2020, and the new guidance will act as a reference for Home Office caseworkers when considering the stricter requirements whilst making decisions on sole representative applications.

Updated wording in the rules states that overseas businesses sending a representative to the UK must have a ‘genuine intention’ to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK, and must not be using this route “solely for the purpose of facilitating the entry and stay of the applicant”.

The ‘genuineness’ criteria

The Statement of Changes has introduced a new genuineness test which Home Office caseworkers are advised to consider when making decisions on applications.

This is a significant change, as it could allow decision makers to reject applications based on subjective assumptions about the applicant or overseas business.

When a sole representative visa applicant applies for entry clearance, leave to enter or leave to remain, the Home Office must be satisfied that the applicant meets all the relevant criteria, to prove they have a ‘genuine intention’ and the ability to establish a presence for the overseas business in the UK. To assess this, the Home Office may request:

  • Additional information or evidence to demonstrate the applicant meets all of the criteria
  • For the applicant to attend an interview with the Home Office

This ‘genuineness’ consideration appears to be incorporated into multiple areas of the guidance, suggesting the Home Office may have more grounds for refusal for future applications.

Requests for further evidence

It is clear from the guidance that the evidential burden on sole representative applicants is likely to increase for future applications.

The Home Office may make further enquiries or request more evidence in cases where:

  • The overseas business has only a small number of staff or trading premises
  • The overseas business has no previous record of international expansion
  • The overseas business has only recently been established
  • There is little evidence of a physical or online trading presence and business activities relating to the overseas business
  • The representative applying has previous activity in the UK that is unrelated to the business they now represent
  • Non-standard information is required to determine whether the applicant owns or controls the business

Applicants who fall into any of the above categories should therefore be prepared for the Home Office to request further information or evidence to support their case.

It is important to note that the guidance states these situations do not automatically indicate a lack of genuineness and should not be grounds for refusal in themselves. It also notes that applicants should be given a reasonable opportunity to address any areas of concern before the application is rejected.

However, applicants should be aware that the rules surrounding the sole representative visa route are tightening. Smith Stone Walters would advise applicants take steps to ensure they and the overseas business they represent are able to meet the tougher criteria and present a convincing application to the Home Office.

Let us help you with your Sole Representative visa 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.

We will work with you to assess the best route into the UK for your business, and assist you in submitting a strong application to secure your visa.

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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