Immigration & Visas: Getting your team on the ground from outside the UK

What if your company is not based in the UK?

Sole representatives of overseas companies from outside of the EEA setting up a UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary for an overseas parent company may apply for an Overseas Representative Visa. .

Usually this is the most appropriate category if the company does not have any presence in the UK. Once the operation is set up in the UK, it is common for companies to apply for a sponsor licence to employ  non-EEA nationals in addition to their resident workforce.

The applicant must be employed by a company headquartered outside of the UK, have extensive industry experience and knowledge, hold a senior position within the company, as well as the power to make binding decisions, in order to apply under this route to establish the company’s first commercial presence in the UK (excluding shell companies).

The applicant must be able to support themselves during their stay in the UK and also must hold an adequate level of English.

Tier 1  Investor

Applicants with more than £2,000,000 in investments may apply for the Tier 1 Investor visa.  While the requirements are broadly the same, the source of the funds is generally wider including money based outside of the UK upon application, but the money must be used for UK government bonds, share capital or loan capital and cannot be linked to property.  If they wish, applicants can use this visa to work and study in the UK.

Particular care must be exercised when applicants enter the UK under this route as there are strict requirements on when and how the investments must be made in addition to documenting such investments.

In the first instance, this visa runs for 3 years and 4 months with opportunities to extend in 2 year increments.  However, migrants who invest over £5,000,000 can also apply to settle after 3 years, while those investing over £10,000,000 can apply to settle after 2 years.

Tier 1 – Entrepreneur

Alternatively, start-ups may also be able to use the Tier 1 Entrepreneur scheme which aims to attract high value migrants who can promote business in the UK.

In order to apply for this Tier 1 Visa, the employee or manager concerned must come to the UK to set up or run a business, including access to an investment fund (which can be shared with another Tier 1 Entrepreneur applicant) with a value above either £50,000 or £200,000, including personally held funds, seed funding, venture capital and government support, as well as setting out a business plan.  Alternatively, applications are also accepted from migrants who have already invested either £50,000 or £200,000 in a UK business in the preceding 12 months prior to the application.

Family members, as well as the applicant, must provide criminal record certifications, and family members must also pay the healthcare surcharge which goes towards NHS healthcare in England and Wales. Family members and the applicant must also demonstrate that they are able to financially support themselves during their stay in the UK.

This route has a very high refusal rate (over 50%) as case workers often make subjective decisions on the viability of the business under the genuineness requirement.

Tier 1 – Exceptional Talent

There are 2,000 visas available each financial year for exceptional individuals (leaders and emerging leaders) in the fields of science, engineering, humanities, medicine, digital technology, the arts and fashion.

Applicants will need to first obtain an endorsement from an approved body. Each body has its own endorsement criteria.

This route is an attractive choice for individuals with exceptional skills and experience but lack the seniority to qualify for an Overseas representative visa.