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The End of Sole Rep Visa

We are only in March, but the Home Office has already made radical changes to the Immigration Rules. The Tier 1 Investor Visa closed without prior notice at 4pm on 17 February 2022. The route started in 2008 was a popular option for High-Net-worth individuals looking to invest in the UK in return for Settlement/British Citizenship. Although Immigration Practitioners anticipated some changes to the route, immediate closure was never expected.

On 15 March 2022, the Home Office published the latest statement of changes substantially changing the outlook of the rules particularly for business migrants. The changes will be implemented from 11 April through to 22 August 2022. We will see an end to the Sole Rep Visa (Representative of Overseas Business Visa) at 9am on 11 April 2022. 

Following the demise of the Tier 1 Entrepreneur Category in 2019, the Sole Rep visa gained popularity with visa nationals keen to take advantage of this practical option for expanding their business to the UK. Its replacement comes in the form of a new category, UK Expansion Worker. Although it has some similarities to Sole Rep the biggest change is that the new route does not lead to ‘settlement’ in the UK. Initial leave is only granted for one year with extension only possible for another year. 

There seems to be some benefit of the new route. There doesn’t appear to be a shareholding limit of 50% which was an obstacle with the Sole Rep visa. This is helpful to majority shareholders who want to personally move to the UK to establish the branch. Under the Sole Rep route only one senior employee could enter the UK whereas the UK Expansion Worker allows a team of senior employees to relocate to the UK.
Another major difference is the overseas business will need to hold a sponsor licence. The statement of changes does not give details on how sponsorship is possible if the business is based outside the UK. I am sure the government will be publishing additional guidance on this very soon. 
The replacement to the Sole Rep appears restrictive. We will have to wait and see in practice how restrictive it really is. I am sure the UK Expansion visa will see many amendments as the route matures but for now it is time to bid farewell to sole rep.

Article by Adeeb Chowdhry

Farani Taylor

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