Being one of the biggest business economies in the world, the UK can offer a plethora of opportunities for innovative organisations ready to expand. However, like any other business venture, there is a certain amount of red tape to go through. Suppose you have an overseas or international business and you are looking to open a branch or subsidiary in the UK. In that case, you must follow specific procedures to be transparent and compliant with UK Business Law.

In this article, we will look at how to set up and register a foreign company in the UK and what you’ll need to do as an overseas business owner.

When should you register your overseas company in the UK?

register subsidiary

Any international or overseas business that operates in the United Kingdom is only obliged to register when there is a physical business presence. This usually refers to a brick and mortar presence in the form of some sort of commercial building such as a factory, a shop, or an office.

If you only have independent agents, distributors, or occasionally visiting employees in the UK, you do not need to register.

It can be a little confusing at times, so it is essential to identify whether you are required to register. Further information can be found on the Government’s Companies House website.

How do you Register an Overseas Company in the UK?

one world

The first thing you must do is ensure that you have the proper Visa. The UK Expansion worker visa Visa enables overseas companies to establish a business presence in the United Kingdom by sending a company representative (Sole representative) to the UK.

The Sole Representative Visa allows an overseas company to establish a subsidiary or branch of their leading company in the UK.

A Sole Representative wanting to apply to the UK would have to be an overseas citizen who meets the following criteria:

• An (employee) of a company based outside of the UK who intends to open a subsidiary or branch in the UK and who was recruited outside the UK.

• A senior member of the firm who is not the Majority owner and has sufficient knowledge and ability to make management decisions on the company’s behalf.

• The applicant must show English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in speaking and listening at least level A1.

After the Sole Representative Visa application is approved, you will be able to enter the UK for an initial three year period to build your business. After that time, you can lengthen your stay by filing leave to remain application.

And then?

the one world

The next step is to fill out and submit the OS IN01 form. It must be submitted to Companies House and the necessary registration fee of £20. You must ensure this form is filled out correctly and completely.

It would be best if you also took note of the following information on the form:

• The overseas company can name their UK branch whatever they want. When it comes to all business operations in the UK, this name can be used as the overseas company’s name, though all trading disclosure rules must be followed.

• Companies House will assign a code to the foreign company once it has been registered. Depending on whether it’s a branch, the code will start with ‘FC’ or ‘BR.’

• Any changes to the company, such as the appointment of new agents, distributors, or franchisees, must be reported to Companies House.

Are the Tax Requirements Different for Overseas Businesses in the UK?


There are numerous tax rules that overseas companies operating in the UK must be aware of, as profits generated in the UK are unquestionably taxable.

Corporation Tax

Because UK legislation incorporates double taxation treaties, it is doubtful that you will be able to charge fictitious prices or management fees. You will find that corporation tax is where most of your tax will go. Excessive interest rates between the new UK branch and the parent company are generally prohibited and cannot be used to offset corporation tax. However, corporation tax can be paid in the same way that domestic businesses pay corporation tax.

What about VAT?

If you have a branch or a subsidiary, the VAT rules are the same for local businesses, and you will need to file for VAT if you reach specific thresholds. You must register if you have an annual £85,000 or higher annual turnover. Alternatively, you could always register voluntarily if you wish to take advantage of some of VAT’s benefits. There are various circumstances in which multinational corporations may be excluded from taxation, but these are somewhat few and far between.


Despite what must seem like excess amounts of red tape and admin needed to register and establish an overseas business in the UK, the country encourages international businesses.
The United Kingdom offers many opportunities for success in various industries, and UK residents welcome overseas companies of all types. Compared to other nations, establishing an overseas business in the UK and remaining fully compliant is relatively simple.
There is quite a significant network of international firms in the UK, so it is easy to get information and guidance from other business owners if you are unsure.

Contact us