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If an overseas business is doing well, its owners may decide to set up a limited company in the UK to extend its market opportunities and access new business networks. In this article, we explore the processes involved in establishing a UK branch of a small business, as well as some of the legal limitations that come with doing so.

First steps

It is important to note that overseas companies do not need to register in the UK if they are not physically present in the country (in other words, if they do not own offices or outlets). If they do plan to set up a UK place of business, however, then they must be able to declare a UK address as their official registered office. The proposed directors do not need to be UK residents, but the company’s business address must be serviced and company directors must be able to access statutory mail.

What is the registration process?

Companies must register with the UK government’s Companies House within a month of establishing their UK-based business. This can be done online by filling out an OS IN01 form [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-a-uk-establishment-of-an-overseas-company-os-in01] and paying a small registration fee. To complete the application, the company owner must be able to provide a unique company name, a UK-based address for its registered office, the director’s personal details such as nationality and date of birth, a certified copy of their business’s constitution documents, and a recent copy of their company accounts. They must also show that their proposed directors are over the age of 16 and are not bankrupt.

Should company directors open a UK bank account?

It is not strictly necessary for overseas companies to possess a UK bank account to trade within the country. However, setting one up will make transactions much quicker and smoother and avoid hefty fees. Generally speaking, a person will need UK residency rights and a UK-based home address to be eligible for a UK bank account. If this is not feasible, directors may wish to consider international bank account services offered by banks such as HSBC or Barclays.