The UK Expansion Worker visa facilitates non-UK businesses aiming to launch in Britain, allowing them to send key personnel to set up their initial UK branch. Requiring a UK sponsor’s endorsement, candidates must satisfy skill and salary benchmarks. With a 2-year cap, holders can work up to 12 months from their sponsorship certificate’s commencement date. Extensions are available for another year. While it doesn’t grant permanent residency, it bolsters UK’s economy and global commerce.
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UK Expansion Worker Visa and Its Role in Overseas Business Growth
The UK Expansion Worker Visa is designed to enable skilled workers to establish the first branch or subsidiary of their overseas business in Britain. This visa category allows eligible businesses to sponsor senior managers or specialized workers who are temporarily assigned to the UK to undertake work related to expanding the overseas business within the UK market.
Replacement of Unsponsored Sole Representative Provisions
The UK Expansion Worker Visa has replaced the previous unsponsored sole representative provisions of the Representative of an Overseas Business route. However, visa-holders already present in the UK under the old route can apply for further permission without the need to switch to the new visa category. This ensures that the earlier route remains accessible to those with existing permission on that route.
A Part of Global Business Mobility (GMB) Visa Umbrella
As one of the five new sponsored routes under the Global Business Mobility (GMB) visa umbrella, the UK Expansion Worker Visa aims to both reform previous visa pathways and introduce new provisions to facilitate economic growth and foster trade in the UK post-Brexit.
Authorized Work and Permissible Activities
Holders of the UK Expansion Worker Visa are authorized to work in the specific job for which they have been sponsored, as specified in their sponsorship certificate. Additionally, they are permitted to engage in voluntary work and pursue educational opportunities in the UK.
Accompaniment of Family Members
Expansion Workers in the UK have the option to be accompanied or joined by their partner and dependent children if they meet the relevant requirements for dependents. The visa allows both the main applicant and their family members to travel in and out of the UK as long as their visas remain valid.
Establishment Period and Expanding Opportunities
Upon successfully establishing the UK office, the visa-holder is granted a 2-year initial period to solidify their business presence in the UK. After this establishment phase, the Expansion Worker can explore adding other routes to their visa license, providing them with further opportunities for growth and development.
The Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker route is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is a senior manager or specialist employee and is being assigned to the UK to undertake work related to a business’s expansion to the UK.Appendix Global Business Mobility
Criteria and Conditions for UK Expansion Worker Visa
To be eligible for a UK Expansion Worker visa, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Age Requirement: The applicant must be at least 18 years old at the time of applying for the visa.
- Employment with a Linked Overseas Business: The applicant should already be employed by a linked overseas business on the date of application. This means that the business they are working for should have a direct relationship with the UK enterprise they intend to establish or join.
- Minimum Employment Period: In most cases, applicants must have worked for the linked overseas business for a prescribed minimum period. However, certain exceptions may apply, and it is important to check the specific requirements based on individual circumstances.
- Sponsorship Requirement: Unlike the previous unsponsored visa route, the UK Expansion Worker visa requires the applicant to have a UK sponsor. This sponsor will support the applicant’s relocation and employment in the UK and must meet the necessary sponsorship criteria.
It is crucial for potential applicants to carefully review and fulfill these eligibility requirements before applying for the UK Expansion Worker visa. Meeting these criteria will ensure a smooth and successful visa application process.
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3. Sponsor Requirements: New Branches
Guidelines for UK Expansion Workers Establishing New UK Branches
To sponsor UK Expansion Workers, the employing organization must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business. It’s important to note that the UK Expansion Worker route is specifically designed for businesses that have not yet commenced trading in the UK.
Consider Alternative Visa Categories for Established UK Businesses
If a linked overseas employer intends to send a senior or specialist employee on a temporary work assignment to an already trading UK business, they should explore alternative visa categories such as the Senior or Specialist Worker visa or the Skilled Worker visa. However, for these routes, the UK employer must hold a valid sponsorship license in order to sponsor employees under these categories.
Selecting the appropriate visa route is crucial to ensure compliance with the UK immigration system and to meet the specific requirements of the business’s situation. For businesses planning to establish new ventures in the UK, the UK Expansion Worker visa provides a suitable pathway, while other visa options are available for businesses that are already operating in the UK market.
4. Visa Requirements
Points-Based System for UK Expansion Worker Visa
The UK Expansion Worker visa operates on a points-based system, where applicants must accumulate a total of 60 points across three key criteria: sponsorship, skill, and salary.
Sponsorship Points (20 points)
Applicants must obtain 20 points for sponsorship, which necessitates having a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a licensed sponsor. The sponsorship must be for genuine employment that fulfills the overseas work requirement.
To be eligible for sponsorship, the applicant must currently work for an overseas linked employer and have a minimum of 12 months of employment with them, unless they fall under specific exemptions. Exemptions include applicants earning over £73,900, Japanese nationals working for a Japanese company expanding to the UK, or Australian nationals or permanent residents establishing a branch or subsidiary of their Australian employer in the UK. High-earners and qualifying Japanese and Australian nationals are required to work for an overseas linked employer but do not need to have prior work experience outside the UK.
Skill and Salary Points (20 points each)
To score 20 points each for skill and salary, the applicant must be sponsored for an eligible job role that meets or exceeds the appropriate minimum skill level. Additionally, the annual salary should be at least £42,400 or the ‘going rate’ for that specific job, whichever is higher.
Additional Requirements for Applicants from Listed Countries
Applicants from listed countries must provide a valid TB test certificate in addition to meeting the points-based requirements.
Financial Requirement for Entry Clearance or Leave to Remain Applicants
For applicants who have been in the UK for less than 12 months and are applying for entry clearance or leave to remain, there is a financial requirement. Proof of funds of at least £1,270 must be shown, unless the sponsor certifies maintenance under this route. The funds must be available for at least 28 consecutive days, and the end date of the 28-day period should fall within 31 days of the application date.
Meeting these points-based and additional requirements is essential for a successful UK Expansion Worker visa application.
5. Sponsor Requirements
Specific Conditions and Obligations for UK Expansion Workers
To sponsor UK Expansion Workers, the employing organization must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business. However, this route is exclusive to businesses that have not yet commenced trading in the UK.
Choosing the Appropriate Visa Route
If a linked overseas employer intends to send a senior or specialist employee to the UK for a temporary work assignment in an already trading UK business, they should explore other visa categories such as the Senior or Specialist Worker visa, or the Skilled Worker visa. To do so, the UK employer must hold a valid sponsorship license for these routes.
Valid Sponsorship License and Skill/Salary Requirements
Sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker requires the sponsor to possess a valid license for this category of worker and ensure that the offered employment in the UK meets the relevant skill and salary criteria. Only then can the sponsor issue a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
Demonstrating a UK ‘Footprint’
When applying for a license to sponsor applicants under the UK Expansion Worker route, the sponsor must demonstrate a UK ‘footprint’. This can be achieved by providing evidence of UK business premises or registration with Companies House. Additionally, the sponsor must show an overseas trading presence and credible plans for expansion in the UK. This usually involves demonstrating that the overseas business has been actively trading for at least 3 years and intends and is capable of establishing a new UK branch or subsidiary within 2 years of receiving the license.
Rating and CoS Allocation
The type of rating a UK Expansion Worker sponsor receives depends on whether the Authorizing Officer (AO) nominated in the license application is already based in the UK or overseas. The AO must be the most senior person responsible for recruiting migrant workers in the business. If the AO is based in the UK, the sponsor will receive an A-rating with a full CoS allocation, up to a maximum of 5. The maximum allocation number is limited to the workers genuinely needed to establish the business in the UK. Once a UK trading presence is established, other routes can be added to the sponsor license.
In contrast, if the AO is outside the UK, the sponsor will initially receive a CoS allocation of 1 with a provisional license rating. The AO, who must also be the person responsible for using the sponsorship management system (SMS), needs to assign the CoS to themselves to make a successful entry clearance application. If granted entry clearance, the AO can request a change in the license rating from provisional to an A-rating, increasing the CoS allocation.
License Validity and Consequences of Non-compliance
The sponsor’s license will be valid for 4 years, but since the Home Office expects the overseas business to establish a full trading presence within 2 years, the license cannot be renewed. If the business fails to establish a trading presence within the specified timeframe, the sponsor’s CoS allocation for this route will be reduced to zero. This means the sponsor cannot sponsor new workers or extension applications, and they might even have their license revoked.
6. Application Process
Steps and Procedures for a UK Expansion Worker Visa
To apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa, the applicant needs to follow a straightforward online application process using their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) reference number. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the application process:
- Online Application: The applicant completes the online application, entering the CoS reference number. They can submit the visa application up to 3 months before their intended start date of work in the UK, as specified on the sponsorship certificate.
- Document Submission: As part of the application, the applicant must provide proof of identity and any supporting documents required. Depending on the circumstances, they may need to attend an appointment to provide biometric information. The requirement for an appointment will be communicated during the application process.
- Required Documents: The applicant must have the following documents:
- A valid CoS issued by a UK licensed sponsor.
- A passport or other travel document proving their identity and nationality.
- Evidence of having worked for their employer outside the UK for at least 12 months, if applicable.
- Proof of sufficient funds, if necessary.
- A valid tuberculosis test certificate, if coming from a country on the UK’s list of countries requiring a TB test.
- Decision Timeline: Once the applicant has provided all necessary documents, proven their identity, and paid the relevant fee, the UK authorities aim to make a decision within 3 weeks if the applicant is outside the UK and within 8 weeks if the applicant is inside the UK.
By following these steps and ensuring that all required documents are submitted accurately, the applicant can facilitate a smooth and timely processing of their UK Expansion Worker visa application.
7. Application Costs
Fees and Expenses for a UK Expansion Worker Visa
When applying for a UK Expansion Worker visa, applicants need to consider various costs involved in the process. Here’s an overview of the expenses:
- Application Fee: The applicant is required to pay an application fee of £259 for the UK Expansion Worker visa.
- Immigration Health Surcharge: Additionally, the applicant must pay the annual immigration health surcharge, which amounts to £624.
- Proof of Funds: Applicants need to demonstrate proof of funds of at least £1,270, where applicable, to meet the financial requirement.
- Sponsorship Costs: The sponsoring business also incurs expenses for the sponsorship process. The sponsor must pay the standard fee for a Temporary Worker sponsor license, which amounts to £536. This fee remains the same for all sponsors, regardless of their size or charitable status. Additionally, there is a cost of £21 for issuing each Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for a UK Expansion Worker.
It’s essential for applicants and sponsoring businesses to budget for these costs when preparing to apply for the UK Expansion Worker visa. Ensuring that all necessary fees are paid on time can help facilitate a smooth and successful visa application process.
8. Visa Duration
Validity Period and Extensions for a UK Expansion Worker Visa
A successful application for a UK Expansion Worker visa grants the individual leave to remain in the UK for a specific duration. The visa duration is determined by whichever period is shorter between:
- 12 months after the start date of the job mentioned on the sponsorship certificate, and
- 14 days after the end date of that job.
Extension of Visa
If a UK Expansion Worker wishes to stay longer in the UK beyond the initial visa duration, they can apply for a visa extension. However, the extension is limited to a maximum of 12 months. Consequently, the total maximum time an individual can stay in the UK on a UK Expansion Worker visa is 2 years.
Cumulative Period and Eligibility for Other GBM Routes
It’s important to note that UK Expansion Workers are also subject to the maximum cumulative period for other Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes. This means that if they have already spent time in the UK on this or another GBM visa, they might not be able to stay on a UK Expansion Worker visa for the full 2-year duration. Specifically, an individual can only remain in the UK for a maximum of 5 years within any 6-year period if they have spent time on any of the other GBM visas or as an Intra-company graduate trainee or intra-company transferee.
Path to Settlement and Indefinite Leave to Remain
It’s essential to be aware that the UK Expansion Worker route does not lead to settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain) in the UK. However, a senior or specialist employee may be eligible to apply for leave to remain under a different immigration route that allows them to obtain indefinite leave to remain if they meet the eligibility requirements specified for that particular route.
Common Questions and Answers about the UK Expansion Worker Visa
What is the UK Expansion Worker visa?
The UK Expansion Worker visa is designed for companies based outside the UK that do not have an established trading presence in the country. It allows such companies to send a senior individual to expand their business operations into the UK.
How much does the UK Expansion Worker visa cost?
The application fee for a UK Expansion Worker visa is £259. Additionally, the applicant is required to pay an annual healthcare surcharge of £624. Moreover, there are costs associated with applying for a sponsor license under this route.
Is sponsorship necessary for the UK Expansion Worker visa?
Yes, sponsorship is a crucial requirement to obtain a UK Expansion Worker visa. The applicant must be assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a UK sponsor authorized by the Home Office to sponsor this category of worker.
What are the eligibility criteria for the UK Expansion Worker visa?
To be eligible for the UK Expansion Worker visa, the applicant must be at least 18 years old, working for an overseas linked employer, and have at least 12 months of employment with them unless they qualify for specific exemptions. They must also meet the skill and salary requirements for the sponsored job role.
Can the UK Expansion Worker visa be extended?
Yes, the UK Expansion Worker visa can be extended for up to 12 months beyond the initial visa duration. However, the total maximum time an individual can stay on this visa is 2 years.
Does the UK Expansion Worker visa lead to settlement in the UK?
No, the UK Expansion Worker visa does not provide a direct path to settlement (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK. However, eligible applicants may explore other immigration routes that could lead to settlement if they meet the respective eligibility criteria.
Are there any restrictions on the cumulative stay for UK Expansion Workers?
Yes, UK Expansion Workers are subject to the maximum cumulative period for other Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes. They can stay in the UK for a maximum of 5 years in any 6-year period if they have spent time on any of the other GBM visas or as an Intra-company graduate trainee or intra-company transferee.
Can family members accompany UK Expansion Workers to the UK?
Yes, family members, including partners and dependent children, may accompany UK Expansion Workers to the UK, provided they meet the relevant requirements for dependents.
Is there a financial requirement for UK Expansion Worker visa applicants?
Yes, applicants for UK Expansion Worker visas may need to demonstrate proof of funds of at least £1,270, where applicable, unless the sponsor certifies maintenance under this route.
What happens if the overseas business fails to establish a trading presence within the specified timeframe?
If the overseas business fails to establish a trading presence in the UK within the relevant timeframe, the sponsor’s CoS allocation for this route will be reduced to zero. They will be unable to sponsor new workers or extension applications, and their license could even be revoked.