What is the UK Expansion Worker Visa?
The UK Expansion Worker visa permits individuals to come to the UK to set up the first branch or subsidiary of their overseas business. Eligible businesses can sponsor senior managers or specialist workers for temporary assignments in the UK to support the expansion of their overseas operations.
This visa has replaced the previous unsponsored sole representative provisions of the Representative of an Overseas Business route. However, visa-holders already in the UK on the previous route can apply for further permission without the need to switch. This means that the predecessor route will remain open to those with existing permission on that route.
The UK Expansion Worker visa is one of the five new sponsored routes under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa framework. It combines reform of previous routes with new provisions aimed at promoting economic growth and trade in the UK post-Brexit.
As a UK Expansion Worker, the visa-holder is authorized to work in the UK within the scope defined in their sponsorship certificate. They can also engage in voluntary work and pursue studies in the UK. Accompanying family members can also join the visa-holder, and they have the freedom to travel to and from the UK as long as their visas remain valid.
After establishing the UK office, there is a 2-year window to initiate and expand your business within the UK. Once the business is established, you can explore additional routes to complement your Expansion Worker license.
Who is Eligible for a UK Expansion Worker Visa?
Applicants must be at least 18 years old to qualify for a UK Expansion Worker visa. They should already be employed by the overseas business at the time of application and, in most cases, should have worked for that business for a prescribed minimum period.
Unlike the previous unsponsored visa route, the UK Expansion Worker visa requires the applicant to have a UK sponsor.
Sponsor Requirements for UK Expansion Workers
The sponsoring organization must either be a branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary of a well-established overseas business. Importantly, the UK Expansion Worker route can only be used if the business has not yet started trading in the UK.
If a linked overseas employer intends to send a senior or specialist employee to the UK for a temporary work assignment in a business that is already trading in the UK, they should consider applying for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, or even a Skilled Worker visa. However, the UK employer must be licensed to sponsor under these routes.
UK Expansion Worker Visa Requirements
The UK Expansion Worker visa operates on a points-based system, and applicants must accrue a total of 60 points based on three criteria: sponsorship, skill, and salary.
To earn 20 points for sponsorship, applicants must possess a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) issued by a licensed sponsor. The sponsorship should be for employment genuinely related to the overseas work requirement.
Applicants are eligible for sponsorship if they are currently employed by an overseas linked employer and have done so for at least 12 months, unless specific exemptions apply. Exemptions include earning over £73,900, being a Japanese national working for a Japanese company expanding to the UK, or being an Australian national or permanent resident opening a branch or subsidiary of their Australian employer. High earners and qualifying Japanese and Australian nationals must work for an overseas linked employer but do not need to have a specific period of work experience outside the UK.
To earn 20 points each for skill and salary, the applicant must be sponsored for a job role that meets the minimum skill level requirement, with an annual salary of at least £42,400 or the ‘going rate’ for that job, whichever is higher.
In addition to these points-based criteria, applicants from specific countries must provide a valid TB test certificate. Those applying for entry clearance or leave to remain, with less than 12 months in the UK, must also satisfy a financial requirement. The financial requirement is met by demonstrating funds of at least £1,270, if the sponsor cannot certify maintenance under this route. The money must have been available for at least 28 consecutive days, with the end date of the 28-day period falling within 31 days of the application date.
Sponsor Requirements for UK Expansion Workers
The sponsoring organization must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business. However, unlike other sponsored work routes, the UK Expansion Worker route can only be utilized if the business has not yet commenced trading in the UK.
When sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker, the sponsor must hold a valid license for this category of worker and ensure that the employment offered in the UK meets the skill and salary requirements. Only then can the sponsor issue a valid CoS.
To apply for a license to sponsor UK Expansion Workers, the sponsor must demonstrate a UK ‘footprint’ by providing evidence of UK business premises or registration with Companies House. They must also establish an overseas trading presence and present credible plans to expand to the UK. Typically, the sponsor will need to show that the overseas business has been actively trading for at least three years and has the intention and capability to establish a new UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary within two years following the license grant.
The sponsor’s rating in the UK Expansion Worker route depends on whether the Authorising Officer (AO), nominated in the sponsor license application, is based in the UK or overseas. The AO must be the most senior person responsible for migrant worker recruitment. If the AO is based in the UK, the sponsor receives an A-rating with a full CoS allocation, up to a maximum of 5. The allocation number is restricted to the number of workers required to establish the business in the UK. Once a UK trading presence is established, other routes can be added to the sponsor license.
However, if the AO is based outside the UK, the sponsor initially receives 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), known as the Level 1 user, must assign the CoS to themselves to apply for entry clearance successfully. If entry clearance is granted, the AO can request via the SMS to change the sponsor license rating from provisional to A-rating, thereby increasing the CoS allocation.
The license is valid for 4 years, similar to other sponsored work routes. However, since the Home Office expects the overseas business to establish a full trading presence within 2 years, the license cannot be renewed. Failure to establish a trading presence within the specified timeframe will result in a reduction of the sponsor’s CoS allocation to zero. In such cases, the sponsor cannot support new worker applications or extensions for existing sponsored workers and may even risk having their license revoked.
Application Process for a UK Expansion Worker Visa
To apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa, the applicant must complete an online application using their CoS reference number. The visa application can be made up to 3 months before the intended start date of employment in the UK as specified in the sponsorship certificate. The application requires proof of identity and supporting documents, which may necessitate attending an appointment and providing biometric information, if required.
The applicant must possess:
Once identity has been verified, documents submitted, and the relevant fee paid, a decision should be rendered within 3 weeks for applications made outside the UK and within 8 weeks for applications made within the UK.
Application Costs for a UK Expansion Worker Visa
Applying for a UK Expansion Worker visa involves various costs. In addition to having funds of at least £1,270, if applicable, the applicant must pay an application fee of £259 and an annual immigration health surcharge of £624.
The sponsoring business must also consider the costs associated with applying for sponsorship and the fee for issuing each CoS. The fee for a CoS for a UK Expansion Worker is £21. certificate. The application requires proof of identity and supporting documents, which may necessitate attending an appointment and providing biometric information, if required.
Duration of a UK Expansion Visa
If an application for a UK Expansion Worker visa is approved, leave will be granted for the shorter of either 12 months after the job’s start date indicated on the sponsorship certificate or 14 days after the job’s end date. Visa extension is possible, but only for an additional 12 months. The maximum period an individual can stay in the UK on a UK Expansion Worker visa is 2 years.
UK expansion workers are also subject to maximum cumulative periods for other GBM routes. This means that if they have spent time in the UK on this or another visa, their stay on a UK Expansion Worker visa might be limited. An individual 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 GMB visas, or as an Intra-company graduate trainee or intra-company transferee.
It’s important to note that the UK Expansion Worker route does not provide a path to settlement in the UK. However, senior or specialist employees may be eligible to apply for leave to remain under a different immigration route, one that allows them to eventually obtain indefinite leave to remain, provided they meet the eligibility requirements of that specific route.
How Immigration Secure Can Assist You
Navigating the various visa categories and application procedures can be challenging. Immigration Secure offers expert guidance to help you choose the right Workers Visa category and ensure you meet all specific requirements for a successful application. Our services include comprehensive document checks, assistance with application forms, and the provision of a Letter of Representation to strengthen your case.
To initiate the process of obtaining your Temporary Worker Visa, please reach out to us or make an online enquiry. Our team of professionals is here to guide you through the entire application process.
EXPANSION WORKER VISA
Frequently Asked Questions
The UK Expansion Worker Visa allows individuals to come to the UK to establish the first branch or subsidiary of their overseas business. It permits eligible businesses to sponsor senior managers or specialist workers for temporary assignments in the UK to support the expansion of their overseas operations.
The UK Expansion Worker Visa has replaced the unsponsored sole representative provisions of the Representative of an Overseas Business route. However, individuals already in the UK on the previous route can apply for further permission without the need to switch, meaning the predecessor route remains open to those with existing permission.
To be eligible, applicants must be at least 18 years old, currently employed by the overseas business, and in most cases, have worked for that business for a prescribed minimum period. Unlike the previous unsponsored visa route, applicants need a UK sponsor.
Sponsors must be either a branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary of a well-established overseas business that has not yet started trading in the UK. They must also hold a valid license for this category of worker and meet specific criteria related to the overseas business’s trading history and intent to establish a UK branch or subsidiary.
Applicants must accrue a total of 60 points based on sponsorship, skill, and salary criteria. To earn 20 points for sponsorship, they must possess a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) issued by a licensed sponsor. They also need to meet specific skill and salary requirements to earn 20 points each for skill and salary.
Applicants need a valid CoS, a passport or another travel document, evidence of employment with their overseas employer (if applicable), proof of funds (if necessary), and a valid tuberculosis test certificate (if from a listed country).
The initial leave granted is for the shorter of 12 months after the job’s start date on the CoS or 14 days after the job’s end date. Visa extension is possible for an additional 12 months. The maximum period an individual can stay on this visa is 2 years.
No, the UK Expansion Worker Visa does not provide a path to settlement in the UK. However, senior or specialist employees may be eligible to apply for leave to remain under a different immigration route that allows them to eventually obtain indefinite leave to remain, provided they meet the specific eligibility requirements of that route.