The Global Business Mobility route has five visa options that can benefit overseas companies who want to expand to the UK. We take a closer look at the Expansion Worker visa that allows you to sponsor foreign workers to assist in opening a branch of an overseas business in the UK.
On 11 April 2022, the Home Office introduced the Global Business Mobility route, bringing five business immigration visa routes together under one umbrella. All these visas are for overseas businesses who need to temporarily send workers to the UK for a specific purpose that cannot be done by a settled worker.
What is the Expansion Worker visa?
The UK Expansion Worker route is for overseas businesses who wish to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK. It allows eligible businesses to sponsor senior managers or specialist workers who are being assigned to the UK for a temporary period to undertake work related to the business’s expansion to the UK.
This route can only be used when the business has not yet begun trading in the UK. If your business is already trading in the UK, you should apply for a licence on a different route (such as the Senior or Specialist Worker or Skilled Worker route) instead.
The Expansion Worker visa replaces the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa, which was an unsponsored route. All the routes under the Global Business Mobility route require a sponsor, including the Expansion Worker visa.
The sponsor licence that the company will apply for is not the standard one, but a special Expansion Worker sponsor licence. This will allow you to bring expansion workers (up to five at one time) to the UK. Once you have established a UK trading presence, you can add other routes to your licence and sponsor workers on those routes.
You are expected to establish a UK trading presence within two years. Failing to do so, will result in you no longer being permitted to sponsor any new workers on this route, your existing sponsored workers will not be permitted to extend their stay, and you may lose your sponsor licence.
Requirements for the Expansion Worker visa
There are requirements both for the business that wishes to expand as well as for the worker needing the Expansion Worker visa.
The sponsor will be a UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary of an established overseas business.
This business must show that it has:
- A UK footprint – You must not already be actively trading in the UK. You must, however, have a UK footprint. You can show this by either providing evidence you have UK business premises; or evidence that the business is registered with Companies House as either an overseas company branch or a new company that is a subsidiary of the overseas linked business. This allows you to apply for an Expansion Worker sponsorship licence.
- An overseas trading presence – The overseas business that is expanding to the UK must be active and trading overseas for at least three years before the date of application.
- Credible plans to expand to the UK – You must show your intention to expand to the UK and establish a UK trading presence within two years. To determine this, the Home Office will consider evidence of your business planning and finances.
The senior or specialist worker who is applying for the UK Expansion Worker must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have worked outside the UK for the linked business or organisation for a cumulative period of at least 12 months. (This is waived if you earn above £73,900 per year or are a Japanese national)
- Have enough money to support themselves without relying on public funds
- Have a valid TB certificate (if needed)
The employee must also score 60 points against the following three criteria:
Sponsorship - 20 points
- They must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned by the sponsor on the Expansion Worker route
- They must be sponsored for employment which is genuine and, where relevant, meet the rules on working for a third party
- They must meet the overseas work requirement (i.e., working for the business wishing to expand for at least 12 months outside of the UK)
Job at an appropriate skill level - 20 points
The job the worker is being sponsored to do must be skilled to level 6 or above (graduate level) on the Regulated Qualifications Framework for England and Northern Ireland. Where this requirement applies, the worker does not necessarily need to have a degree-level qualification but the work they do must be at that level.
Salary at the required level - 20 points
A UK Expansion Worker must be paid at least the general salary threshold of £42,400 per year, or the specified going rate for the occupation (whichever is higher).
Key differences between the Sole Representative of a Business visa and the Expansion Worker visa
There are a few key differences between the old Sole Representative of a Business visa and the Expansion Worker visa. While some are welcome and make things a bit easier, there are some that will be missed.
As discussed above, the Expansion Worker visa requires sponsorship. The Sole Representative of a Business visa didn’t have this requirement.
A welcome change to the Expansion Worker visa is the change made to the shareholding percentage rule, which was a main feature of the Sole Representative route. Under the Sole Representative route, where an applicant owns or controls a stake in the overseas business, they would not be eligible for a visa. There is no such limitation for the Expansion Worker visa, as long as it can be demonstrated that the overseas business will be able to effectively continue operating after the shareholder has transferred to the UK.
English language requirement
Under the Sole Representative route, you had to prove your knowledge of the English language. This is not the case with the Expansion Worker visa.
Indefinite leave to remain
Unlike the old Sole Representative route, the Expansion Worker visa does not lead to settlement in the UK. You will need to switch to a Skilled Worker or alternative visa like the Spouse visa (if you are married to a British citizen) in order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain.
Number of sponsorships
Like its name suggests, the Sole Representative route only allowed one person to go to the UK in order to expand the business. However, the UK Expansion Worker visa allows a team of up to five to be sponsored and set the business up.
What is the application process for a UK Expansion Worker visa?
The company first needs to apply for a sponsorship licence. Once they have this, they can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to workers they intend to sponsor for the Expansion Worker visa.
To apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa, you will need to complete an online application, using your CoS reference number. You can apply for a visa up to three months before the day that you’re due to start work in the UK.
To apply for the Expansion Worker visa, you must:
- Have a valid CoS from a UK licenced sponsor
- Have a passport or other travel document showing your identity and nationality
- Have evidence that you have worked for your employer outside the UK for a period of at least 12 months
- Have proof of funds
- Have a valid TB test certificate
Once you have proved your identity, provided your documents and paid the relevant fee, a decision should be made in three weeks if you’re outside the UK and eight weeks if you’re inside the UK.
How long is a UK Expansion Worker visa valid for?
An Expansion Worker visa is valid for one year initially, with the option to extend for another year. Two years is the maximum amount of time you can stay in the UK on this visa, and you will also be subject to the maximum cumulative period (five years cumulatively in any six-year period) for the Global Business Mobility routes.
As stated above, the Expansion Worker visa does not lead to indefinite leave to remain, although you will be able to switch to another visa for this to be possible.
How much does an Expansion Worker visa cost?
There are a number of fees aside from just the application fee that you should be aware of when it comes to the Expansion Worker visa.
The current fees associated with each Expansion Worker application are:
- Sponsor licence: £536 (there is no Immigration Skills Charge)
- Certificate of Sponsorship: £199
- Application fee: £259
- Immigration Health Surcharge: £624 per year
Need help with applying to work or start a business in the UK? We help individuals and businesses navigate all aspects of UK immigration and can assist with applying for a sponsorship licence, helping you with Certificates of Sponsorships and setting up a new business in the UK. Contact us at +44 (0) 20 7759 5307 or email email@example.com.
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