The Home Office’s new statement of changes, Immigration Rules HC 1118, appears to represent one of the biggest shake-ups to the system since Britain formally left the EU and introduced the new points-based immigration scheme on 1st January 2021.
As well as the High Potential Individual and new Scale-Up route, which we addressed in a previous blog, the HC 1118 changes have also seen the introduction of the UK Expansion Worker Visa, which replaces the Representative of an Overseas Business route.
The Representative of an Overseas Business route closes for most applicants on 11th April 2022 but will remain open for media representatives as well as sole representatives applying for extension and/or settlement. Its replacement, the UK Expansion Worker Visa, will open to applicants on 11th April at 9am and will be one of five routes under the Global Business Mobility umbrella. This includes Senior or Specialist Worker, Graduate Trainee, Service Supplier and Secondment Worker.
The Expansion Visa is for senior managements or specialist employees who have been assigned to the UK to expand their company’s business in the UK. It provides a two year grant of leave for applicants, however successful applicants will be able to extend their stay in the UK up to a maximum period of 5 years in any 6 year period.
A step backwards for business mobility?
It is not a route which automatically leads to settlement and is for businesses which are both set up and trading outside of the UK, however applicants are allowed to bring their dependent partner and children under the age of 18.
The lack of an automatic route to settlement is something which has proven slightly controversial, with this omission coming despite recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee. Indeed the previous version of the visa, the Representative of an Overseas Business route, did offer a route to settlement – meaning that in some ways this new visa represents one step forward and two steps back.
These companies will be able to use the visa to send a senior manager to the UK in order to grow and expand the presence of their business in the UK. However, it is important to note that the applicant will need to be sponsored and their employer will need to hold a sponsorship licence before they can apply for the visa.
The Home Office’s latest Statement of Changes in the Immigration Rules adds that: “If the business is already trading in the UK, workers should apply under Appendix Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker instead”.
Validity requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Visa
In order to qualify for a UK Expansion Worker Visa, the applicant will have to obtain 60 points as part of the UK’s points-based immigration system. The table below shows the route to 60 points for an applicant:
|Job at an appropriate skill level
|Salary at required level
As the Immigration Rules require the sponsoring overseas company not to be trading in the UK, it is anticipated that the Home Office will create another register for overseas companies who intend to expand in the UK and send their senior employees here to implement the expansion. The relevant requirements are understood to be similar to those under which the current register of skilled worker sponsors is maintained.
In addition to the sponsorship requirement, the expansion worker visa also requires that the applicant needs to do a job at an appropriate skill level with a salary at required level, both of which are prescribed at Appendix Skilled Occupation to the Immigration Rules.
As well as the 60 points necessary, below are the validity requirements for those looking to apply for the UK Expansion Worker visa:
(a) Any fee and Immigration Health Charge must have been paid;
(b) The applicant must have provided any required biometrics;
(c) The applicant must have provided a passport or other travel document which satisfactorily establishes their identity and nationality;
(d) The applicant must have a Certificate of Sponsorship that was issued to them by their sponsor no more than 3 months before the date of application.
- The applicant must be aged 18 or over on the date of application.
- An applicant applying for entry clearance or permission to stay as a UK Expansion Worker who has received an award from a Government or international scholarship agency in the 12 months before the date of application which covers both fees and living costs for study in the UK, must have provided written consent to the application from that Government or agency.
An applicant applying for permission to stay must be in the UK and must not have, or have last been granted, permission:
(a) As a Visitor; or
(b) as a Short-term Student; or
(c) as a Parent of a Child Student; or
(d) as a Seasonal Worker; or
(e) as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household; or
(f) outside the Immigration Rules.
Switching to settlement routes?
It should be noted that although the expansion worker route does not lead to settlement itself, the visa holders are able to switch into other types of settlement routes, like the skilled worker visa or innovator visa either during the term of the visa or at the end of it.
The expansion worker applicants will be able to bring their family members with them, provided that they are able to adduce evidence to prove the relevant relationship and have the required funds to maintain and accommodate themselves adequately without resorting to public funds (£285 for the spouse/partner, £315 for the first child and £200 for any additional child(ren) which has to be held on the accounts for no less than 28 days). Family members includes spouses/civil partners and minor children.
Although this new visa purports to simplify the process and make it easier for businesses to expand in the UK, the lack of an automatic route to settlement compared with the previous visa does seem to undermine the new UK Expansion Worker visa somewhat.
This may put off some businesses from investing money into UK expansion if settlement through the UK Expansion Worker Visa is not guaranteed, however it remains to be seen what the true outcome will be until the new scheme launches on 11th April 2022.
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