You may have read our recent article about the brand-new Scale-up visa, which looked at how both employers and workers can benefit from the new visa route. You can find out more by reading it here. While the in-depth Scale-Up visa article mainly looked at the visa from an employee perspective, this article will look at the two types of visas to seek to try and answer the question of: which is the best type of visa for my business: Scale-up visa or skilled worker visa?


Firstly, it’s important to recognise whether your business qualifies for the Scale-up visa and skilled worker visa in the first place.


Scale-up visa


To qualify as a Scale-up visa sponsor, your visa must meet the following criteria:


  • You must have an annualised growth of at least 20% for the previous 3- year period based on either employment (your staff count) or your turnover
  • You must have had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the relevant 3-year period


Scale-up companies are essentially high-growth start-ups. They total around 33,000 businesses in the UK according to the Scaleup Institute. Scale-up visas are issued to those in specific occupations, a full list of which can be viewed here:


If you do not have a sponsorship license already, then you will need to apply for one. Your sponsorship license will be valid for 4 years, unless you surrender it, or it is revoked before that point.


It is important to note that the Home Office will have to securely access your Pay As You Earn information, as well as VAT returns that you have submitted to HMRC.



If you do not meet the criteria for qualifying as a Scale-up visa sponsor, then you may wish to go down the skilled worker visa route instead.


Skilled worker visa


The skilled worker visa is probably the most common immigration route for overseas nationals who wish to come and work in the UK.  Unlike the Scale-up visa, the minimum skill level for a Skilled worker visa role is RQF level 3, while for a Scale-up visa role it is RQF level 6.


As with the Scale-up visa, the prospective employee’s company must have first applied for a sponsorship license. This has become particularly important since Britain left the EU on 1st January 2021, given that many workers from the EU or EEA now require a work permit. You do not need to sponsor a worker if they are a ‘settled worker’. Sponsors must also be able to demonstrates that they can offer “genuine employment”.


Benefits of Scale-up visa for employers


There are some major benefits to the Scale-up visa which make it the best choice for certain types of employers.


Some of the main benefits of the Scale-up visa are as follows:


  • It is classed as a temporary worker route. This means employers can make significant cost savings due to lower sponsorship fees
  • Exemption from the Immigration Skills Charge, which is payable for Skilled worker visas. If the worker stays with the business for five years, this will reduce fees by up to £5,000 per applicant.
  • Home Office sponsorship license compliance duties only last 6 months
  • Applying for a Scale-up sponsor license will allow you to employ highly skilled migrant workers to take your business to the next level and expand quickly
  • If you are already an approved sponsor, you can simply add the Scale-up sponsor license to your existing license


Benefit of Skilled worker visa for employers


  • Employers don’t have to pay workers at least £33,000 per annum, as is the case with the Scale-up visa. The lower limit for a Skilled worker visa is £25,600 per annum
  • Greater security – employees on a Scale-up visa can change jobs or employers after 6 months
  • Skilled worker visa must apply for a new visa if they wish to change jobs or employers during the five-year visa period. It is therefore easier to retain them with a skilled worker visa
  • Your business doesn’t have to be experiencing rapid, high levels of growth to go down the Skilled worker route
  • May be better long term, especially if you think your company will want to employ migrant workers beyond four years
  • Less niche in terms of the variety of roles. Scale-up is tailored towards a smaller selection of highly-skilled roles


Our comments


At the end of the day, both routes have their pros and cons. It isn’t always easy to work out which route is the right one for you, so if you have any doubts, it is always worth checking with an expert. While the Scale-up visa will be a more attractive option for many businesses, and is more suited to fast-growing start ups, the Skilled worker visa route will probably be better suited to companies that wish to employ migrant workers in the long term. It might be more expensive in the short term, but this route will probably give you more stability and flexibility.


Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how companies use the Scale-up worker right moving forward. We can only welcome the arrival of this route, as it simply gives companies more options to recruit workers from abroad and makes it easier for employers to adapt to their particular circumstances.


Lisa’s Law will be able to advise you whether your circumstances meet the requirements of a Scale-up visa or if the Skilled worker visa is the best option for your business. Get in touch with us today using the details below – we will be more than happy to help!


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