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Expansion Worker Visa

The UK Expansion Worker visa is a new sponsored route for established overseas businesses that wish to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK. It allows eligible businesses to sponsor an existing senior manager or specialist worker when being assigned to the UK for a temporary period of time to undertake work related to the expansion of a business in the UK.

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The UK Expansion Worker visa is one of five new sponsored routes under the Global Business Mobility (GMB) visa umbrella, in part reforming previous routes, and in part introducing new provisions to help facilitate economic growth and trade in the UK post-Brexit.

As a UK Expansion Worker, the visa-holder will be allowed to work in the UK in the job for which they’ve been sponsored, as described in their sponsorship certificate. They will also be permitted to undertake voluntary work and study in the UK.

UK Expansion Worker Visa Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 to qualify for a UK Expansion Worker visa. The applicant must also already be working for a linked overseas business on the date of application and, unless they fall within an exception, have worked for that business for a prescribed minimum period.

Whereas the predecessor visa was an unsponsored route, the UK Expansion Worker visa requires the worker to have a UK sponsor.

Sponsor requirements for UK Expansion Workers

The employing organisation must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business although, unlike other sponsored work routes, the UK Expansion Worker route can only be used if the business hasn’t yet begun trading in the UK.

If a linked overseas employer is looking to send a senior or specialist employee to the UK on a temporary work assignment in a business that is already trading in the UK, they should instead apply for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, or even a Skilled Worker visa, although the UK employer would need to be licensed to sponsor under these routes instead.

UK Expansion Worker Visa Requirements

As a points-based system visa, the UK Expansion Worker visa requires applicants to be awarded a total of 60 points against the following three criteria: sponsorship, skill and salary.

To score 20 points for sponsorship, the applicant must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) assigned by a licensed sponsor and be sponsored for employment that is genuine to meet the overseas work requirement.

To be eligible for sponsorship, unless the applicant is earning over £73,900 or is Japanese national doing work for a Japanese company expanding to the UK, they must currently be working for an overseas linked employer and have done so for at least 12 months. For high-earners or qualifying Japanese nationals, they must be working for an overseas linked employer, but don’t need to have worked outside the UK for any specific period.

To score 20 points each for skill and salary, the applicant must have sponsorship for an eligible job role at or above an appropriate minimum skill level, with an annual salary of at least £42,400 or the ‘going rate for that job, whichever is higher.

In addition to the points-based requirements, a UK Expansion Worker from a listed country must provide a valid TB test certificate. Those applying for either entry clearance or leave to remain, where they have been in the UK for less than 12 months, must also satisfy a financial requirement. The financial requirement must be met by showing proof of funds of at least £1,270, where the sponsor is unable to certify maintenance under this route.

The applicant will need to have had the money available for at least 28 consecutive days, where the end date of the 28-day period must be within 31 days of the date that they apply.

Sponsor requirements for UK Expansion Workers

The employing organisation must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business although, unlike other sponsored work routes, the UK Expansion Worker route can only be used if the business hasn’t yet begun trading in the UK.

If a linked overseas employer is looking to send a senior or specialist employee to the UK on a temporary work assignment in a business that is already trading in the UK, they should instead apply for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, or even a Skilled Worker visa, although the UK employer would need to be licensed to sponsor under these routes instead.

When sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker, the sponsor must hold a valid licence for this category of worker, and ensure that the employment on offer in the UK meets the relevant skill and salary requirements. Only then can the sponsor issue a valid CoS.

When applying for a licence to sponsor applicants on the UK Expansion Worker route, the sponsor must show what’s known as a UK ‘footprint’. This can be demonstrated with evidence of UK business premises or registration with Companies House. They must also prove an overseas trading presence, together with credible plans to expand to the UK. To do this, the sponsor will usually need to show that the overseas business has been active and trading for at least 3 years and that it intends and is capable of establishing a new UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary within a period of 2 years following the grant of a licence.

Sponsor Licence Rating

The type of rating a UK Expansion Worker sponsor will be given will depend on whether the Authorising Officer (AO) nominated in the sponsor licence application is already based in the UK or is currently based overseas. The AO must be the most senior person in the business responsible for the recruitment of migrant workers. If the person named as AO in the licence application is already based in the UK, the sponsor will be given an A-rating and full CoS allocation, up to a maximum of 5. The maximum allocation number at any one time is limited to the number of workers genuinely needed to establish the business in the UK, where once a UK trading presence has been established, other routes can be added to the sponsor licence.

In contrast, if the AO is outside the UK, the sponsor will initially be given a CoS allocation of just 1, with a provisional licence rating. The AO, who must also be the person responsible for using the sponsorship management system (SMS), known as the Level 1 user, must then assign that CoS to themselves in order to make a successful application for entry clearance. If granted entry clearance, the AO must make a request via the SMS for the sponsor licence rating to be changed from provisional to an A-rating, in this way increasing the CoS allocation.

Sponsor Licence Validity

The licence will be valid for 4 years, in common with other sponsored work routes, but as the Home Office expect the overseas business to establish a full trading presence within 2 years, the licence cannot be renewed.

If the overseas business fails to establish a trading presence within the relevant timeframe, the sponsor’s CoS allocation on this route will be reduced to zero. They will be unable to sponsor any applications from new workers or extension applications from existing sponsored workers, and could even have their licence revoked.

What is the application process for a UK Expansion Worker visa?

To apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa, the applicant will need to complete an online application, using their CoS reference number. They can apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day that they’re due to start work in the UK, as listed on the sponsorship certificate.

As part of their application, they will need to prove their identity and provide any documents in support. They may also need to attend an appointment to do this and to provide their biometric information. They will be told if an appointment is needed when they apply.

The applicant must have:

  • a valid CoS from the UK licensed sponsor
  • a passport or other travel document showing their identity and nationality
  • evidence that they have worked for their employer outside the UK for a period of at least 12 months, where applicable
  • proof of funds, where applicable
  • a valid tuberculosis test certificate, if from a listed country.

Once the applicant has proved their identity, provided their documents and paid the relevant fee, a decision should be made in 3 weeks if outside the UK and 8 weeks if inside the UK.

What are the application costs for a UK Expansion Worker visa?

To apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa, there are various costs involved. In addition to needing funds of at least £1,270, where applicable, the applicant will need to pay an application fee of £259 and the annual immigration health surcharge of £624.

The business will also need to factor in the cost of applying for sponsorship, plus a fee for issuing each CoS. As a temporary worker route for sponsor licensing fee purposes, the fee will be the standard fee for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence of £536, regardless of the size or charitable status of the sponsor. The fee for issuing a CoS for a UK Expansion Worker is £21.

How long does a UK Expansion visa last?

If an application for a UK Expansion Worker visa is successful, leave will be granted for whichever is shorter of 12 months after the start date of the job on the sponsorship certificate and 14 days after the end date of that job. If the UK Expansion Worker is looking to stay longer in the UK, they can extend their visa, but only by 12 months. The maximum time that an individual can stay in the UK on a UK Expansion Worker visa is 2 years.

UK expansion workers are also subject to the maximum cumulative period for other GBM routes. This means that if they have spent time in the UK on this or another visa, they might not be able to stay on a UK Expansion Worker visa for as long. An individual can only stay in the UK for a maximum of 5 years in any 6-year period if they’ve spent time on any of the other GMB visas or as an Intra-company graduate trainee or intra-company transferee.

The UK Expansion Worker route does not provide a path to settlement in the UK, although a senior or specialist employee may be able to apply for leave to remain under a different immigration route, one which will enable them to obtain indefinite leave to remain, provided they meet the eligibility requirement under that route.

How we can help

Nexus’s business immigration specialists can support your organisation’s plans to expand into the UK. We provide guidance on the Home Office requirements to deploy personnel under the Expansion Worker route, including advice on the sponsorship obligations for employers and the visa application process for your employees.

A team of immigration advisers can work in support of your in-house HR team or take care of all aspects of your sponsor licence and visa applications.

Our business immigration services include:

  • Assisting with initial considerations as to the most appropriate type of sponsorship application
  • Compiling your sponsor licence application
  • Helping you to collate the appropriate supporting documentation
  • Auditing your HR and recruitment systems and procedures to meet the relevant sponsor compliance duties
  • Briefing or training staff on their compliance duties and responsibilities
  • Advising on the UKVI ‘genuineness’ test and assessing whether a prospective employee satisfies the points criteria before the sponsor issues a certificate of sponsorship
  • Guidance on sponsorship-related fees, both for the application and ongoing
  • Advice on assigning Certificates of Sponsorship to skilled visa workers
  • Advising on alternative UK immigration options to support your UK recruitment and talent requirements
  • Licence renewal applications
  • Dealing with sponsor licence suspensions and revocations

Contact us today

Nexus Visas assists international clients in obtaining UK visas, residence and citizenship under the respective programs. Contact us to arrange an initial private consultation.

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Nexus Visas is the trading name of Nexus Immigration Limited company registered in England and Wales with company number: 12633225. 

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