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Service Supplier Visa

Overseas service providers or overseas independent professionals looking to undertake a temporary work assignment in the UK can apply under the new Service Supplier route.

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The Service Supplier route replaces the provisions for contractual service suppliers and independent professionals on the former International Agreement route.

Under a Service Supplier visa, the visa-holder will be able to come to the UK to provide the relevant services for which the application was made. They’ll not be permitted to take a second job in the UK, but will be able to undertake voluntary work or a course of study, travel abroad and return to the UK during the validity of their leave.

UK Service Supplier Visa Eligibility Requirements

An individual will be eligible for a UK Service Supplier visa if they have a contract to provide services to a UK company, either as an employee for an overseas company or as a self-employed professional based overseas, and that contract is covered by a valid international trade agreement. More specifically, to be eligible, the applicant must:

  • be an employee of an overseas business or a self-employed service provider based overseas and established in the territory of a party to an eligible trade agreement
  • be providing a service to a UK business under a contract that’s covered by that agreement
  • meet the relevant nationality or residence requirements applicable to that agreement
  • be providing a service to a UK business that’s a Home Office approved sponsor
  • have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a UK sponsor with information about the work that the applicant will be doing in the UK for their sponsor
  • be doing an eligible job as set out in the GBM table of eligible occupations and codes
  • have worked for their current employer for at least 12 months outside the UK or, if the applicant is a self-employed service provider, have worked for at least 12 months immediately before applying and in the same sector as the service they will provide.

If the applicant doesn’t have an eligible occupation code, they may still be able to apply for a UK Service Supplier visa if they have relevant qualifications and experience. They’ll normally need either a bachelor’s degree or higher in any subject, or a technical qualification equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. They’ll also need 3 years of professional experience relevant to the service they provide as an overseas employee and 6 years professional experience if self-employed. However, some services have different experience and qualifications requirements:

  • Fashion and modelling: no qualifications required
  • Chef de cuisine: an advanced technical qualification
  • Entertainment services: no qualifications required
  • Management consulting services: bachelor’s degree
  • Advertising or translation: relevant qualifications
  • Technical testing and analysis: bachelor’s degree or a relevant technical qualification.

In addition to these requirements, the applicant must also be able to support themselves on their arrival in the UK. This is known as a financial requirement, where the applicant must show proof of funds of at least £1,270, unless they’re exempt. They’ll need to have had the money available in their bank account for at least 28 consecutive days. The end date of the 28 day period must be within 31 days of the date that they apply for their visa.

The applicant will need to show proof of funds when they apply, unless either they’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for 12 months or more or their UK Service Supplier sponsor can cover their costs during their first month in the UK up to £1,270. An individual can switch to the Service Supplier route if they’re in the UK, unless they’re on a visit visa, a short-term student visa, a Parent of a Child Student visa, a seasonal worker visa, a domestic worker in a private household visa, on immigration bail or were given permission to stay in the UK outside the immigration rules, for example, on compassionate grounds. They must leave the UK and apply for a Service Supplier visa from abroad if they fall into any one of these categories.

UK Service Supplier Visa sponsorship requirements

To obtain a UK Service Supplier visa, the applicant will need to be sponsored by a Home Office approved business authorised to sponsor this category of worker. When applying for a Global Business Mobility licence to sponsor either a contractual service supplier or independent professional, the sponsor must have an eligible contract with an overseas service provider for the supply of a service which is covered by a relevant UK trade commitment.

An overseas service provider refers to a business, including the business of a self-employed independent professional, that’s based outside the UK, has no commercial presence in the UK, and has a contract to provide services to the sponsoring UK business.

The sponsor must register any contract they have with the overseas business through which they intend to sponsor Service Suppliers. This must be done when they apply for a licence via their SMS account. If the application for a sponsor licence is approved, the sponsor can only assign a CoS to a worker who is coming to the UK to fulfil that specific contract and no others.

In some cases, if they’re covered by the transitional arrangements for existing licence holders under the predecessor route, the UK sponsor may not need to apply for a licence to sponsor workers under the Service Supplier route. Under these provisions, if the UK sponsor held a valid sponsor licence for the International Agreement route, and has used that licence since 11 April 2018 to sponsor a contractual service supplier or an independent professional, the UK Service Supplier route should be automatically added to their existing licence. Any existing International Agreement licence will not be updated if this hasn’t been used to sponsor contractual service suppliers or independent professionals at any time since 11 April 2018. In these circumstances, the sponsor would need to either apply to have the Service Supplier route added to their licence or apply for a new licence if their previous licence has expired.

How to apply for a UK Service Supplier visa

To apply for a UK Service Supplier visa, an application must be made online by the individual using the reference number found on their CoS. As part of that application, the applicant will need to prove their identity and provide a number of supporting documents, where they may need to attend an appointment to do this. They may also need to provide their biometric information, comprising a scan of their fingerprints and a photograph of their face.

The documentation needed will depend on the nature of the application, but will include a valid passport or another travel document to prove the applicant’s identity and nationality. It could also include proof of personal savings, evidence that the applicant has worked for their employer outside the UK for 12 months or has been doing relevant work for the 12 months immediately before they apply if they’re self-employed, as well as proof of their degree or qualifications. They may also need tuberculosis test results if from a listed country.

An application can be made for a Service Supplier visa up to 3 months before the day the applicant is due to start work in the UK. This date is listed on the sponsorship certificate. The applicant must also apply for their visa within 3 months of getting their CoS. This is an electronic record containing various details, including information about the work the applicant will be doing in the UK and their start date, and if the sponsor certifies maintenance.

Once an application for a UK Service Supplier visa has been made, and the applicant has proved their identity and provided their documentation, they’ll usually get a decision within 3 weeks if they’re outside the UK and 8 weeks if they’re inside the UK. In some cases, the applicant may be able to pay for a faster decision if time is of the essence.

What are the application costs for a UK Service Supplier visa?

When applying for a UK Service Supplier visa, in addition to being able to show proof of funds, there will also be an application fee and an immigration health surcharge for each year of stay in the UK. The application fee is set at £259 and the healthcare surcharge is £624 per year. The applicant will be told how much they’ll need to pay when they apply.

How long does a UK Service Supplier visa last?

Service Suppliers can come to the UK for up to either 6 or 12 months per assignment, depending on the trade agreement that they’re providing services under. They can also return to the UK for further assignments, although they’ll be subject to the maximum cumulative period for the GBM routes of 5 years in any 6-year period.

A visa-holder can apply to extend leave under the Service Supplier route if they’re still contracted to work for the sponsor who assigned their current CoS, provided they’ve not yet reached the maximum total stay and continue to meet the eligibility requirements. However, the UK Service Supplier visa is not a path to settlement, where the applicant would need to change to a different immigration route to be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Can dependants join Service Supplier workers?

The spouse or partner of a UK Service Supplier visa-holder, together with any dependent children, can apply under this route, provided they meet the eligibility requirements. This includes a relationship requirement and a financial requirement.

They’ll need to pay a separate application fee and the annual healthcare surcharge. They’ll also need to provide, where applicable, proof of personal savings up to £285 for a spouse or partner, £315 for the first child and £200 for each additional child. Proof of funds will be required unless the applicant has been in the UK under a valid visa for at least 12 months or the primary applicant’s sponsor can cover the family’s costs during their first month in the UK, as confirmed on the sponsorship certificate. For example, if the sponsor is certifying maintenance for a family of 4, this will total £2,070 (£1,270 for the primary applicant, plus £285 for their spouse, £315 for their first child and £200 for their second child).

If the application of a spouse, partner or dependent child of a Service Supplier is successful, their visa will end on the same date as the primary visa-holder.

How we can help

Our business immigration specialists provide guidance on the Home Office requirements to deploy personnel under the Secondment 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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