Overseas entities can deploy senior members of staff to set up UK-based operations under the Expansion worker visa.
Branch Austin McCormick are specialists in UK Expansion Worker visa applications and have acted for high profile foreign entities under the predecessor visa, the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.
UK Expansion Worker visa
The UK Expansion Worker visa is a new sponsored route for overseas businesses which wish to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK. The UK Expansion Worker visa allows you to come to the UK to set up a branch of an overseas business that has not started trading in the UK yet.
The UK Expansion Worker visa enables an eligible business to sponsor an existing senior member of staff or specialist worker to be assigned to the UK for a temporary period of time with the intention to undertake work related to the expansion of that business in the UK.
As mentioned in the introduction, this route has superseded the previous unsponsored route namely, the Representative of an Overseas Business Route. Please note, applicants already on the Sole Representative visa can remain on this route, extend and settle and are not required to switch to the UK Expansion Worker Visa.
The UK Expansion Worker visa is one limb of the new sponsored routes under the Global Business Mobility visa routes. The introduction of this route is designed to help to facilitate economic growth in the post-Brexit era.
An Expansion Worker in the UK can enter with their dependants namely, their partner and dependent children provided they meet the relevant requirements.
Once your entity has established its UK presence, you would initially have two years to establish your business in the UK. Once you have established your business, you are then able to add other tiers to your (Expansion worker) licence.
UK Expansion Worker visa – Eligibility
- Applicants must be at least 18 to qualify for the UK Expansion Worker visa.
- An applicant must also be working for a linked overseas business at the date of application and, unless they fall within one of the exceptions, have worked for the business for a prescribed minimum duration.
- Comparatively to the predecessor visa, the UK Expansion Worker visa requires the worker to have a sponsor in the UK.
UK Expansion Worker visa – sponsor requirements
- The employing entity must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an overseas business. However, unlike other sponsored work visa routes, the UK Expansion Worker route can only be used if the entity does not have a presence in the UK i.e., the entity has not begun trading in the UK.
- If an overseas employer intends on sending a senior or specialist employee to the UK on a temporary basis in a business that is already trading, they should instead apply for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, or a Skilled Worker visa. It is important to note that the UK employer would need to be licensed to sponsor under these alternative routes.
UK Expansion Worker – visa requirements
The Expansion Worker visa is a points-based system visa and therefore an applicant must be awarded a total of 60 points under the following three criteria: sponsorship, skill, and salary.
Valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) (20 points)
- An Applicant must have a valid CoS assigned by a licenced sponsor and be sponsored for employment that is genuine to meet the relevant requirements.
Skill & Salary (20 points each)
To be eligible for sponsorship the applicant must be working for an overseas linked employer for at least 12 months. An exception to this rule relates to an individual earning over £73,900 or is a Japanese national doing work for a Japanese company expanding to the UK.
To score 20 points under skill and salary, the applicant must have sponsorship for an eligible role at or above the appropriate minimum skill level. The applicant must be renumerated a minimum of £42,400 or the ‘going rate’ for that job, whichever is higher.
- An Expansion Worker from a listed country must provide a valid TB Certificate.
- An applicant who is applying for entry clearance or leave to remain where they have been in the UK for less than 12 months must also meet the financial requirement. The financial requirement is met by showing proof of funds of £1,270 where the sponsor is unable to certify maintenance under this visa category.
The applicant will need to have held the money as cleared funds for at least 28 days consecutively. The end date of the 28 days must be within 31 days of the date of the visa application.
UK Expansion Workers – sponsor requirements
The employing entity must be a branch or wholly owned subsidiary of an overseas business. Importantly, the UK Expansion Worker route can only be used if the business has not commenced trading in the UK.
When sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker, the sponsor must hold a valid licence under this category of worker and ensure that the offer of employment meets or surmounts the relevant skill and salary requirements. At this point a sponsor may issue a valid CoS.
When applying for a licence to sponsor individuals on the UK Expansion Worker route, the sponsor must provide evidence as to a UK footprint. A footprint can be demonstrated by evidence of UK business premises or registration at Companies House. An entity must also provide evidence as to their overseas trading presence and a credible plan to expand into the UK. To meet this requirement, the sponsor will usually need to demonstrate that the active business has been trading for at least 3 years and intends on establishing a presence in the UK or a wholly-owned subsidiary within a period of 2 years following the acquisition of the licence.
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 UKVI application with their CoS reference number. They can apply up to 3 months before the day they are due to commence work in the UK, as per their sponsorship certificate.
Along with a duly completed application form and relevant CoS reference, an applicant will need to prove their identity and provide additional supporting documentary evidence. Applicants will be required to attend an appointment to provide their biometric information.
Mandatory documentary evidence includes:
- A valid CoS from a UK licenced sponsor
- A valid passport or travel document showing their identity and nationality
- Evidence that the applicant has worker for the employer outside of the UK for at least 12 months
- Proof of funds, where relevant
- A valid TB test certificate, if from a listed country.
Once an applicant has submitted their application, paid the relevant fee and enrolled their biometric information they should expect a decision within three weeks if applying from outside of the UK and 8 weeks if they are applying from within the UK.
Branch Austin McCormick are corporate immigration specialists who can support your organisation’s intention to expand into the UK. For further information on the issues raised, please contact Jayesh Jethwa or the Corporate Immigration Team.