The Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker Visa is a sponsored route for overseas businesses that wish to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK. The route allows eligible businesses to sponsor senior managers or specialist workers who are being assigned to the UK for a temporary period to undertake work related to the business’s expansion to the UK.
This article is primarily for employers looking to be authorised by the Home Office to sponsor a non-settled worker as a UK Expansion Worker. We provide guidance for employers as to the main general and route-specific requirements that they will need to satisfy in order to successfully apply for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence.
You will need to sponsor any overseas national you wish to employ to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK if they are not a settled worker or do not otherwise have immigration permission to work for you in the UK. This includes most EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020. In order to sponsor a UK Expansion Worker you will need to be authorised by the Home Office.
UK Expansion Worker sponsors can only sponsor the number of workers that they genuinely need to establish the UK business, up to a maximum of 5 workers at any one time. You will be able to replace individual workers within this allocation (for example, if a sponsored worker leaves your company or returns to their employer overseas) but you will not be permitted to sponsor more than 5 workers on the UK Expansion Worker route at any one time.
In order to successfully apply for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, you will need to satisfy various general and route-specific requirements.
In terms of general requirements, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that:
In terms of requirements that are specific to the UK Expansion Worker route, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that:
In the remainder of this article we explore these general and route-specific requirements in more detail.
To satisfy the Home Office that you are a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, you will need to provide certain specified documents as set out in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance. The exact documents you will need to provide may vary depending on the circumstances of your application.
As we examine in more detail below, it is worth noting here that one of the route-specific requirements for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence is that the prospective sponsor must not have an existing active trading presence in the UK, but must have a UK ‘footprint’.
When assessing whether you are honest, dependable, reliable and are not engaging and have not engaged in behaviour or actions that are not conducive to the public good, the Home Office will look at the history and background of your business, the backgrounds of the Key Personnel named in your application and also the backgrounds of any people involved in the day-to-day running of your business.
In order to assess whether you are capable of carrying out your sponsor duties and evidencing your compliance in a timeframe and manner set out in sponsor guidance, the Home Office will look at your current human resources and recruitment practices to make sure that you will be able to fulfil your sponsor duties.
Before applying for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, employers should ensure that the job the senior manager or specialist worker is being assigned to the UK to do will meet the skill-level requirement of the UK Expansion Worker route.
The job the applicant is being sponsored to do must be skilled to level 6 or above (graduate level) on the Regulated Qualifications Framework for England and Northern Ireland, or the equivalent level in Wales or Scotland. The prospective UK Expansion Worker does not necessarily need to have a degree-level qualification, but the work they will be doing must be at degree level.
Eligible occupations are listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations of the Immigration Rules. If the job is not listed as eligible for the Global Business Mobility routes, then the worker will not meet the skill-level requirement for a UK Expansion Worker visa. If this is the case then an application for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence will not be appropriate.
Before applying for a UK Expansion Worker sponsorship licence, employers should also ensure that they can offer employment which will be paid in line with the salary rates for the UK Expansion Worker route as set out in the Immigration Rules.
UK Expansion Workers must be paid at least the general salary threshold of £45,800 per year, or the specified going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.
Employers will need to consider the relevant occupation code as stated in Appendix Skilled Occupations of the Immigration Rules to determine the correct going rate for the occupation.
The assessment of salary is based on guaranteed basic gross pay (up to 48 hours per week) plus allowances which are guaranteed to be paid for the duration of the employment in the UK (such as London weighting) or are paid as a mobility premium or to cover the additional cost of living in the UK.
If the amount the employer intends to pay the UK Expansion Worker is below the appropriate rate then the worker will not qualify for entry clearance or permission to stay and so an application for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence will not be appropriate.
UK Expansion Worker sponsors can only sponsor the number of workers that they genuinely need to establish the UK business, up to a maximum of 5 workers at any one time.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the job(s) an employer is looking to sponsor does (do) not exist, are a sham or have been created mainly so that the worker can apply for a Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker Visa then the sponsor licence application will be refused.
If an employer secures a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence and subsequently assigns a Certificate of Sponsorship (an electronic document with a unique reference number issued by the sponsor to a worker before they apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa) to a worker for a role which is not genuine then the Home Office is likely to revoke the employer’s sponsor licence.
It is worth keeping in mind that if your UK Expansion Worker sponsorship licence application is approved then once you have established a UK trading presence, you will be able to add other routes (such as the Skilled Worker route) to your licence and sponsor workers on these routes.
When applying for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, the Home Office will also want to be satisfied that you will not assign a Certificate of Sponsorship to a worker for a role which amounts to filling a temporary or permanent position with a third party who is not the sponsor, or undertaking contract work which involves undertaking an ongoing routine role or providing an ongoing routine service to a third party who is not a sponsor.
Again, if your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application is approved and the Home Office subsequently has reasonable grounds to suspect that you have assigned a Certificate of Sponsorship in any of the above circumstances then it is likely that your sponsor licence will be revoked.
In order to qualify for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence you will need to demonstrate to the Home Office that there is a qualifying link between you (the sponsor) and the overseas business that will send workers to you.
In practice, this means that you will need to provide credible evidence that you intend, and are able, to establish a new UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business.
When you apply for your UK Expansion Worker sponsorship licence, you will need to provide details of any linked overseas entities in the sponsor licence application form and sponsorship management system.
In order to qualify for a sponsor licence on the UK Expansion Worker route, you must not already be actively trading in the UK. If the business is already trading in the UK, you should apply for a licence on a different route (for example, the Senior or Specialist Worker or Skilled Worker route) instead.
However, when applying for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence you will need to satisfy the Home Office that you have a UK ‘footprint’. You can show this through either:
If you do not have a UK footprint then your application for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence will be refused.
The overseas business that is expanding to the UK must normally have been active and trading overseas for a minimum of 3 years before the date of application (although there are some exceptions to this requirement).
You will need to provide evidence that the overseas business has been trading throughout the 12-month period immediately preceding your sponsor licence application. You will also need to provide evidence that the overseas business was trading at the start of the 3-year period before the date of application and was actively trading throughout that 3-year period.
The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the documents that must be provided in order to satisfy the overseas trading presence requirement.
In order to qualify for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence you will need to satisfy the Home Office that you genuinely intend, and are able, to expand to the UK and establish a UK trading presence within two years.
To determine this, the Home Office will consider evidence of your business planning and finances.
The Home Office will expect to see evidence of your expansion plans, such as a detailed business plan.
The Home Office will also expect to see evidence of your capability to fund your planned expansion, which must show that you have funds available to cover the initial costs for the first 12 months, as projected in your expansion plan.
The Home Office may also consider the size of your business, its previous activity and its potential.
The planned expansion must be in the same type of business that you conduct overseas, and cannot be a new business venture by the company.
The business you are establishing in the UK must be either wholly owned by the overseas business or part of the same legal entity (such as a branch).
The Immigration Rules contain strict requirements in terms of the documents that must be provided in order to satisfy the credible expansion plan requirement. You may wish to seek professional legal advice.
Once you are satisfied that you will be able to meet the above-mentioned sponsorship requirements of the UK Expansion Worker route, you should appoint an Authorising Officer to manage your sponsorship licence, a Key Contact to act as the main contact between your business and the Home Office and nominate at least one Level 1 User to carry out day-to-day sponsorship activities. These key personnel will need to be in place when you apply for your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence.
Your Authorising Officer can be either a worker who is already based in the UK and will be overseeing your expansion to the UK or, if there is no suitable person based in the UK, a senior employee of the overseas business who will be assigned to the UK to oversee the expansion. In either case, they must be the most senior person in your business responsible for the recruitment of migrant workers and ensuring that you meet all of your sponsor duties, or be otherwise responsible for your activity as a licensed sponsor.
It should be noted that, as explained below, if your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application is approved then your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) allocation and licence rating will depend on whether the Authorising Officer named in your licence application is based in the UK or overseas.
If the Authorising Officer is a worker based in the UK, they will need to appoint a Level 1 User (and a Key Contact) who is also based in the UK. The Level 1 User will need to also be a settled worker (unless an exception applies). The Authorising Officer can appoint themselves as the Level 1 User and/or Key Contact, or another person or people can fill these roles if they meet the requirements.
Where the person named in the UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application as the Authorising Officer is already based in the UK then, if the sponsor licence application is approved, the UK entity will be given an A-rating and a full CoS allocation (up to a maximum of 5).
If the Authorising Officer is an employee of the overseas business outside the UK, they must also be the Level 1 User.
If you are granted a sponsor licence on the UK Expansion Worker route, you will be given either an ‘A’ or a ‘Provisional’ rating.
A ‘Provisional’ rating is awarded if your Authorising Officer (and Level 1 User) is an employee of the overseas business. The UK business will be given a CoS allocation of 1 initially, and a Provisional licence rating. The Authorising Officer must assign the CoS to themselves in order to make an application for entry clearance to the UK. Once they are legally resident in the UK and the business has obtained an A-rating for its sponsor licence, the Authorising Officer will be able to appoint different people to these roles and ask to increase the CoS allocation, up to a maximum of 4.
If your sponsor licence application is successful, your licence will be valid for 4 years. It is not possible to renew a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence because you will normally be expected to have established a UK trading presence within 2 years from the date when the licence was granted.
However, once you have established a UK trading presence, you will be able to apply to add other routes to your licence (for example, Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker). Your sponsored workers can then apply to switch to these routes if they meet the relevant requirements.
Once you have decided how many workers you are likely to sponsor in your first year (up to a maximum of 5), you will apply for your UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence by completing an online application form, paying an application fee and submitting all relevant supporting documents specified in Appendix A to the sponsor guidance within 5 working days of submitting your application.
Employers should also keep in mind that workers who wish to come to the UK on a Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker Visa will also need to satisfy various eligibility requirements set out in the Immigration Rules.
One important requirement to be aware of is that the proposed UK Expansion Worker must have worked outside the UK for the linked business or organisation for a cumulative period of at least 12 months, unless they are a high earner earning £73,900 per year or more or they are a Japanese national seeking to establish a UK branch or subsidiary of the linked business or organisation under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or a national or permanent resident of Australia seeking to establish a UK branch or subsidiary of the sponsor group under the Free Trade Agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Australia (when the agreement comes into force or is provisionally applied).
You can read more about the requirements for a successful UK Expansion Worker Visa application here.
Our business immigration barristers assist UK employers to obtain the right sponsor licence, maintain their licence at the highest rating and comply with their sponsor duties.
Whether you require an assessment of your prospects of successfully applying for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, advice on the correct company-related documentation to provide in support of a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application or assistance with drafting a compelling business case that will satisfy the Home Office that you meet the requirements for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, our immigration barristers can manage your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application on your behalf.
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