The New Scale-up Visa Route Explained
When the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport released its UK Digital Strategy in July 2022, it outlined how it intended to deliver on its vision “to harness digital transformation and build a more inclusive, competitive and innovative”. Digital Economy “. The announcement included the introduction of a new Scale-up visa pathway.
This new visa category is part of a series of changes incorporated into UK immigration rules, which have seen the introduction of various ‘global mobility’ visa routes. Indeed, it is an integral part of the UK Government’s overriding aim to continue to champion the benefits that highly skilled and educated foreign nationals can bring to the UK.
Opening on Monday, August 22, 2022, the Scale-up visa can be seen as a slightly radical combination of existing visa routes, turning a couple into one route, and one that is clearly designed to attract “the brightest” international talent. and the best”. pool to encourage them to move to the UK. Please see below for an overview of the Scale-up visa.
What is the Scale-up Visa?
The Scale-up visa is a work pathway, initially granted for two years, which offers a more fluid and flexible ability to work legally in the UK, with both sponsorship and non-sponsorship elements. The Scale-up visa requires a main sponsorship period of only six months, unlike most other UK sponsorship visa routes, after which a Scale-up visa holder can either continue to work for their sponsor , either change jobs or become self-employed. -use.
Designed for high-skilled jobs in UK companies, the Scale-up visa route is a visa route that leads to settlement.
How does the Scale-up visa work?
As stated above, the Scale-up visa is currently the only UK visa route that combines sponsorship and non-sponsorship for workers in the UK. Workers can only access the unsponsored segment of the visa if they have first been sponsored by an approved Scale-up approved employer.
In order to qualify for a Scale-up visa, a person must meet the following criteria:
- Have received a sponsorship certificate from an approved UK-based Scale-up company
- The sponsorship certificate must have been issued for a confirmed job offer of at least six months, in an eligible occupation at the correct skill level
- They should be paid for the above role, whichever is greater of £33,000 per annum, £10.10 per hour or “governing rate” for that type of work and industry.
- They must meet the English language requirement – at least level B1 (intermediate) of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
- They must meet the financial requirements (cash funds of at least £1,270 held for at least 28 days prior to the visa application, unless the interview is certified by the sponsoring employer on the certificate of sponsorship
Scale-up sponsor employers will need to apply for a license from the Home Office. Eligible businesses must be able to demonstrate that they have moved from the start-up phase and are in the process of scaling up. Although the scale-up visa pathway is not limited to companies in the technology and fintech sectors, it is likely that these entities will be among the sponsors of this pathway.
The criteria that sponsors must meet are:
- Annualized growth of at least 20% over the last three years in terms of turnover or headcount
- A minimum of ten employees at the start of the three-year period
- Whether the salary for the position offered is the greater of £33,000 per annum, £10.10 per hour, or the ‘governing rate’ for that type of job and industry.
The current list of appropriate qualifications, relevant codes and current rates for which a worker can be sponsored under the Scale-up pathway, can be found here.
Who is the Scale-up visa for?
With benefits for both workers and employers, including the need to be sponsored only, or to only have to sponsor for six months, the pathway should be attractive to talent as well as creative and innovative businesses.
How long does it take to get a Scale-up visa?
Scale-up employers should allow eight weeks for processing their sponsor license applications. It is possible to request priority processing which should speed up this time. Once a license is approved, the employer can prepare and award the scaling sponsorship certificate if they meet all of the eligibility requirements to do so.
Large-scale visa applications currently take three weeks if applying from outside the UK and eight weeks from within the UK. Again, it may be possible to request priority processing both inside and outside the UK.
What are the benefits of a Scale-up visa?
With only a very recent launch and no sponsors yet listed (as of the date of this article) as being approved as part of the route, the route is in its infancy. However, there are definitely immediately identifiable benefits:
- Limited sponsorship – unlike the Skilled Worker or Global Mobility Route visas, sponsorship is only required for the first six months of the two-year visa. This leaves both the visa holder and the UK sponsor free to continue working or not, with the visa holder free to seek other employment or self-employment in the UK.
- There are no mandatory requirement for an employer to apply for a sponsor license – therefore, employers may choose to employ Scale-up visa holders only after the first six months of sponsored employment have ended. In such circumstances, the employing company must meet the UK Scale-up sponsor requirements as set out above.
- The Scale-up visa can be extended – for three more years. Application for extension must be made before the end of the initial visa and applicants must be able to show UK PAYE earnings of at least £33,000 per annum for at least 50% of the first two years of the visa, as well as to meet other requirements such as maintaining the level of English. Other sources of income, including those from self-employment, will not be considered
- Scale-up visa holders can apply for settlement after completing five years of continuous residence in the UK under that visa category, or a combination of the Scale-up visa with other eligible visas leading to establishment. Applicants will need to meet the requirements of UK immigration rules for establishment at the appropriate time. This includes being employed at the time of application, taking and passing the Life in the UK test, meeting English language requirements and also demonstrating income through PAYE of at least £33,000 per annum for at least 24 months of the three years immediate previous ones.
- Scale-up visa holders can bring their dependents (spouse, unmarried partner, dependent children) with them in the UK – all will need to apply for the appropriate visas
- The Scale-up route does not require payment of the Immigration Skills Charge – unlike other labor sponsored routes
- It is possible to upgrade to the Scale-up visa from the UKwhether a worker to be sponsored holds a visa in a sector from which the transition to the Scale-up category is authorized
With proof that the pudding is eating, it will be interesting to see what the use of this visa route is. Foreign-based talent who needs a visa as a Scale-up worker will only be able to get one if there are sponsoring employers applying for licenses in the first place.
What is clear is that this pathway should enable a more mobile workforce across sectors with the adoption of the Scale-up visa model. It can also allow greater freedom of employment for visa holders, as well as a greater sense of confidence for businesses to attract and retain highly qualified staff in the UK.
If you would like further information on the Scale-up visa, either as a sponsor or as a visa holder, please contact Tanya Goldfarb – Senior Consulting Lawyer and Head of Corporate Immigration Team.
Please note that the content of this overview is correct as of the date of publication and that timelines and links to government websites may change. This should not be considered legal advice.