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A First Look at the Global Business Mobility Route

The Home Office has announced that a new Global Business Mobility route will launch in Spring 2022. Consolidating the Intra-Company Transfer visa, the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee visa, the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa and the Temporary Work – International Agreement visa into a single route, the Global Business Mobility route will enable overseas businesses to temporarily send workers to the UK in order to establish and expand their businesses.

Overview of the Global Business Mobility Route 

The Global Business Mobility visa will be available to overseas businesses wishing to send employees to the UK.  The Skilled Worker route will remain available to UK businesses that wish to hire a migrant worker to fill a vacancy in the UK.

The Global Business Mobility visa route envisages 5 different categories of workers, differentiated by the nature of their UK assignment:

  • Senior or Specialist Workers required to work at a UK office of an overseas business; 
  • Graduate Trainees undertaking a UK placement as part of a structured training programme;
  • Service Suppliers travelling to the UK to deliver a service in line with a UK trade commitment (e.g. GATS);
  • Secondment Workers on secondment to a UK business for a specific purpose (e.g. to transfer knowledge related to a high value import or export); and
  • UK Expansion Workers who will be specialist or senior employees who are on assignment as part of the UK expansion of the overseas business.

Overseas businesses with an existing UK presence will therefore be able to apply for a Global Business Mobility visa for senior executives who are required to work at their UK office and workers with specialist skills that are required in the UK arm of the business for a specific purpose (‘Senior or Specialist Workers’). They will also be able to apply for a Global Business Mobility visa for graduate trainees on a UK placement as part of a structured training programme (‘Graduate Trainees’).

Overseas businesses without an existing UK presence will be able to apply for a Global Business Mobility visa for service suppliers travelling to the UK to deliver a service in line with a UK trade commitment (‘Service Suppliers’), workers on secondment to a UK business for a specific purpose (‘Secondment Workers’) and specialist or senior employees who are on assignment as part of the UK expansion of their business (‘UK Expansion Workers’).

Global Business Mobility Route Immigration Rules

The exact requirements that Global Business Mobility visa applicants will need to satisfy will be set out in Immigration Rules to be published in due course.  Different requirements will apply to the 5 different categories of workers. However, according to a recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee (page 83): 

“The Global Business Mobility route will include the existing provisions for intra-company transferees, subject to this report’s recommendations; the existing arrangements implementing the UK’s trade commitments in respect of contractual service suppliers and independent professionals; any new provision to accommodate import and export-related secondments; and finally (and most importantly for this section), any arrangements for employees of an overseas business assigned to the UK to establish a branch or subsidiary of that business. Existing rules which restrict the route to a single representative per sending business will be relaxed depending on, for example, the size of the investment in the UK.” 

So, what can we expect?  Well, if the recommendations of the MAC are adopted by the Home Office, some of the key components of the new Global Business Mobility route are likely to be as follows:

Intra-company transferees

The Intra-Company Transfer route, which enables international businesses to temporarily deploy key employees, where they are senior managers or specialists, to their UK branch or head office will be preserved, but the route will be rebranded as the ‘Senior or Specialist Worker’ category of the Global Business Mobility visa route.

As now, applicants will need to be employed overseas by a multinational company in a role that is skilled to at least RQF level 6 – broadly equivalent to first degree-level, meaning that only specialists and senior managers will be eligible.  Applicants will also need to have worked for their sponsor, or a business linked to their sponsor by ownership, outside the UK, for at least 12 months, unless they will earn £73,900 or more in the UK.  There will continue to be no English language requirement, but applicants will need to be paid at least £42,400 per annum – an increase on the current salary level of £41,500.  Employers using this category of the Global Business Mobility visa will still be required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge.  However, unlike the existing ICT route, following a recommendation by the MAC we expect the ‘Senior or Specialist Worker’ category of the Global Business Mobility visa route to be a route to settlement, without the need to switch to another route to obtain settlement.  Similarly, time spent in the ‘Senior or Specialist Worker’ category of the Global Business Mobility route should count towards settlement if the worker does switch into another route.

Graduate Trainees

The Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route, which is used by workers who are being transferred to the UK by their employer as part of a structured graduate training programme for a managerial or specialist role will remain, but the route will be rebranded as the ‘Graduate Trainee’ category of the Global Business Mobility visa route.

As now, applicants will need to have worked outside the UK for the sponsor group for a continuous period of at least 3 months before they apply.  However, applicants will now need to be paid at least £20,480 per annum – a reduction on the current salary level of £23,000 that is designed to bring the threshold in line with the ‘new entrant’ rate for the Skilled Worker route.

Contractual service suppliers 

The Temporary Work – International Agreement visa, which is used by workers who are contracted to do work in the UK covered by international law or treaty will remain, but the route will be rebranded as the ‘Service Suppliers’ category of the Global Business Mobility visa route.

The Global Business Mobility route will include the existing arrangements implementing the UK’s trade commitments in respect of contractual service suppliers and independent professionals travelling to the UK to deliver a service.

Import and export-related secondments

The Global Business Mobility route will include a ‘Secondment Workers’ category that can be used by overseas businesses to send teams of workers to undertake a secondment in relation to a high-value contract with a UK firm for goods or services, to be up-skilled in the use of the product being produced by that UK firm.  Secondment Worker visas are likely to be issued for a maximum of 12 months with the possibility of a single renewal.

However, if the MAC’s recommendations are followed, the contract value will need to be in excess of £50 million and the overseas business will need to have been operating for at least 12 months.

For lesser value contracts, the UK’s existing visit visa route will continue to allow a client of a UK export company to be seconded to the UK company in order to oversee the requirements for goods and services that are being provided under contract by the UK company or its subsidiary company, provided the two companies are not part of the same group.

Employees of an overseas business assigned to the UK to establish a branch or subsidiary in the UK

The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa, which is currently used by businesses that wish to send a senior employee to the UK in order to establish a commercial presence for the company in the UK will be preserved, but the route will be rebranded as the ‘UK Expansion Worker’ category of the Global Business Mobility visa route.

As now, to be eligible for this route the applicant will need to be the sole representative of an overseas business planning to set up either a UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary.  They will need to have been recruited and employed outside the UK by an active and trading business (whose headquarters and principal place of business are, and will remain, outside the UK).  They will also need to have the skills, experience, and knowledge to do the role, hold a senior position within the business (but not own or control most of it) and have full authority to make decisions on its behalf.  They will also need to intend to establish the overseas business’s first commercial presence in the UK, either as a registered branch or a wholly owned subsidiary.  They may also be eligible if the business has a legal entity in the UK that does not employ staff or do any business.

Currently, the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa is valid for 3 years with a possible 2-year extension.  However, if the MAC’s views are adopted, the new individual subsidiary visa will be limited to a 2-year period, with subsequent entry to the UK using alternative routes for visas (and allowing in-country switching to such routes).  This is said to be justified by the fact that the aim of the route is to allow for the legal establishment of a business in the UK and filing with the appropriate authorities (e.g. HMRC, Home Office etc), which should take no longer than 2 years.   In the words of the MAC (page 97): “Allowing people to stay for more than 2 years raises the concern that the route could be abused as a way for people to obtain UK residence and work authorisation, despite not making progress towards setting up a viable business.”

At the same time, if the MAC’s views are adopted, the default option for the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa will remain a single individual.  The route will not be opened up to allow more than one person to come to the UK in order to establish a branch, subsidiary or office in the UK.

However, overseas firms that wish to send a team of workers to establish a subsidiary will be able to apply for a new sponsored Team Subsidiary (TS) visa that is to be trialled over a two-year period. The foreign company will need to access a form of Sponsor Licence that will evidence their overseas presence etc. and will be used to sponsor the team members coming to the UK to establish the subsidiary. The Team Subsidiary visa will be limited to a 2-year period, with subsequent entry to the UK using alternative routes for visas (and allowing in-country switching to such routes).  The number of team members will be limited to five and at least one member of the team will need to meet the criteria of the current Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa route, whilst the other team members will, at a minimum, need to meet the criteria of the Skilled Worker route.

The MAC’s recommendations regarding the Global Business Mobility route are now being considered by the Home Office, with the final structure of the new system for overseas businesses to assign employees to the UK for a range of business purposes due to be set out in Immigration Rules to be published early next year.

Contact our Business Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance regarding an application for a Global Business Mobility visa, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

SEE HOW OUR IMMIGRATION BARRISTERS CAN HELP YOU

To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.




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