The UK Expansion Worker & Skilled Worker Routes Compared
Following the recent changes to the Immigration Rules, which took effect at 9:00am on 11 April 2022, it is clear that the Home Office is moving in one direction when it comes to business routes – sponsorship.
With the closure of the Sole Representative route to new applicants, overseas businesses wishing to expand into the UK market must now consider the Global Business Mobility (“GBM”): UK Expansion route. But with this also requiring sponsorship, many are wondering how this differs with the Skilled Worker route. This blog will compare the two routes.
Do Both the UK Expansion Worker and Skilled Worker Routes Require Sponsorship?
Both the UK Expansion Worker route and the Skilled Worker route require sponsor licences before the migrant can make an application for a UK visa.
For the Skilled Worker route, the migrant’s employer must hold a Skilled Worker sponsor licence and the licence must be A-rated.
For the GBM: UK Expansion Worker route, the UK sponsor must hold a GBM: UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence. It must either have an A-rating or a provisional A-rating. This will depend on whether there is already a worker based in the UK or not.
You can read more about the process of applying for a sponsor licence for the Global Business Mobility UK Expansion Worker route here.
How Does Sponsorship Work in Practice?
In order to obtain a sponsor licence, the business applying for the licence must nominate the person(s) who will undertake the Key Personnel roles. These person(s) must usually be based in the UK. This is, of course, not practical for overseas businesses looking to send a worker to the UK to expand the business. Accordingly, in an unusual departure from this requirement, the Authorising Officer for a GBM: UK Expansion Worker licence role may be undertaken by either:
- a worker who is already based in the UK and will be overseeing the expansion to the UK; or
- if there is no suitable person based in the UK who can take this role, 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 the organisation responsible for the recruitment of migrant workers and ensuring that the business meets all of the sponsor duties, or are otherwise responsible for the activity as a licensed sponsor.
In terms of the Level 1 User and Key Contact, where the Authorising Officer is based in the UK, they must appoint a Level 1 User and Key Contact who is based in the UK. The Level 1 User must be a settled worker. However, where the Authorising Officer is an employee of the overseas business, they must also be the Level 1 User. In this scenario they would need to assign their own Certificate of Sponsorship (“CoS”). This is something that is simply not permitted for Skilled Workers. Those sponsored as Skilled Workers cannot undertake the Key Personnel roles.
What about Certificates of Sponsorship?
Certificate of Sponsorship Allocations
There are no limits on the number of people that can be sponsored as Skilled Workers. This is not the case for GBM: UK Expansion Workers.
In the GBM: UK Expansion Worker route, only the number of people that are genuinely required to be in the UK to establish the business can be sponsored, up to a maximum of five. Therefore, only a maximum of five workers can be sponsored under this route. The UK business will not, however, automatically be granted an allocation of five CoS unless the Authorising Officer is already based in the UK. Where the Authorising Officer is based outside the UK, and is applying to come to the UK, only one allocation will be granted to the business for the purpose of sponsoring the Authorising Officer. Once the Authorising Officer is in the UK, they will need to update the SMS and request that the licence rating be changed from a provisional A-rating to an A-rating. Once the A-rating is granted, an additional four CoS may be requested.
Defined vs Undefined CoS
There are two types of Certificates of Sponsorship for Skilled Workers: Defined and Undefined. Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship must be assigned to Skilled Workers applying for permission to stay in the UK, from within the UK. A Defined CoS is required by a Skilled Worker applying for entry clearance from outside the UK.
Applicants in the GBM: UK Expansion Worker route must be allocated an Undefined Certificates of Sponsorship, even where they are applying for entry-clearance.
For more information regarding CoS, please see our previous post here.
Can UK Expansion Worker and Skilled Worker Applicants Make an In-Country Switch?
Yes, it is possible to switch to both the UK Expansion Worker route and the Skilled Worker route from inside the UK unless the applicant is in the UK:
- as a Visitor; or
- as a Short-term Student; or
- as a Parent of a Child Student; or
- as a Seasonal Worker; or
- as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household; or
- outside the Immigration Rules.
However, GBM: UK Expansion Workers applicants should consider how they will meet the requirement to have worked for the overseas company for at least 12 months prior to the date of application.
Does the Applicant Need to Show Previous Work for the Company?
Skilled Workers: No. There is no requirement for a Skilled Worker applicant to have worked for the sponsor before making their application.
GBM: UK Expansion Workers: Yes, applicants must have worked for the overseas business for at least 12 months prior to the date of application unless they are high earners, earning a salary of at least £73,900 per annum. The 12 month period may have been accumulated over time, where certain requirements are met.
Is There a Minimum Skill Level for either the UK Expansion Worker Visa or Skilled Worker Visa?
Yes, both routes have a minimum skill level which must be met. Not every role is eligible for sponsorship. Sponsors will need to consider the job roles that the migrants are to undertake and whether they appear in Appendix Skilled Occupations as eligible roles for the respective routes.
Do Applicants Need to Be Paid Certain Salary Levels?
Skilled Workers: In most cases, Skilled Workers need to show a minimum salary of at least £25,600 per annum, £10.10 per hour, or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher. There are certain exemptions which are set out in our previous post here.
GBM: UK Expansion Workers: Applicants must show that they will earn at least £42,400 per annum, or the going rate for the role, whichever is higher. As with the Skilled Worker route, only the salary for the first 48 hours a week will be counted towards the general salary requirement. Applicants will need to consider their occupation code to determine the correct going rate for the route.
Do Applicants Need to Meet an English Language Requirement?
There is no English language requirement for the GBM: UK Expansion Worker route. However, Skilled Workers will need to show that they meet the English language requirement to the CEFR Level B1 in all four components: Speaking, Listening, Reading, and Writing.
Is There a Financial Requirement for either the UK Expansion Worker or Skilled Worker Route?
Yes, both routes have a financial requirement. Only those who are applying for entry clearance or who have been living in the UK for less than 12 months must show that they meet this requirement. Sponsors in the Skilled Worker route can certify the migrant’s maintenance if they have an A-rated licence.
Do the UK Expansion Worker and Skilled Worker Routes Lead to Settlement?
Skilled Workers: Yes, Skilled Workers can apply for settlement after five continuous years’ residence in the UK as a Skilled Worker.
GBM: UK Expansion Workers: No, this route does not lead to settlement.
Is There a Maximum Amount of Time the Migrant Can Spend in the UK?
Skilled Workers: No, there is no limit on the amount of time a migrant can spend in the UK as a Skilled Worker, though they may be eligible to apply for settlement after five continuous years in this category.
GBM: UK Expansion Workers: Yes, migrants must spend more than five years in any six year period in the UK in this category unless they are a high earner in which case they cannot spend more than nine years in any 10 year period.
Can the Applicant Bring Their Dependants?
Both routes allow for main applicants to bring their dependent partners and children under the age of 18.
Is the UK Expansion Worker or Skilled Worker Visa Better Than the Other?
The Skilled Worker route is a route to settlement, which is a personal benefit to the applicant. However, this may not be necessary for a GBM: UK Expansion Worker in the UK if it is not their desire to settle in the UK.
The GBM: UK Expansion Worker is a route for businesses who do not have a person based in the UK able to establish the business and make a sponsor licence application. It allows the overseas business to send a worker to the UK to do this. It is open to the UK business, once established, to apply for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence to sponsor workers in the UK on a more long-term basis. It is permissible for GBM: UK Expansion Workers to switch to become Skilled Workers from within the UK.
Contact our Immigration Barristers
For expert advice and assistance in relation to applying for or managing a sponsor licence in either the UK Expansion Worker or Skilled Worker route, please contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via the enquiry form below.