UK Expansion Worker Visa replaces Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa
On 15 March the Home Office released a new Statement of Changes with significant changes to the Immigration Rules for people coming to the UK to work.
Notable among these changes is that the Representative of an Overseas Business category will close to new entrants on 11 April 2022 at 9am. Individuals who are already in this category will be able to extend their leave and apply for settlement as before, but no new applicants will be accepted. The Representative of an Overseas Business route was previously an underused route, which rose dramatically in popularity from 2019 onwards when the Entrepreneur category closed. Since then it has been through numerous changes with a widening of the ‘genuineness’ criteria and more checks on the shareholding and control in a business. However, it was never really a category that was fit for a purpose, and so it’s perhaps not surprising that the Home Office have sought to close it now. However, the direction that the Home Office have taken with its replacement will come as a bit of a shock to many.
Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker
The Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker is part of a package of new immigration routes focused on Global Business Mobility, including ‘Senior or Specialist Worker’, ‘Graduate Trainee’ ‘Service Supplier’, ‘Secondment Worker’, and ‘High Potential’
This new route will sit in its own Appendix of the Immigration Rules.
Much like the Representative of an Overseas Business category, the UK Expansion Worker route is for businesses which are set up and trading outside of the UK, who wish to send a senior manager to expand the business presence in the UK. Much like the Representative of an Overseas Business route, the overseas company must not already have a trading presence in the UK. This is really where the similarities between the two categories end.
The UK Expansion Worker is not a route which leads to settlement. It is a two year grant of leave. This will be a change that is confusing to many, as it leaves a business, which might be investing large amounts of money in their UK expansion, without certainty of the medium and long term outlook for the business without a senior employee able to remain to oversee matters. Similarly, it might be more difficult to convince senior employees to go through the upheaval of relocating themselves and their families, if it is only for a period of two years. Extension applications can be made so that a person can be in this category (including other Global Mobility Categories) for up to five years within a six year period, but cannot lead to settlement. This problem may be alleviated by Expansion Workers switching into different routes, but the time spent in this category will not count towards settlement in the UK.
An Applicant in this route will also need to be sponsored before they can apply. This means that their overseas employer will need to hold a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence before any application is made.
There no longer appears to be a limit on the shareholding of worker coming to the UK, meaning that this category is open to business founders who have more than 50% shareholding in their business, which was a requirement which excluded many from the Representative of an Overseas Business route. There is still a requirement that the UK job is not created mainly so the applicant can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay, which would stop individuals from abusing their positions.
This new route also does not limit applications to a single overseas applicant in the way that the Representative of an Overseas business category does. This means that a senior team could all apply together to enter the UK to expand an overseas business, providing they were able to meet the requirements individually and all made applications prior to the UK business commencing trading.
There is a new requirement that an individual must either have been employed for a period of 12 months before making their application, or if they have not, they should meet the requirements of being a high earner (with a salary of £73,900) or there are some special provisions in place for Japanese nationals.
The job must also be paid at an appropriate rate. This will be set based on the specific job code of the Applicant but will be at least £42,000. Under the Representative of an Overseas Business route, there was no set salary that must have been paid, so in some ways this route gives less flexibility, particularly to applicants who are in smaller businesses or from countries where salaries are lower. However, it also gives more certainty to Applicants to know that if they are paid a specific salary they will meet the requirements. There are many fewer places for discretion for Home Office caseworkers with the new Expansion Worker applications, in comparison to Representative of an Overseas Business.
This does not mean that all discretion has been removed. In addition to the requirement that the Home Office is satisfied that the job has not been created to facilitate UK migration, the Home Office will also have to consider:
- whether the sponsor has shown a genuine need for the job as described; and
- whether the applicant has the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described; and
- the sponsor’s history of compliance with the immigration system including, but not limited to, paying its sponsored workers appropriately; and
- any additional information from the sponsor.
These requirements will be familiar to anyone who has worked with Skilled Worker applications.
While some of these changes will be welcome and make the process more transparent, it is likely that the application process will now take longer, given the requirement to secure a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence before making the application, making businesses potentially slower to react to market needs. The removal of the route to settlement and therefore citizenship in this route will also be a disappointment to many who will not want to undertake costly and stressful relocations for temporary periods. This is likely to have a substantial impact on those with school age children who may be more reluctant to move their children between education systems.
Overseas businesses who are planning to expand to the UK, may wish to consider the pros and cons of the UK Expansion Worker, against the requirements of different routes to conclude the most suitable course of action to take.
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