The scale-up worker visa route opened on 22 August 2022. It allows workers to come to the UK to work for an eligible job for a fast-growing UK business, subject to meeting eligibility criteria. The Home Office has opened this route to attract top talent to the UK, and it allows flexibility to migrant workers and growing organisations. It is intended that this visa route will enable businesses to process worker visas more quickly and efficiently, with reduced expense and responsibility for the sponsor.
Who can use this visa route?
The scale-up visa category is particularly attractive to high-growth businesses wanting to hire workers into highly skilled roles for periods of at least 6-months.
Businesses that hold a scale-up sponsor licence can sponsor a migrant worker for 2 years, provided they intend to employ the individual for at least 6 months. After the 2 years a migrant worker's visa can be extended for another 3 years. Following the initial 6-month period, sponsorship duties end automatically, so the applicant can change role and employer without needing to apply for a new visa.
The aim of this visa is to provide a more cost-effective and less administratively burdensome option for scale-up businesses. The flexibility of this route should allow UK businesses to attract highly skilled workers from the international market.
There are requirements that both the sponsoring organisation and the migrant worker must meet to be eligible for sponsorship under this new route.
The sponsoring organisation must:
- Be an approved employer with a scale-up sponsor licence. The
sponsor organisation must be a high-growth organisation which, in
the 3-year period prior to becoming approved to sponsor scale-up
- grew by 20% on average in either employment numbers or turnover; and
- had at least 10 employees at the start of the 3-year period.
- Assign a certificate of sponsorship to the migrant worker, evidencing that the applicant and role meet eligibility requirements
- Provide the migrant worker with a job for at least the initial 6 months of their visa
The migrant worker must:
- Have a job on the list of eligible occupations which meets the minimum salary requirements, with an approved scale-up sponsor for at least 6 months
- Have a certificate of sponsorship from the sponsor
- Meet the English language requirements of at least level B1 CEFR
Advantages and disadvantages of the Scale-up visa
Advantages of the scale-up route are:
- There is no Immigration Skills Charge, saving sponsors up to £1,000 per year of the visa
- It allows flexibility for both the sponsor and the migrant worker as the migrant worker only needs to work for the sponsor for the initial 6 months of the visa
- It has lower visa application fees than for Skilled Worker visas
- Sponsorship compliance duties to the Home Office drop away after the initial 6 months
- It allows for greater flexibility as migrant workers can change roles within the organisation and beyond without needing to apply for a new visa
- This route can lead to settlement following 5 years continuous residence, either solely on this route or when combined with other qualifying visa routes. Following 5 years continuous residence in the UK, migrant workers can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, subject to meeting eligibility requirements and
- Qualifying family members can apply for dependant visas, subject to meeting the requirements of the dependant visa. The dependant visa can also lead to settlement
Disadvantages of the scale-up route:
- The sponsoring organisation still needs to apply for a new scale-up sponsor licence, and they need to sponsor the migrant workers
- The minimum salary threshold is whichever is higher of £33,000 per year or the 'going rate' for the job. This is higher than the £25,600 salary requirement for the Skilled Worker visa
- The sponsoring organisation bears the risk that the migrant worker will leave and work for another employer following the initial 6-month period
To summarise, there are many benefits to fast-growing organisations and migrant workers alike to consider this visa route. However, sponsor organisations will need to qualify for this sponsorship category and there are more risks to the sponsor, so it is expected that the Skilled Worker visa will remain the dominant work visa route to the UK.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.