The UK Expansion Worker Route Replaces the Sole Representative Visa
On the 11 April 2022 the UK expansion worker route replaces the sole representative visa. In this article our immigration solicitors take a look at the two visa routes. We assess the impact of the rule changes on overseas businesses looking to send a representative to the UK to set up a subsidiary of their overseas parent company or a branch office and the impact of the immigration rules changes on sole representatives already in the UK.
UK Online and London Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers
Does your business want to expand into the UK?
If your overseas business wants to expand into the UK, and you are well ahead with your plans, then as a priority you need to decide if you want to apply for a sole representative visa for your sole representative to come to the UK to set up the UK business operation or wait and apply for the UK expansion worker route.
A sole representative has until 9 am on the 11 April 2022 to make their visa application.
If your business already has a sole representative in the UK
If your business has already taken the decision to expand into the UK and open a UK branch or subsidiary business you may be questioning what happens to your sole representative in the UK on their sole representative visa.
The good news is that any existing holders of sole representative visas do not need to do anything. Their visa will continue and they will be able to apply to extend their visa. Ultimately, should they choose to do so, they can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Whilst that means ‘no change’ for existing sole representative visa holders, overseas parent companies do need to be aware that if they want to transfer overseas employees from their parent company, or an overseas branch, to work in the UK, they will no longer to able to get the UK business to sponsor the employee on the intra company transfer visa. That is because the intra company transfer visa also closes to new applicants on the 11 April 2022.
There is an alternate route to transfer overseas based employees under the new global business mobility visa. If your business wants to transfer employees before the 11 April, please contact us online for urgent business immigration legal advice on the application process and the supporting documents needed.
The UK expansion worker route
Details of the UK expansion worker route are contained in a Statement of Changes to the immigration rules published on the 15 March 2022.
The Statement of Changes introduces the global business mobility visa that has five new immigration routes comprising:
- The senior or specialist worker
- Graduate trainee
- Service supplier
- Secondment worker
- High potential
In addition to the global business mobility visa, the Home Office has replaced the sole representative visa with the expansion worker visa as part of a package of measures designed to attract new business and the ‘brightest and best’ to the UK.
To qualify for the UK expansion worker visa, the visa applicant must be an employee of an overseas company that wants to set up the business in the UK. To qualify there can be no current trading presence in the UK so in that sense it is not really ‘expansion’ but set-up though the pedant could argue overseas businesses are expanding into the UK through use of the new visa route.
Sponsorship and the expansion worker visa
The new immigration rules say that the expansion worker needs to be sponsored to apply for the expansion worker visa. This is a new requirement as under the sole representative visa category the overseas company does not need to hold a sponsor licence and the sole representative only needs to apply for a sponsor licence once they have set up the UK business and when they are in a position to expand and either transfer employees from the overseas parent company to the UK or employ overseas workers on skilled worker visas.
The sponsorship requirement should make overseas companies question whether it is best for their planned sole representative to submit their sole representative visa application before the 11 April.
The length of the expansion worker visa
Critically, the expansion worker visa only gives UK entry clearance for two years. It is possible to apply to extend an expansion worker visa so that a visa holder can stay in the UK for up to five years in a six year period. There is a but, namely the expansion worker visa does not allow a visa holder to apply for indefinite leave to remain and the visa therefore does not lead to settlement in the UK.
The expansion worker visa does not lead to settlement in the UK
UK immigration solicitors anticipate that senior employees of overseas companies may be reluctant to commit to the hard work of setting up a UK branch of an overseas parent company if they cannot see a long term future for themselves and their family in the UK.
There are solutions and business immigration solicitors can advise on visa switch options so expansion worker visa holders can switch to visa routes that do lead to UK settlement. However, a point to note is that time spent in the UK on a expansion worker visa does not count towards the time needed to meet the residence requirement for an indefinite leave to remain application.
In essence, if your sole representative is almost ready to submit their sole representative application it may be in their best interests to do so before the 11 April because of the difference in immigration rules and settlement opportunities between the sole representative visa and the new expansion worker visa.
The eligibility criteria for the expansion worker visa
The eligibility criteria for the new expansion worker visa includes:
- The visa applicant must either have been employed by the overseas parent company for a period of twelve months before their visa application or meet the criteria for a high earner (a salary of £73,900) or meet the criteria applicable to Japanese nationals.
- The visa applicant will have a job code and must be paid at least £42,000 or the appropriate rate for the code. (There is no minimum salary threshold for the sole representative visa).
- The job must not have been created by the overseas parent company as a means for entry clearance so the job and expansion into the UK must be genuine. The Home Office has to consider if the sponsor has shown a genuine need for the job, whether the visa applicant has shown they have the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience to do the job, and the history of immigration compliance by the sponsor.
If you are contemplating an expansion worker visa application contact us online for expert business immigration advice on how best to make an application and the supporting paperwork needed.
The positives of the expansion worker visa route
You may question if there are positives with the expansion worker visa given:
- The requirement for a sponsor licence and
- The minimum salary threshold and
- The two year entry clearance that does not lead to settlement.
However, our Sponsorship Licence lawyers can see some positives, namely:
- With the sole representative visa there are rules on visa applicants holding majority shareholdings in the overseas company – these rules do not appear to apply to the expansion worker visa.
- A visa applicant on an expansion worker visa no longer has to be a ‘sole representative’ as they can come to the UK with a team but all the team has to meet the relevant eligibility criteria for their visa application.
The sole representative visa versus the expansion worker visa
Do the positives of the expansion worker visa outweigh the negatives? That is something your business may need business immigration legal advice on if you are in the position of being able to choose between the options of the expansion worker visa or the sole representative visa as your employee is able to submit a sole representative visa application before the 11 April 2022.
UK Online and London Immigration Solicitors and Sponsorship Licence Lawyers