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Transferring Workers from Overseas to the UK

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When you have a multi-national business, having spotted the opportunity following Brexit and the UK’s departure from the EU, you may have the right staff or employees to start or expand a UK base but your employees are in the wrong country. In this article business immigration solicitor, Hans Sok Appadu, looks at your options when it comes to transferring workers from overseas to the UK.

UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors

For expert business immigration and employment law advice on transferring workers to the UK or to make a sponsor licence application call the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

Transferring employees to the UK – your options

If your business is based overseas, you may be wanting to transfer a key executive or senior employee to your UK base or you may want to send an employee to set up a branch or a subsidiary company in the UK. Whilst recruitment agencies in the UK could try to recruit on your behalf you may be sceptical that recruitment within the UK will meet your recruitment needs given the UK skills shortage. In addition, a new UK recruit won't have the experience of knowing how your company does business to make an immediate impact in the UK.

If your business prefers to transfer an existing employee from overseas to work in the UK there are several options:

Scouting out opportunities on a business visitor visa

If your business isn’t sure what it wants to do and can't, for example, decide on whether to set up a branch or a subsidiary in the UK you may want to send a senior executive to scout out the opportunities. Potentially this could be achieved on a visitor visa as the standard visitor visa allows a visa holder to conduct permissible business activities.

If you aren’t sure whether you will need a visitor visa or if your planned business activities or those of your employees will be classified as permissible activities call OTS Solicitors on [telephone:telephone]. It is best to start a dialogue with a business immigration solicitor as soon as you think of setting up business in the UK or transferring employees so you can look at all your immigration options.

The intra company transfer visa

If you already have an established business base in the UK you may want to transfer overseas based employees to the UK to gain experience of the UK operation or you may want to ensure that your overseas employees are able to fill roles in the UK that you are finding hard to fill with UK based workers. Alternatively, you may want to move a senior executive to the UK to align systems and procedures more closely between your overseas centre of operations and the UK base. The solution to achieve this may be the intra company transfer visa.

Many EU firms are struggling with the idea that a visa will be required to transfer employees within an EU based company. However, with the end of the Brexit transition period and free movement, the transfer of EU workers to work in the UK is the same as for any non-EEA worker unless the EU national arrived in the UK before the 31 December 2020 and applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme before the 30 June 2021.

For existing employees who will be subject to UK immigration controls and therefore require a work visa to work in the UK the intra company transfer visa may be the best option.

In order to be eligible to apply for an intra company transfer visa, the overseas based employee must:

  • Have been employed by the overseas business for at least twelve months. However, if your employee will receive a salary of more than £73,900 whilst employed in the UK the twelve-month rule doesn’t apply. In addition, graduate trainees only need to have been employed by the overseas business for three months.
  • Be sponsored by the UK arm of the company. This means the UK business must have a Home Office issued sponsor licence to sponsor those requiring work visas. After the transfer of the employee is approved internally the HR team will need to allocate a certificate of sponsorship to the employee who is transferring job to the UK. The employee uses the certificate of sponsorship to apply to the Home Office for an intra company transfer visa under the UK points-based immigration system.
  •  Meet the minimum salary threshold. This is £41,500 gross per annum or £23,000 for graduate trainees.
  • Meet the skill threshold. This means the job must be at degree level. This is technically referred to as RQF Level 6 qualification or above.
  • Meet the maintenance requirement by being able to show they have funds to support themselves.

If the transferring employee has family members who want to join the employee in the UK, then they will need to apply for a dependant visa.

Some UK employers are deterred from transferring employees between different bases because of the requirement for the UK company to hold a sponsor licence and comply with sponsor licence reporting and recording duties. However, business immigration solicitors say that with the right paperwork and administrative procedures in place a sponsor licence can be obtained within a matter of days or weeks and thus won't unduly delay matters compared with the cost and difficulties of trying to recruit the right worker with the skills, knowledge, and experience to be able to immediately fit into place.

The sole representative visas

The sole representative visa  is for an overseas based businesses who wants to send an employee to the UK to set up a branch or a UK based wholly-owned subsidiary of the overseas parent company.

To qualify, the visa applicant must be a senior employee of the overseas company able to make operational decisions and be recruited from outside the UK. The sole representative mustn’t own or control more than a fifty percent shareholding in the overseas parent company. The employee remains an employee of the overseas company for the duration of their visa rather than an employee of the subsidiary company.

In contrast to the intra company transfer visa, there is no minimum salary threshold for the sole representative visa. This is because to qualify for the visa the employee must be in a senior position. The applicant will have to meet the English language requirement and the maintenance requirement.

For the sole representative visa applicant to qualify the overseas parent company will need to be:

  • An active and trading business.
  • Based overseas and the headquarters and centre of operations located outside the UK.
  • Setting up a first branch or UK subsidiary company.
  • Remaining overseas with no plan to transfer the base of the overseas business to the UK.

If a sole representative can establish the business in the UK, then the subsidiary could then apply for a sponsor licence so that it can then transfer other employees to the UK on intra company transfer visas or recruit new workers from overseas on skilled worker visas.

Depending on the structure of your company and business plans there may be other alternatives business immigration solutions so it is best to work with a specialist business immigration team on your options to work out what best suits your company needs and how best to achieve your goals.

UK Online and London Based Immigration and Employment Solicitors 

For expert immigration and employment advice on transferring workers to the UK or for help with a  sponsor licence applicationcall the immigration law team at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online. Appointments are available by phone or video call.

OTS Solicitors are recommended in the two leading law directories, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and Legal 500. For proactive advice on all your business immigration law, employment law and corporate law needs contact OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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