UK Scale-Up Worker Visa: New Opportunities for Companies and Foreign Worker

The business sector in the United Kingdom is developing rapidly which results in an ever-growing demand for high-qualified staff. To fulfil this demand, on 22 August 2022, the British government introduced a new immigration route – a UK Scale-up Worker visa. It allows British companies to employ foreign workers who enjoy unique benefits and avoid limitations imposed by other visa categories. A UK Scale-up Worker visa is designed to attract the best foreign specialists to the UK and contribute to fast economic growth.

Scale-Up Businesses

To issue a certificate of sponsorship for a UK Scale-up Worker visa, your sponsor must be a scale-up company. To be qualified as such, it must meet several criteria:

  • In the previous three years, the business must have annually grown by 20% in turnover.
  • At the beginning of these three years, the business must have had at least 10 employees.

UK companies often have to look outside the domestic labour market for employees to keep growing.

Companies must obtain a sponsorship licence and be in the register of licensed sponsors to employ foreign workers. With a sponsorship licence, they can issue electronic certificates of sponsorship that serve as a guarantee of the employer’s and employee’s responsibilities. For example, a sponsor promises to provide the required working conditions for foreign specialists, regularly pay them at least the minimum salary and stay accountable for them. If your company plans to become a sponsor and confirm its scale-up status, experienced Imperial & Legal’s immigration advisors can help you to prepare all the required documents. Our experts will review your case and develop a plan of action depending on your circumstances.

Opportunities of UK Scale-Up Worker Visa

A UK Scale-up Worker visa is issued for two years and can be extended if you have been paid at least the minimum annual rate for the sponsored job. You must also work for your sponsor for at least six months. After that, you can change jobs or become self-employed without applying for another UK visa. The only requirement that you have to meet applies to your income and taxes paid on it.

Unlike other UK work visas, a UK Scale-up Worker visa does not restrict its holder to one job only after they have worked for their sponsor for at least six months. On a UK Scale-up Worker visa, you can have several jobs or become self-employed. You can also study and volunteer.

Another advantage is that a UK Scale-up Worker visa leads to an indefinite leave to remain (ILR); you can apply for it after five years of staying in the country. But before that, you have to extend your UK Scale-up Worker visa every two years. The number of extensions is not limited.

Like almost any UK visa a UK Scale-up Worker visa allows you to bring your family members with you to the UK. They will be added to your application as dependants and application fees and health surcharge will be paid for each dependant.

Documents To Apply For UK Scale-Up Worker Visa

When you apply for a UK Scale-up Worker visa, you must provide:

  • A job offer for the job from the shortage occupation list (check your eligibility on the government website);
  • An employment contract for at least six months;
  • A confirmation that you will be paid at least the going rate for the job;
  • A reference number of your certificate of sponsorship;
  • English language certificate;
  • A valid passport (the main applicant must be older than 18);
  • Proof that you have a clean immigration record;
  • Proof that you have no outstanding payments for health care in the UK;
  • Tuberculosis test results (see the requirements);
  • Proof of your relationship with your partner and/or children if you add them to your application as dependants.

English Language Requirements For UK Scale-Up Worker Visa

To get a UK Scale-up Worker visa, you must take an English test approved by the Home Office and pass it to at least level B1. It means that you can speak and understand English well enough to talk about your professional and personal life.

You can also prove your knowledge of English by providing a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English by a university or a college approved by the British government.

Nationals of English-speaking countries, including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Grenada, etc., do not have to prove their knowledge of English.

Requirements For Sponsors

A UK scale-up business can employ a foreign worker only if they have a sponsorship licence. As a sponsor, they can issue certificates of sponsorship confirming that there is a vacant position for a foreign specialist. Certificates of sponsorship are issued in an electronic form. Job candidates get a four-digit number of their certificate that they can use to learn more about their future job in the UK, including the occupation code and salary. To avoid visa refusal, you need to check whether your job is on the shortage occupation list and meets the salary requirements. The shortage occupation list indicates what specialists are in demand in the British domestic market. A UK Scale-up Worker visa was introduced specifically to solve the shortages.

UK Scale-Up Worker Visa Salary Requirements

The shortage occupation list gives job descriptions and the minimum salaries for each occupation. You will not get your UK Scale-up Worker visa if your sponsor fails to meet the salary requirements.

There are three ways to set the minimum salary:

  1. At least £33,000 per year – a minimum annual rate for a foreign employer.
  2. At least £10.10 per hour – an hourly rate.
  3. A going rate for the job from the list of eligible occupations.

A foreign worker will be paid whichever is the highest of the above options.

Income is given before taxation.

UK Scale-Up Worker Visa Costs

To apply for a UK Scale-up Worker visa, you need to cover the following costs:

  • £715 application fee per applicant (the amount increases with the number of dependants);
  • £624 health surcharge per applicant for each year of stay in the UK;
  • £1,270 in personal savings held in your account at least 28 days before applying for the visa (in case your sponsor has not guaranteed to support you before you get your first salary);
  • Additional costs, including translations, visit to a visa centre, and biometrics.

If your visa application is refused, the application fee won’t be refunded. You will have to pay it again if you re-apply.

UK Scale-Up Worker Visa Extension

A UK Scale-up Worker visa is valid for two years. Before it expires, you need to either extend it or leave the UK. You can extend your visa several times and become a UK resident after five years of stay in the country. You can apply to extend your UK Scale-up Worker visa if the following requirements are met:

  • You have worked for your sponsor for at least six months;
  • You have earnt at least £33,000 per year during 12 out of 24 months of your stay.

You must apply for a visa extension from inside the UK before your current visa expires. You must pay an application fee and health surcharge. A visa application is usually processed by the Home Office within eight weeks. You can fast-track it for additional pay. You will be able to stay in the UK until you get a decision from the Home Office.

FAQ About UK Scale-Up Worker Visa

Are there any additional documents apart from the standard ones for a UK Scale-up Worker visa?

If your job involves researching a sensitive subject and requires a high level of preparation, you will need to provide a valid ATAS certificate (Academic Technology Approval Scheme). Other than that, standard documents include:

  • A valid passport;
  • A reference number of your certificate of sponsorship with the sponsor’s name and their sponsor licence number;
  • A four-digit occupation code;
  • Annual salary;
  • B1 English language certificate;
  • A criminal record certificate;
  • Tuberculosis test results for some nationals;
  • A bank statement showing you have at least £1,270 in your account.

Can I obtain a UK Scale-up Worker visa without savings?

Yes, you can. If your British sponsor agrees to support you until you get your first salary, you do not have to prove your financial status. The “Additional data” section on your certificate of sponsorship will have this information.

Neither do not need to have £1,270 on your bank account if you apply from inside the UK and have stayed here legally for at least one year.

Can I count my additional income or self-employment earnings towards the minimum salary requirement for a visa extension?

Self-employment income is not counted towards the minimum salary requirement for visa extension. The British government needs a foreign worker to earn at least £33,000 per year on payroll. If you have several jobs, only the highest income will be counted.

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