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The UK Expansion Worker visa is a sponsored immigration route under the new Global Business Mobility scheme, which replaced the ‘Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa’. Expansion worker visas enable staff from an overseas business to come to the UK to set up a branch or subsidiary here. The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa still exists but only for employees of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation coming to the UK on a long-term assignment.

One of the key differences between the Representative of an Overseas Business visa and the Expansion Worker visa is that candidates must now hold a Certificate of Sponsorship. Certificates of Sponsorship can only be issued by businesses with a sponsor licence granted by the Home Office.

Requirements for an Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence

Overseas businesses that wish to utilise the Expansion Worker visa scheme must have a sponsor licence. To apply for a sponsor licence, applicants must complete the online application form, pay the required application fee, and submit any required supporting documents to the Home Office.

The eligibility requirements for an Expansion Worker sponsor licence state that applicants must be able to offer:

  • suitable genuine employment which meets the skill-level requirement
  • a salary that meets the visa requirements (£73,900 in most cases)
  • meets the rules on third-party working – i.e. you are not hiring a worker to a third party who is not sponsored
  • has a qualifying overseas business link – you must intend and be able, to establish a new UK branch or a wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business. In addition, the overseas business must have been trading overseas for at least years 3 years (there are some exceptions to this, including for employees of Japanese businesses).

Importantly, overseas businesses wishing to expand here must also have:

1) A UK ‘footprint’

This can be achieved by either:

  • providing evidence that the enterprise is registered at Companies House as an overseas company branch or a new company that is a subsidiary of the overseas linked business, or
  • providing evidence you have arranged business premises in the UK – for example, a lease agreement or documents showing you have purchased business premises

As the Expansion Worker sponsor licence rules state, if you do not have a UK footprint (or if you already have a UK trading presence), the Home Office will most likely refuse your application.

2) An overseas trading presence

You will need to show that your business has been active and trading outside of the UK for the 3 years before your application and in the 12 months immediately before applying.

3) Credible plans to expand in the UK

The rules state that you must prove that your intention to expand into the UK market is genuine and that you plan to establish a UK trading presence within two years. The Home Office will look at your business plan, financial projections, the size of your business, its previous activity and its potential. The guidance also states that the branch or subsidiary you are planning to establish must be for the same type of business you conduct overseas (i.e. it cannot be a new business venture).

Final words

The new requirement for overseas businesses to hold a sponsor licence before they can send a senior member of staff to the UK to establish a branch or subsidiary here has placed an additional administrative overhead and cost that did not exist with the outgoing Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa. By seeking the advice of a specialist in immigration sponsorship, the process can be handled effectively and efficiently on your behalf, allowing you to focus on your business and financial plans for expansion in the UK.

Garth Coates is a leading niche immigration firm based in the heart of London, specialising in all forms of personal and business immigration, including visas, global mobility, sponsorship and compliance, settlement, and citizenship. To discuss your sponsorship licence application, please contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable immigration Solicitors on Tel: +44 (0)20 7799 1600 or by completing our online contact form.

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