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Whether you should apply for the UK Skilled Worker visa or the newer Scale-up visa will depend on a number of factors, including the salary you have been offered, if your UK sponsoring employer is in a phase of rapid growth, and your long-term plans. In many ways, the Skilled Worker visa and the Scale-up visa are very similar, but they do have some important differences in terms of qualification criteria and conditions. In this article, we will help you decide whether to apply for the Skilled Worker visa or the Scale-up visa.

What Do The UK Skilled Worker Visa And The Scale-Up Visa Have In Common?

The Skilled Worker visa and the Scale-up visa are both points-based system (PBS) visas that allow overseas nationals with a job offer from a UK-licenced sponsoring employer, sufficient skills, and who meet the minimum salary requirements to work in the UK.

Both visas:

  • Require applicants to have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an employer with a sponsor licence
  • Require applicants to have an eligible job
  • Require applicants to have at least £1,270 in savings to support themselves on arrival in the UK.
  • Require applicants to meet the same English language requirement (level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale)
  • Can be renewed
  • Allow holders to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after a qualifying period (normally 5 years)
  • Allow holders to bring their eligible dependant family members to the UK, and
  • Allow holders to work, study, take on additional work, and travel freely from and to the UK

What Are The Main Differences Between The UK Skilled Worker Visa And The Scale-Up Visa?

The main difference between the UK Skilled Worker visa and the Scale-up visa is that Scale-up visa holders can change jobs and/or employers or switch to self-employment after 6 months without needing permission from the Home Office to do so. Skilled Worker visa holders who want to change to a different job or employer, on the other hand, must first apply to change their visa. As such, the Scale-up visa offers considerable flexibility compared to the Skilled Worker visa.

The Skilled Worker visa and the Scale-up visa also differ in a number of other ways:

  • The minimum annual salary required for the Skilled Worker visa is less (£25,600) than for the Scale-up visa (£33,100), although the hourly rate of £10.10 is the same.
  • Scale-up visa applicants must have an offer of a job from a UK scale-up business – this means that the business must have grown by 20% on average each year in either employment or total sales (turnover) and had at least 10 employees at the start of the 3-year period. Skilled Worker visa sponsors are not required to meet this threshold.
  • The list of eligible occupations and going rates differ between the Skilled Worker and the Scale-up visa.
  • The Skilled Worker visa application fee can be as high as £1,423, but the Scale-up visa application fee is much less at £715.
  • The Skilled Worker visa is initially granted for up to 5 years versus 2 years for the Scale-up visa.

Final words

While the new Scale-up visa offers greater flexibility for prospective migrant workers who want to work in the UK, the reality is that until more Scale-up companies are added to the list of potential sponsors, you will almost certainly need to apply for a Skilled Worker visa. Once more Scale-up companies secure sponsor licences, the question of which visa to apply for will boil down to whether prospective applicants meet the more onerous requirements of the scale-up visa and whether they want the flexibility of changing jobs and employers after 6 months.

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 Skilled Worker visa or Scale-up visa application, please contact one of our friendly and approachable immigration Solicitors on Tel: +44 (0)20 7799 1600 or by completing our online contact form.

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