Companies growing rapidly can attract foreign talent through Scale-up Visas
The UK government introduced a Scale-up Visa in August 2022 to enable high-growth businesses attract top talent to the country. It opens a new route for prospective immigrants and will give rapidly expanding organisations as well as talented migrants the flexibility they need in the job market, according to the Home Office.
Today, we will address the issue of how sponsors can qualify to apply for scale-up visas and obtain a scale-up licence.
Sponsors must hold a valid sponsor licence to hire foreign workers to apply for Scale-up visas. Those who hold a general sponsor licence already will need to add the Scale-up limb to their licence. Sponsors can apply using the portal to add the Scale-up limb but do not need to submit supporting documentation as the Home Office will check HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data directly. Sponsors should ensure their HMRC filings are up to date, there aren’t gaps in their HMRC records, and all Pay as You Earn (PAYE) references in use are on their sponsor licence before applying.
The Home Office will check the sponsor is solvent, has at least 37 months of HMRC history, and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the 3-year period. The Scale-up test can be passed if the average employment count in the most recent 12-month period shows a growth rate of at least 20 percent per year since the start of the 3 years. Turnover meets or exceeds the 20 percent growth in the most recent 12-month period.
Unlike other limbs, the Scale-up licence cannot be renewed beyond four years since the Home Office has classified this as a temporary work route. To continue sponsoring workers, the Home Office expects sponsors to apply to be licensed under one of the other sponsored routes. The Home Office it seems anticipates sponsors only needing this limb in place for a high growth period.
Sponsors need to report the date that the Scale-up worker starts working. They must notify the Home Office if the worker fails to start, is absent from work, or if there are significant changes to the nature of their work or salary.
Sponsor need not notify the Home Office when the Scale-up migrant leaves. The sponsor’s responsibility for the Scale-up worker automatically ends six months after the ‘valid from’ date on their visa. The Scale-up worker can continue to stay with the sponsor or change employment without needing to make a new application for permission.
Although the sponsor doesn’t need to report on individual migrants after six months, other obligations, such as a change of address or change of ownership, all remain in place.
To qualify for the sponsored stage, an applicant must score 50 points, which they can get by meeting the following requirements:
- Certificate of Sponsorship issued by an A-rated Scale-up sponsor – this must confirm the details of the employment and that they will be employed for at least 6 months.
- Role at an appropriate skill level given in the Appendix Skilled Occupations
- Being paid the appropriate salary – this must be the higher of the general salary threshold of £33,000, the going rate for the applicant’s occupation code, and £10.10 an hour.
If the applicant meets the requirements for the sponsored application, the Home Office will grant entry clearance or permission to stay for two years. The applicant must work for the sponsor for the first six months. If the worker wishes to change an employer, sponsor or job during this initial six-month period, they may need a new certificate of sponsorship and must apply for permission as a sponsored worker all over again.
To qualify for the unsponsored stage, an applicant must already have permission as a Scale-up worker. They must also have PAYE earnings in the UK equivalent to at least £33,000 per year, during at least 50 percent of their permission as a Scale-up worker.
If the applicant meets the requirements for the unsponsored application, the Home Office will grant permission for three years.
The fees for the visa are:
- Licence fee: £536 (Temporary Worker licence application fee – there is no Government fee to add a Temporary Worker limb to the licence)
- Certificate of Sponsorship: £21 (Temporary Worker fee)
- Application fee: £715
- Immigration Health Surcharge: £624 per year
There is no Immigration Skills Charge.
This is a route to settlement. After five years of continuous residence in the UK, Scale-up applicants can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). As with other work categories, they can cross-combine time with other work routes such as Skilled Worker.
To be eligible for ILR, they must be employed and earning a gross annual salary of at least £33,000 via PAYE both at the date of application and for at least 24 months out of the three years before applying for ILR.