The New UK Scale-up Visa
Exploring the new UK Government visa category for immigrants introduced in August 2022
The Scale-up Visa was introduced by the UK government 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 sponsoring fast-growing organisations as well as talented migrants the flexibility they need in the job market, according to the Home Office.
This new visa route is a two-stage process – a sponsored period of 2 years followed by a 3-year unsponsored phase - after which the migrant will potentially qualify to settle.
Under the programme, applicants will make a sponsored application with a Certificate of Sponsorship from a qualifying Scale-up sponsor. The initial visa lasts for two years, but the applicant needs to work only for the first six months for the specified sponsor. Workers can apply after that to extend their visa, provided their previous earnings met the necessary income threshold.
The key advantage of the Scale-up visa route is that companies may sponsor workers for six months only after which their administrative duties end. There is also no Immigration Skills Charge that could save them up to £5,000 in visa fees. This visa gives workers flexibility after the initial period of six months since they then have the option to work elsewhere. This route will introduce a relatively mobile group of workers to the UK who have the option to work at organisations that may not necessarily have a sponsor licence.
Who is a Scale-up
A “scale-up” is a high-growth company and defined by the Home Office as those that have annualised growth of at least 20 percent in the previous 3 years based on either the number of employees or turnover. They must also have had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the relevant 3-year period.
There are around 33,000 scale-ups in the UK, generating a combined £1.1 trillion in turnover, according to the Scale-up Institute. They seem to rely heavily on foreign talent: 47 percent of those surveyed by the institute in 2021 employed staff from overseas and insist it is vital they can continue to do so.
Successful scale-up applicants must work in sponsored employment for at least the first six months and may also take on additional work during this period. They may leave the sponsor after six months to work anywhere, including for organisations that do not have a sponsor licence. They may also take on self-employed work or voluntary work. They will also be able to study subject to Academic Technology Approval Scheme requirements. Applicants will also be able to sponsor dependent family members.