SCALE-UP WORKER VISA

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What is a Scale-Up Worker visa?

The Scale-Up Worker visa provides a route for UK businesses which have demonstrated a sustained period of growth (sometimes called a ‘scale-up business’), to sponsor talented individuals who have the skills needed to enable that business to continue growing

This visa route was introduced in 2022 to propel high-growth businesses by giving them greater flexibility to hire the often in-demand talent they need so they can go to the next level, while boosting the UK’s highly-skilled pool. UK employers must meet specific eligibility criteria to sponsor Scale-Up Workers.

What are the business requirements for the Scale-Up Worker visa route?

  • A company must be authorised by the Home Office to sponsor Scale-Up Worker visa holders and hold a Sponsor Licence for the Scale-Up Worker visa route
  • If you do not already hold a sponsor licence, you must apply for one by completing the online application form, paying the relevant application fee, and submitting the supporting evidence specified in the sponsor guidance
  • If you already hold a valid licence to sponsor workers, but it does not include the Scale-Up Worker route, you can apply to add the route to your existing licence
  • You must offer employment that meets the skill level and salary requirements for the Scale-Up Worker route, is genuine and which does not amount to the hiring of the worker to a third party to undertake an ongoing or routine role
  • You must meet the definition of a ‘qualifying Scale-Up sponsor’. There are two ways in which a business can meet the definition of a ‘qualifying Scale-Up sponsor’:
    • The ‘standard pathway’ where the Home Office automatically assess your employment growth and/or turnover growth based on information you have submitted to HMRC; or
    • The ‘endorsing body pathway’ where an approved endorsing body confirms your eligibility to apply for a sponsor licence.

    Further Information and FAQs

    • Which businesses can sponsor Scale-Up Workers under the ‘standard pathway’?

      To qualify under the ‘standard pathway’, a business must:

      • Have an annualised growth of at least 20% for the 3-year period before the application based on either employment (your staff count) or your turnover; and
      • Have had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the 3-year period.

      The Home Office will securely access Pay As You Earn (PAYE) information and/or VAT return information you have submitted to HMRC and apply rules to this data to automatically assess whether you meet this definition.

    • Which businesses can sponsor Scale-Up Workers under the ‘endorsing body pathway’?

      The ‘endorsing body pathway’ is for organisations who are unable to qualify under the ‘standard pathway’ because their HMRC history is not long enough. To be eligible, you must first obtain an endorsement from a Home Office approved endorsing body.

      To qualify for an endorsement, you must satisfy the approved endorsing body that you meet each of the following requirements. You must:

      • Have a minimum of 10 employees who pay income tax and national insurance through a PAYE scheme operated by you
      • Be registered for VAT
      • Be solvent and trading in the UK
      • Have a HMRC footprint of less than 4 years
      • Be able to demonstrate a potential growth rate consistent with the requirements of the Scale-Up route and be reasonably expected to meet the Home Office definition of a qualifying Scale-Up sponsor under the ‘standard pathway’ within the next 4 years
      • Have sufficient finance to offer appropriate salaries to individuals
      • Have a UK-registered corporate bank account

      In addition to the requirements above, you must also meet at least 3 out of the following 5 criteria:
       

      Criterion Requirements
      Growth You must be able to show more than 20% growth in turnover or employment per year over a 2-year period
      Participation in a relevant Government programme or receipt of relevant Government funding You must have:

      • participated in a recognised scale-up programme, such as Innovate UK EDGE or DCMS Creative Scale-up;
      • received an Innovate UK loan or grant; or
      • participated in the Small Business Research Initiative.
      Finance You must have raised a minimum of £1 million in equity finance in a single round in the 12 months immediately before the date of application to the endorsing body
      International You must have global offices or operations and be generating a minimum threshold of 10% of turnover from exports
      Research and development expenditure Your expenditure on research, development or innovation must be either:

      • 10% of your overall operating costs per year for 3 years; or
      • 15% in one of the last 3 years.

       
      Once you have obtained your endorsement, you can apply for your sponsor licence.

    • Can you do any supplementary work in the UK if you hold a Scale-Up Worker visa?

      If you are granted entry clearance or permission to stay on the Scale-Up Worker route for meeting the sponsored application requirements, for the first 6 months of your permission, you must be employed in the job for which you are being sponsored with additional work including self-employment permitted. You cannot change employer within the first 6 months unless you apply to update your visa.

      If you are granted entry clearance or permission to stay on the Scale-Up Worker route for meeting the ‘unsponsored’ application requirements, your employment and self-employment options in the UK are not restricted to any particular employer, skill level or salary requirement.

    • Do you need to satisfy an English language requirement for a Scale-Up Worker visa?

      You must satisfy a basic English language requirement in reading, writing, speaking and listening to at least level B1 (unless an exemption applies). Exemptions apply if you are a national of a majority English speaking country such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA or if you met the same level of requirement in a previous successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay.

    • Do you need to satisfy a financial requirement for a Scale-Up Worker visa?

      You must have held £1270 in your bank account for a 28-day period before you apply unless you are applying for permission to stay in the UK and have been living in the UK with permission for 12 months or longer on the date of application. You also do not need to evidence this if your UK job role is with an ‘A-rated’ sponsor who can certify your maintenance.

    • How long is a Scale-Up Worker visa valid for?

      The Scale-Up Worker visa will be granted for 2 years if you are granted entry clearance or permission to stay on the route for meeting the sponsored application requirements. You can extend your visa as many times as you like by 3 years, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements.

      The visa will be granted for 3 years if you are granted entry clearance or permission to stay on the route for meeting the ‘unsponsored’ application requirements. You can extend your visa as many times as you like by 3 years, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements.

    • Can you apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as a Scale-Up Worker visa holder?

      Yes, the Scale-Up Worker visa route provides the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK after having spent a 5-year continuous period in the UK.

    • How long will your Scale-Up Worker visa application take to process – inside of the UK?

      If you apply from inside the UK, the application can take up to 8 weeks to process.

      You can get your visa faster within 5 working days if you pay an extra fee of £500 for the priority visa service or by the next working day if you pay an extra fee of £1000 for the super priority visa service.

    • How long will your Scale-Up Worker visa application take to process – outside of the UK?

      If you apply from outside the UK, a decision is typically made within 3 weeks.

      You may be able to get your visa faster within 5 working days if you pay an extra fee of £500 or by the next working day if you pay an extra fee of £1000, subject to availability at your visa application centre.

    • What can you do if you are not eligible for a Scale-Up Worker visa?

      If you’re not eligible for a Scale-Up Worker visa, there are other ways to work in the UK – for example, a Skilled Worker visa or a Global Talent visa.

Why Viaje

Why use VIAJE for Scale-Up Worker visa matters?

Excellent technical knowledge of all aspects of Scale-Up Worker visa applications

It’s all taken care of: we provide expert legal advice specific to your matter

Cost effective service with upfront fixed fees so that you know what to expect

Being able to contact your lawyer out of traditional office hours, assisting clients globally

Unwavering commitment to delivering excellent client care

Meticulous preparation of all supporting documentation to expedite the approval process

Whether you’re seeking a Scale-Up Worker visa for England or Scotland,
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