The United Kingdom launched a new visa route on 22 August that allows businesses that have demonstrated a sustained period of growth to recruit highly skilled individuals to support them in their continued growth.
Announced in March 2022, the Scale-up route provides an alternate immigration route for employers seeking to recruit talent globally while expanding their presence in the United Kingdom. The new route differs from other sponsorship routes by requiring employers to only sponsor workers for an initial six-month period. After the initial six-month period, the individual has the flexibility to continue to work for their sponsor, undertake additional work, or change their employment without the need for continued sponsorship.
Employers must first obtain a Scale-up sponsorship licence, or add the Scale-up route to their existing sponsor licence, to sponsor an individual for the first six months of their term as a Scale-up worker. There is no such requirement for employers that recruit a Scale-up worker after the expiry of the worker’s initial six-month period.
Prospective sponsors must demonstrate average growth, in either revenue or staff count, of at least 20% per year for the previous three-year period, and must have a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the three-year period. This is assessed using data submitted by the business to HM Revenue & Customs about the business’s PAYE (payroll) reporting and revenue through value-added tax (VAT) returns.
An individual must satisfy all of the following requirements to be granted entry under this route:
The individual will be issued an initial two-year Scale-up visa. The individual will then be able to apply to extend their leave to remain in the United Kingdom without the need to be sponsored if they can demonstrate PAYE earnings in the United Kingdom of at least £33,000 per year for at least half of their most recent grant of leave as a Scale-up worker.
After five years’ residence in the route, the individual may be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom, provided that they continue to meet the above requirement.
The Scale-up visa offers unique advantages to individuals in the form of the flexibility it affords to the applicant to change their employment after the first six months of leave under this route, in comparison to alternate sponsorship routes that require the individual to be issued a new certificate of sponsorship.
Employers can also benefit from there being no Immigration Skills Charge for this route (which can amount to up to £1,000 per year, depending on the size of the employer) and a reduction in the sponsor compliance duties, which end after the first six months of sponsorship.
On the other hand, businesses still need to apply for a new Scale-up licence and sponsor new applicants. Employers may therefore be concerned that workers will use them to invest in their initial sponsorship and then leave after six months to join another employer without needing a new visa.
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