Who qualifies for the new Scale-up visa and how will it help high-growth firms?
The Government has launched the new Scale-up visa - a fast-track, flexible work immigration route to help growing UK firms hire staff from around the world. Sponsor and visa applicant guidance issued this week reveals more details of how this should be a useful tool for eligible scale-ups to find the staff they need to keep growing.
With post-Brexit labour shortages regularly making dire headlines, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Ministerial hopeful Rishi Sunak has insisted that the Scale-up visa is at the centre of a “plan to make our visa system for international talent the most competitive in the world.”
Launching the new work immigration route, migration minister Kevin Foster said: “by supporting our high-growth tech, financial services and small businesses, we are ensuring the UK remains a global hub for emerging technologies and innovation while enhancing productivity across the economy.”
Having examined the provisions of the new immigration route, we can definitely see benefits for eligible scale-ups seeking a simple, less onerous immigration route to hire highly skilled staff.
What are the benefits of the Scale-up visa?
Unlike other sponsored work visas, a Scale-up sponsor only need sponsor a Scale-up Worker for the first six months of their initial visa application – though they will have permission to stay in the UK for up to two years initially.
Scale-up Workers are allowed to do other work, including self-employment. They can switch to different roles with the same sponsor in the first six months, then after at least six months work for their sponsor they may move jobs without a further visa application.
After the initial application, Scale-up Workers will be able to renew their visa for three years at a time, but with none of the cost or admin of having to be sponsored, as long as previous UK PAYE earnings of at least £33,000 per annum have been recorded in at least half the duration of their initial Scale-up visa. Alternatively, they can switch to another worker visa. After five years they can apply to settle in the UK, along with any dependent family members who can join them at any stage.
In more good news for employers, they need not pay the Immigration Skills Charge for an employee on a Scale-up visa as they do with other sponsored work visas. The Scale-up sponsor licence application process will be on the cheaper end of such applications and does not require much documentary evidence. Instead, the Home Office will use a company’s Company House and HMRC records to assess if they are eligible to sponsor workers on the Scale-up route.
How do you qualify to sponsor staff on the Scale-up visa?
To qualify as an eligible sponsor, a scale-up must have 37 months records with the HMRC which show an annualised growth in either turnover or staff of at least 20% over the past three years. At the start of the three-year period there should be at least 10 staff members.
Who can qualify as a Scale-up Worker?
Eligible businesses will be able to attract highly skilled talent including:
- Software developers
- Research and development professionals
- Financial and investment advisers
The full list of occupations that qualify for a Scale-up visa has now been published on the Home Office’s Appendix Skilled Occupations page (with eligible roles marked ‘Eligible for GBM and SCU’).
There is a genuineness requirement for any vacancy a Scale-up Worker is filling too.
The role should be highly skilled - at least at skill level of RQF Level 6 (the same level as Global Business Mobility (GBM) visas, but higher than a Skilled Worker visa’s RQF Level 3).
Applicants should have a knowledge of English language at CEFR level B1.
The salary threshold for a Scale-up Worker position is a minimum £33,000 pa (higher than £25,600 for a Skilled Worker visa). The salary should be the going rate for the sponsored job and at least £10.10 per hour. Minimum salary requirements only include guaranteed basic gross pay, not allowances or other benefits.
Unless they have lived in the UK for 12 months, Scale-up Workers will also need to hold funds of at least £1,270 for 28 days or for this requirement to be certified by an A-rated sponsor.
People in the UK on another immigration route already are allowed to switch to the Scale-up visa if they meet all the relevant immigration requirements and were not last granted permission:
- as a Visitor
- as a Short-term student
- as a Parent of a Child Student
- as a Seasonal Worker
- as a Domestic Worker in a Private Household
- outside the Immigration Rules
If a worker you wish to sponsor is in the UK on any of the above routes, they will need to leave the UK and then apply for entry clearance as a Scale-up Worker.