Some far-reaching business immigration visa changes have come into force this year and Summer 2022 sees the latest expansion of visa routes into the UK. In this series of helpful articles, Emma Peacock recaps and summarises the latest visa rules designed to attract top talent into the UK. Here, she looks at the new Scale-Up visa.

A new Scale-Up Visa route will open to applications on 22 August 2022. A new route to entry, this is aimed at individuals with talent, a high level of qualification and skill.

For employers who are registered sponsors and experiencing rapid growth (needing to “scale up”), this route is designed to make the process of sponsoring visas quicker and easier.

Sponsored Scale-up visa applicants must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from an A-rated Scale-up sponsor have the specialist skills required to continued growth of the Scale-Up business and authorised by the Home Office to sponsor the job in question under the Scale-up route.

To qualify as a Scale-up, a sponsor will need to show:

  • annualised growth in either turnover or staffing of at least 20% for the previous three-year period and
  • a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the period.

Much of the flexibility of this new route is that unlike other immigration routes, a sponsoring employer need only confirm that an applicant is expected to work for them for at least the first six months of their visa.

The job for which the applicant is sponsored must be (amongst other things):

  • a minimum skill level of RQF Level 6 (graduate level) (on a list published by the Home Office of jobs with their occupation codes and salary ‘going rates; and
  • a salary threshold of at least £33,000 per annum (higher than a Skilled Worker’s £25,600), the ‘going-rate’ for the sponsored job and at least £10.58 per hour; and
  • applicants must meet an English language and finance requirement.

Under this flexible immigration route, a second stage exists during which Scale-up Workers no longer require sponsorship. If applying after two years under the Scale-up visa, a worker would need to show that they had sufficient PAYE earnings for at least 12 months during those initial two years, in addition to a Scale-up Worker’s English language and finance requirements which at this stage are likely to be met automatically.

Provided these criteria are met, the visa application process would then be fast-tracked by the Home Office.

This is a route which could lead to settlement after five years, and applicants could bring dependent family-members. However, the individual would only need to be sponsored for the first six months, meaning that a sponsored employee would have more freedom to leave the employer and work elsewhere.

Employers utilising this route may therefore wish to consider other retention mechanisms, such as bonuses, restrictive covenants or repayment of visa fees on leaving.

If you are interested in finding out more about the new Scale-Up visa, click here to speak to Solicitor and Partner, Emma Peacock.

Read the second article in the series, Global Business Mobility visa by clicking here.