Global Mobility Visa: UK Expansion Worker

 

This is for Senior or specialist employees sent to drive/help overseas businesses create/expand their UK operations.   It replaces the old Sole Representative route, and, like the SoleRep route, is only open to companies who do not yet have a UK presence, and wish to send senior staff  to establish a UK entity.

The UK Expansion Global Mobility Visa will have one big advantage relative to the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business route:  a company will be able to send more than one Senior Manager / Speiclaist employee to the UK. The exact limit has not yet been confirmed, but the MAC suggested it should be 5.

Unfortunately, the possibility of increasing numbers is offset by a raft of new restrictions, which may make the route less attractive:

  • The company will need to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to the individual.  We don't yet know how the CoS process will work, but the implication is that (as with Skilled Worker visas) the company will need to apply for and be granted a licence in order to issue CoS.  The process for licencing companies under the Skilled Worker route typically involves 1-2 months of preparing documents, and 8 weeks for the Home Office to consider the application.  All before a visa is applied for, and typically involving quite a lot of time from senior management (for some VC or PE funded businesses, the work may be less due to the pre-existing detailed business plans and projections prepared for investors).   It will be interesting to see how they handle licencing for a business without a UK presence (either corporate or responsible individual) to 'hold accountable'

  • Time spent on a Global Mobility visa as a UK Expansion Worker does not give a 5 year route to settlement (Unlike time spent on a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa).  This makes the option less attractive for senior executives, especially those with families who want a long term stable status when relocating internationally.

  •  The UK Expansion Worker route requires the company to pay a salary of at least £42,400 per year (higher where the role's 'going rate' is more than £42,400 pa).  This requirement did not exist under the  Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa route.  Very few SoleReps made under £42k, but the new requirement is a burden, because it looks likely to force the setting up and administration of a UK PAYE scheme earlier than used to be the case (so your senior executive may spend more time on admin, and less on launching the business), and may limit equity based remuneration and largely commission/performance based packages. 

  •  There is a skills threshold, which was not formalised in the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business route, but which tended to apply de facto, so may be seen as not a material change.

  • There is a requirement that the posted workers have worked for the overseas entity for at least 12 months before a UK Expansion visa is applied for.  BUT, this requirement is waived for 'high earners' (UK salary over £73,900), and for Japanese businesses (We expect that future trade deals between the UK and other countries will soon see the list extend beyond Japan, in particular to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada).

  • The visa will be issued for an initial 1 year, and extendable to a maximum total duration of 2 years (the old Sole Representative visa was issued for an initial 3 years, and extendable to 5).

 

Similarities with the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business route include

 

  • The applicant will have been recruited and employed outside the UK by an active and trading business (‘The Parent Business’).

  • The Parent Business plans to set up (or breathe life into an inactive shell that is) a UK branch or (wholly owned) subsidiary, but will keep its headquarters and main operations outside the UK. 

  • The applicant does not own/control a majority of the Parent Business, but has full authority to make decisions on its behalf in the UK, and the seniority in the business, skills, experience, and knowledge to do the role. 

A key difference relative to the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business route is that the SoleRep was seen as a long term option for the worker, and lead them to settlement.  The Global Mobility visa category for a UK Expansion Worker is seen as a stepping stone: allowing the business to set up in the UK, with the expectation that within a couple of years the business will be established enough to get a Skilled Worker Sponsor licence, and will then use that to extend the stay of the UK Expansion Workers.  This is in line with MAC advice.  The MAC report is relatively illiberal in the sole rep area, so it will be interesting to see how the Government balances the economic need to bring new business to the UK, and the desire to minimise chances of ‘abuse’ (which the MAC seems to consider applies to cases where someone comes to the UK as a Sole Rep, and sets up a business that does little more than employ the Sole Rep.  They say “Allowing people to stay for more than 2 years raises the concern that the route could be abused as a way for people to obtain UK residence and work authorisation, despite not making progress towards setting up a viable business.
 

At J Dunlop & Co, we argued that, even if the UK subsidiary does little more than sell services delivered by the Sole Representative individual, that caused no harm to the UK, and was likely to benefit us.  However,  we are happy to help clients obtain a Skilled Worker sponsor licence if that is now the requirement once the UK business is established.