The Global Business Mobility visa is up and running and, finally, employers have the detailed guidance they’ve been waiting for. The various new routes opened on 11 April offering new opportunities for overseas businesses seeking to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK for specific business purposes. We will take a look.
There are five routes that correspond to different temporary assignment types. They are:
1 - The Senior or Specialist Worker Visa. This is replaces the Intra-Company Transfer route which closed to new applicants on 11 April when this route opened. Applicants will need to be currently working for a business or organisation that is linked to their UK sponsor by common ownership or control, or by a joint venture on which they are sponsored to work. They must have worked outside the UK for the linked business or organisation for a cumulative period of at least 12 months, unless they are a high earner earning £73,900 per year or more. Applicants will also need to have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job they are planning to do, issued by an employer that is authorised by the Home Office. The job will need to be an eligible job at or above a minimum skill level and the applicant will need to be paid a minimum salary exceeding £42,400 per year.
2 - The Graduate Trainee Visa which is for overseas workers who wish to be transferred to the UK by their employer for a work placement in the UK as part of a graduate training course leading to a senior managerial or specialist role. This replaces the existing Intra-Company Graduate Trainee Visa.
3 - The UK Expansion Worker Visa which is for senior managers and specialist employees who wish to be assigned to the UK temporarily to undertake work related to the expansion of an overseas business in the UK. It replaces the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa.
4 - The Secondment Worker Visa is a new immigration route for overseas workers who wish to be temporarily seconded to the UK by their overseas employer as part of a high value contract or investment. Applicants will need to be currently working for an overseas business that has a contract with their UK sponsor that has been registered with the Home Office by the UK sponsor and have worked outside the UK for that overseas business for a cumulative period of at least 12 months. Applicants will also need to have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job they are planning to do, issued by an employer that is authorised by the Home Office to sponsor a Secondment Worker.
5 - The Service Supplier Visa is for overseas workers who are either a contractual service supplier employed by an overseas service provider, or a self-employed independent professional based overseas who need to undertake a temporary assignment in the UK to provide services covered by one of the UK’s international trade commitments.
It’s worth saying, these five Global Business Mobility routes will not lead directly to settlement in the UK. However, subject to satisfying the eligibility requirements, visa holders may be able to apply from within the UK to switch into another immigration route which does lead to settlement.
Shortly before the Home Office published its guidance immigration specialist Shara Pledger posted an article on LinkedIn setting the scene, giving a potted history of the Intra-Company Transfer route and how it has been moved from pillar to post in recent years. As she says, it has now been whisked away from its own appendix and dropped into the new Global Business Mobility Visa route along with some brand-new options. So, let’s get her take on all of this, an overview of what’s going on. Shara joined me by video-link from Manchester to discuss the various routes. I started by asking about those new ones:
Shara Pledger: “There are some common themes about them, they all still require sponsorship, which is not unexpected for some of them that have just been amended from existing routes, although a little bit unexpected in the case of UK Expansion Worker. They are all temporary routes as well so, again, we're not seeing options for people to be able to stay in the UK long-term any longer than about five years, collectively, if you're switching between routes, but some of these routes are actually very restricted, restricted to only 12 months at a time, a maximum of two years capped overall. So, these really are intended to be short-term options for UK employers now. So, it's a case of some additional avenues to be able to get in that foreign talent, but it's not answering the question about long-term replacement of skills that might have been lost.”
Joe Glavina: “Tell me about the Expansion Worker Visa. As I understand it, it’s not entirely new.”
Shara Pledger: “Expansion Worker will feel quite familiar for people that have been working in this already. So, if anybody has ever dealt with the representative of an Overseas Business route, it’s also called the Sole Representative route, this is the replacement for that option, but we see real changes compared to how that previously operated. The key one is sponsorship. Previously, sole representatives were unsponsored applicants coming to the UK but now sponsorship is required but it's quite non-traditional in the sense of sponsorship because, obviously, you don't have that UK-based entity that is taking responsibility in the way that they do in say, the Skilled Worker route, for example. So, some big changes there and, crucially, as I said earlier, that difference, moving away from a settlement route to it being just a temporary option for people. So, very much now the move towards getting into the UK under the Expansion Worker route, but then needing to transition to something that is longer term such as Skilled Worker.”
Joe Glavina: “So that leaves two routes to complete the set. Tell me about those.”
Shara Pledger: “With regards to the other two options, the Secondment route and the Service Supplier route, these have not necessarily been as encouraging as we were hoping that they would be. We already had a Services Supplier route that existed under the old Tier 5 system of sponsorship, so under the old International Agreement route, for example, but a lot of the elements of that were unattractive for employers. So, things like the fact that you still needed to actually sponsor the worker even though they weren't your direct employee. We see that still in the Service Supplier route which may well mean that a lot of UK organisations are still quite reluctant to look at that as an option and, unfortunately, we now also see that in this brand-new Secondment route as well. So, secondment workers are coming to the UK because their overseas supplier are either investing heavily in the UK, or have a significant contract in the UK, and that really is significant, it’s of a value of fifty million or more and while we were hoping that this was going to be a nice kind of quick option to allow that sort of seamless transfer of skills from one place to the next as projects are completed, we are still seeing that very rigid formal sponsorship route, still needing that UK organisation to act as sponsor as well. So, again, there are things that are encouraging but also, perhaps, not moving as quickly as we had hoped.”
The Home Office guidance on the Global Business Mobility routes was published on 11 April. The document is 71 pages long and can be downloaded from the government’s website. We have put a link to that in the transcript of this programme.
- Link to Home Office guidance on Global Business Mobility routes