UK Expansion Worker Visa

April 21, 2022 297

The UK Expansion Visa, which came into effect in mid-April 2022, has replaced the old Representative of an Overseas Business visa. However, those already on that route will be able to apply for extension and settlement at the appropriate time, so their situation will not be disturbed.

It has to be said at the outset that there some big differences between the old visa and the new one. The most obvious difference is that the new route does not offer any route to settlement, whereas the Sole Rep visa offers a route to settlement after five years.

The scheme behind the new route might seem rather counterintuitive. The way that the Sole Rep scheme worked was that the applicant (a senior employee of the overseas company) would come to the UK – with their family members if any – set up a branch or subsidiary of the overseas company, run it (hopefully successfully), after three years apply for an extension visa (also hopefully successfully) and carry on trading, and after two further years of trading apply for settlement with any family members (also hopefully successfully). So the route offered the opportunity to come to the UK, set up and build the business over several years and set up your life in the UK with your family if you had one. This latter was of course not obligatory of course but experience shows that many took advantage of the possibility.

But the UK Expansion Worker Expansion visa cannot be granted for longer than two years and it cannot be extended and it does not provide a route to settlement. So how much can you achieve in two years, and what happens to you after two years?

Well, in answer to the first question, according to the Home Office two years is long enough to set up the UK entity.

The answer to the second question is more complicated. It may be possible to switch in-country from a UK Expansion Worker visa to another kind of visa, for example a Skilled Worker visa, and carry on working for the UK entity; presumably the applicant will be deemed to be “skilled” within the legal meaning. The Skilled Worker visa still does offer a route to settlement (after five years), so settlement for the applicant and family may still be ultimately obtainable.

If you think that this all sounds rather complicated you are right. But unfortunately we have to tell you it is in any case more complicated than this. Unlike with the Sole Rep visa the UK Expansion Worker visa requires sponsorship from the UK entity. But how can you get sponsorship from the UK entity if the UK entity has not yet been set up? The rules specifically require that the UK entity must not already be trading.

The Home Office has an answer to this as well, which we hope will make sense to you. The UK entity must have a “footprint” in the UK, and this can be achieved by two methods: (i) by already having a business premises in the UK (surely unlikely?) or (ii) by already having registered the UK entity as either an overseas company branch or a company that is a subsidiary of the overseas company (probably far easier).

And, similarly to the Skilled Workers scheme, the UK entity must have an online sponsorship management system (SMS) and everything that goes with it – sponsorship licence, certificates of sponsorship etc and, remarkably, it appears that the applicant can use the SMS to sponsor themselves!

And another strange little twist: the UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence will effectively die after two years, and after that the UK company will not be able to sponsor any more workers on this route. But the company will be able to apply for a different kind of sponsor licence, for example a Skilled Worker sponsor licence.

This is, it hardly needs to be said, quite an intricate scheme and we will have to see how it works in practice once people start applying in substantial numbers. This is a very simplified version and there are a lot more rules. But one rule is easier: there is no English language requirement.

In the meantime if you have any queries about this we will do our best to help and assist you.

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