The UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence:
The UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence is designed for overseas businesses that want to set up a branch or subsidiary in the United Kingdom (UK). It provides a sponsored route for eligible businesses to bring in senior managers or specialist workers from abroad who will be temporarily assigned to work on the expansion of the business in the UK.
This article aims to provide guidance to employers who are seeking authorisation from the Home Office to sponsor a non-settled worker as a UK Expansion Worker. It outlines the general and route-specific requirements that employers need to fulfill in order to successfully apply for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence.
To determine who needs to be sponsored under the UK Expansion Worker route, employers must sponsor any overseas national they intend to employ for establishing a branch or subsidiary in the UK, provided that the individual is not a settled worker or does not have other immigration permission to work in the UK. This includes most EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals who arrived in the UK after December 31, 2020. In order to sponsor a UK Expansion Worker, employers must obtain authorisation from the Home Office.
Under the UK Expansion Worker route, sponsors are only permitted to sponsor the number of workers they genuinely require for establishing their business in the UK, with a maximum limit of five workers at any given time. While sponsors can replace individual workers within this allocation, they cannot exceed the limit of five workers under the UK Expansion Worker route simultaneously.
To apply for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, employers must fulfill various general and route-specific requirements.
General Requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence:
1. Genuine Organisation: Employers must prove that they are a legitimate organisation operating lawfully in the UK.
2. Good Character: Employers must demonstrate that they are honest, dependable, reliable, and have not engaged in any behaviour or actions that are detrimental to the public good.
3. Sponsor Duties: Employers must show that they are capable of fulfilling their sponsor duties and provide evidence of compliance within the timeframe and manner specified in the sponsor guidance.
Route-specific Requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence:
1. Skill Level Requirement: Employers must offer employment that meets the skill level requirement specified for the UK Expansion Worker route.
2. Salary Level Requirement: Employers must offer employment that meets the salary level requirement set for the UK Expansion Worker route.
3. Genuine Job(s): Employers must demonstrate that the job(s) they intend to sponsor is genuine.
4. No Third-party Work: Employers must not intend to sponsor a role that involves working for a third party.
5. Qualifying Link: Employers must establish a qualifying link between themselves (the sponsor) and the overseas business from which workers will be sent.
6. UK Footprint: Employers must not be actively trading in the UK but should have a presence or "footprint" in the country.
7. Active Overseas Business: The overseas business expanding to the UK must be actively trading overseas and, unless an exception applies, must have been active and trading for at least three years.
8. Genuine Intent to Expand: Employers must genuinely intend and be able to expand their business to the UK and establish a trading presence within two years.
9. Same Type of Business: The planned expansion in the UK must be in the same type of business conducted by the employer overseas.
10. Ownership or Legal Entity: The business being established in the UK must either be wholly owned by the overseas business or part of the same legal entity, such as a branch.
11. Appointed Personnel: Employers must appoint an Authorising Officer, Key Contact, and at least one Level 1 User.
Requirement for Overseas Trading Presence:
For the UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, it is generally necessary for the overseas business planning to expand to the UK to have a minimum trading history of 3 years before the application date. However, there are certain exceptions to this requirement.
To meet this criterion, you will be required to present evidence demonstrating that the overseas business has been engaged in trading activities during the entire 12-month period leading up to the sponsor licence application. Additionally, you must provide proof that the overseas business was actively trading at the commencement of the 3-year period prior to the application date and remained actively trading throughout that entire 3-year period.
The Immigration Rules specify stringent documentation requirements that must be fulfilled to satisfy the overseas trading presence requirement.
Requirements for a Valid UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence:
To be eligible for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence, it is crucial to meet certain criteria that demonstrate your genuine intention and ability to expand your operations and establish a trading presence within the United Kingdom within a span of two years.
The Home Office will carefully assess your business planning and financial evidence to determine the validity of your expansion plans. This will involve providing a comprehensive and detailed business plan that outlines your proposed expansion strategies.
Moreover, you will be expected to demonstrate your financial capability to support the planned expansion. This entails showcasing that you possess sufficient funds to cover the initial costs for the first 12 months, as outlined in your expansion plan.
Additionally, the Home Office may take into consideration factors such as the size of your business, its prior activities, and its potential for growth.
It is important to note that the planned expansion should align with the same type of business activities conducted by your company overseas. It cannot be a completely new business venture unrelated to your existing operations.
Furthermore, the business you establish in the UK must either be wholly owned by your overseas business or be part of the same legal entity, such as a branch.
Appointment of Key Personnel, Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Allocation, and Sponsor Licence Rating:
Once you have confirmed your ability to fulfill the sponsorship requirements for the UK Expansion Worker route mentioned earlier, it is necessary to designate specific individuals to key roles within your organisation. This includes appointing an Authorising Officer, a Key Contact, and at least one Level 1 User. These personnel must be in place prior to applying for your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence and will play crucial roles in managing your sponsorship responsibilities.
The Authorising Officer can be an individual who is already located in the UK and will oversee your expansion activities, or if no suitable person is available in the UK, a senior employee from your overseas business who will be assigned to the UK for overseeing the expansion. Regardless of their location, the Authorising Officer must hold the highest-ranking position within your organisation and be responsible for migrant worker recruitment, ensuring compliance with all sponsor duties, and overseeing licensed sponsor activities.
It is important to note that the approval of your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application will influence your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) allocation and licence rating. This is contingent upon whether the named Authorising Officer in your application is based in the UK or overseas.
If the designated Authorising Officer is a worker currently located in the UK, it will be necessary for them to select a Level 1 User (and a Key Contact) who is also based in the UK. The Level 1 User should ideally be a settled worker, unless there is a specific exception that applies. The Authorising Officer can fulfill the roles of both Level 1 User and Key Contact themselves, or they can assign these responsibilities to other individuals who meet the required criteria.
In the event that the person named as the Authorising Officer in the UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application is already situated in the UK, and assuming the sponsor licence application is approved, the UK entity will be granted an A-rating and a complete allocation of Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), with a maximum limit of 5.
If the designated Authorising Officer is an employee of the overseas business located outside the UK, it is a requirement that they also fulfill the role of the Level 1 User.
Requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Visa
Employers should be aware that individuals seeking to enter the UK on a Global Business Mobility - UK Expansion Worker Visa must meet specific eligibility criteria outlined in the Immigration Rules.
One essential requirement to note is that the prospective UK Expansion Worker must have accumulated a minimum of 12 months' work experience outside the UK for the associated business or organisation, unless they fall into one of the following categories: high earners earning £73,900 per year or more, Japanese nationals establishing a UK branch or subsidiary under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, or Australian nationals or permanent residents establishing a UK branch or subsidiary under the Free Trade Agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Australia (subject to the agreement's commencement or provisional application).
Sponsor Rating for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence:
Upon being granted a sponsor licence for the UK Expansion Worker route, you will receive either an 'A' or a 'Provisional' rating.
A 'Provisional' rating is assigned if your Authorising Officer (and Level 1 User) is an employee of the overseas business. Initially, the UK business will be allocated one Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) and receive a Provisional licence rating. The Authorising Officer must assign the CoS to themselves to apply for entry clearance to the UK. Once legally residing in the UK and the business has obtained an A-rating for its sponsor licence, the Authorising Officer will have the flexibility to appoint different individuals to these roles and request an increase in the CoS allocation, up to a maximum of 4.
Duration of a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence:
Upon approval of your sponsor licence application, your licence will be valid for a period of 4 years. Renewal of a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence is not possible since the expectation is for you to have established a trading presence in the UK within 2 years from the date of licence approval.
Once you have successfully established a trading presence in the UK, you will have the opportunity to apply for additional routes to be added to your existing licence. For example, you can apply to include the Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker routes. Subsequently, your sponsored workers will have the option to switch to these routes provided they meet the respective requirements.
Application Process for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence:
After determining the number of workers you intend to sponsor in your initial year (up to a maximum of 5), you can proceed to apply for your UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence. This involves completing an online application form, paying the applicable application fee, and submitting all necessary supporting documents as outlined in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance. It is important to ensure that all supporting documents are submitted within 5 working days of submitting your application.
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