November 07, 2022

How to Become a Scale-Up Worker Sponsor

On the 22nd of August 2022, the U.K. government launched a new immigration route, the Scale-Up Worker visa. This route has been designed to provide growing businesses and organisations a cheaper, streamlined process to obtaining a sponsor license, as well as to allow sponsored employees a degree of flexibility once they have been issued a Scale-Up visa, by allowing them to find other employment after the initial six months with their original sponsor, without the need to apply for additional permission.

This new route has garnered interest from both businesses and potential applicants from around the world. This article will provide a brief explanation of the process.

An organization will qualify as a Scale-Up business if it can demonstrate that

  1. it has grown by 20% in each of the three years preceding the date of the application, either in regard to staff count or turnover; and
  2. that it had at least 10 employees at the beginning of the three-year period.

The Home Office will access and check Pay As You Earn (PAYE) information and/or VAT returns submitted to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to determine whether the organization meets the criteria to be considered a Scale-Up business.

In an effort to make the application process as streamlined as possible, the Home Office will not normally require applicant organisations to submit documents as part of the application process. Instead, the applicant organisation will submit information that will allow the Home Office to carry out the necessary checks — e.g., Companies House reference number (where applicable), Unique Taxpayer reference number, VAT registration number and at least one PAYE reference number. These identification numbers will be used to retrieve information necessary to assess whether the organisation qualifies as a Scale-Up business.

The applicant organisation will also be required to demonstrate that it is able to and intends to offer employment that meets the minimum skill level and salary requirement for the route.

An application for a Scale-Up license will begin with the submission of an online application form and the payment of the application fee of £536. This fee is much lower than the usual fee of £1,476 for large sponsors.

Sponsor license holders are ordinarily required to pay the immigration skills charge of £1000 per year of the employee’s sponsorship/employment. Scale-Up license holders will be exempt from this charge and from having to pay a reduced rate of £21 to issue certificates of sponsorship, instead of the customary fee of £199.

Once granted, a Scale-Up license will be issued for a period of four years, without the possibility of an extension. A Scale-Up business must apply for access to the other immigration routes — e.g., Skilled Worker or Global Business Mobility — in order to retain the permission to hire and sponsor foreign nationals to undertake employment in the U.K.

The Scale-Up route is certainly an interesting proposition that will benefit both the employer and the employee, as it adds a level of flexibility to the immigration system. The route will allow the employer access to a cost- and time-effective means of hiring highly skilled foreign nationals, without necessarily committing to a long-term contract, and it will allow the employee the freedom to change employers without risking their immigration status in the U.K.

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