Introduction
Global Business Mobility: UKX
Global Business Mobility: SSW
Global Business Mobility: Graduate Trainee
Skilled Worker
Other sponsorship options


Introduction

International businesses have been given more sponsorship options following the government's launch of the Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes on 11 April 2022. This article provides an overview of these and outlines some considerations for choosing which licences to apply for.

Broadly speaking, the most appropriate approach will depend on a wide range of factors, including:

  • the extent to which the international business is established in the United Kingdom;
  • what kinds of business contracts it has;
  • the skills profile of the workers it needs to have present in the United Kingdom;
  • how long the workers need to stay; and
  • whether the workers want the opportunity to settle.

In some cases, it will also be appropriate for the business to hold multiple licences, either concurrently or over time.

Global Business Mobility: UKX

Use
The UK Expansion Worker (UKX) route can be used:

  • by an overseas business that intends to set up a branch or wholly owned subsidiary in the United Kingdom but that has not already started trading there;
  • to facilitate UK immigration permission for up to five of the overseas business's existing senior management or specialist employees (for an initial period of up to one year and an overall stay in the category of up to two years); and
  • where the sponsored workers have not already spent more than five years in any six-year period with immigration permission under any of the Global Business Mobility routes (or the previous intra-company routes).

Considerations
This route is only intended to facilitate the establishment of an overseas business in the United Kingdom within two years. A sponsor licence in this route is granted for a period of four years and cannot be renewed. It is, therefore, important to time the licence application so that it is in place at the point the business is ready to proceed with its UK expansion. In particular, a "UK footprint" must be demonstrated at the time of application, which can either be evidence of registration with Companies House or of UK business premises.

With limited exceptions, the overseas business must be active and trading for at least three years immediately before the UKX licence application. The UK business must also be intending to operate the same type of business as the overseas business.

Unlike the previous Sole Representative route, there is no prohibition on an owner who has a majority shareholding or control of the overseas business being sponsored as a UKX worker. There is also no stipulation that the headquarters of the business remains abroad rather than in the United Kingdom.

Consideration should be given to applying for a Senior or Specialist Worker and/or Skilled Worker licence as appropriate (as an alternative to, or in addition to a UKX licence) once the business has started trading in the UK if any of the following factors are relevant:

  • the UK business is being set up to undertake a different type of business from the overseas business (in this case UKX will not be appropriate);
  • more than five workers need to be sent from the overseas business to the United Kingdom at any one time;
  • the UK business intends to sponsor workers in roles below Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 6 (ie, equivalent to a bachelor degree);
  • the UK business intends to sponsor workers who are not employed by the overseas business;
  • the UK business intends to sponsor workers beyond the four-year validity period of the UKX licence; or
  • sponsored workers wish to settle in the United Kingdom.

Global Business Mobility: SSW

Use
The Senior or Specialist Worker (SSW) route can be used:

  • by a UK business that is already active and trading in the United Kingdom and is linked by common ownership or control to businesses overseas;
  • to facilitate immigration permission for a linked overseas business's senior or specialist workers for an initial period of up to five years;
  • where the sponsored workers have been employed by the group abroad for at least 12 months, unless they are a high earner being paid £73,900 or more; and
  • where the sponsored workers have not already spent more than five years in any six-year period with immigration permission under any of the Global Business Mobility routes (or the previous intra-company routes), or, where a sponsored worker is a high earner, they may remain in these routes for a maximum of nine years in any 10-year period.

Considerations
SSW sponsors must be active and trading in the United Kingdom at the time they apply for the licence. Practically, a common challenge around this for a newly established UK business is obtaining a UK corporate bank account from a UK bank that is registered by both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. This factor by itself can make it worthwhile for some businesses to use the UKX route initially.

The SSW route is largely unchanged from the predecessor Intra-Company Transfer route. The Home Office rejected the Migration Advisory Committee's recommendation to allow the SSW route to lead to settlement, and the minimum skill level for SSW is RQF Level 6 as opposed to RQF Level 3 for Skilled Workers. As the Skilled Worker category provides a more flexible option for employers in many cases it may be preferred, unless, for example, the worker being transferred has a high level of allowances or cannot meet the English language requirement for Skilled Worker eligibility.

Consideration should be given to applying for a Skilled Worker licence as appropriate (as an alternative or in addition to a Senior or Specialist Worker licence) if any of the following factors are relevant:

  • the UK business intends to sponsor workers in roles below RQF Level 6;
  • the UK business intends to sponsor individual workers for longer than the maximum time thresholds allowed under the SSW route;
  • the UK business intends to sponsor workers who are not employed by the overseas business; or
  • sponsored workers can meet the requirements for the Skilled Worker route (including English language and salary requirements without allowances) and wish to settle in the United Kingdom.

Global Business Mobility: Graduate Trainee

Use
The Graduate Trainee route may be used:

  • by a UK business that is already active and trading in the United Kingdom and linked by common ownership or control to businesses overseas;
  • to facilitate immigration permission for a linked overseas business's employees who are required to take a UK placement on a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position, and who wish to be in the United Kingdom for a period of up to one year;
  • where the graduate trainees have been employed by the group abroad for at least three months; and
  • where the sponsored workers have not already spent more than five years in any six-year period with immigration permission under any of the Global Business Mobility routes (or the previous intra-company routes).

Considerations
This route is more flexible and could attract higher usage than the previous Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route because the new route does not have a limit of 20 certificates of sponsorship per financial year.

The Global Business Mobility route version of Graduate Trainee continues to have a RQF Level 6 skill requirement and includes other stipulations around the nature of the training course and employment by the group abroad. It may be worthwhile for businesses to consider an individual's eligibility under the Government Authorised Exchange route for a period of proposed training or internship that is not eligible under the Graduate Trainee route.

Consideration should be given to applying for a Skilled Worker licence as appropriate (as an alternative or in addition to a Graduate Trainee licence) if any of the following factors are relevant:

  • the UK business intends to sponsor workers in roles below RQF Level 6;
  • the UK business intends to sponsor workers who are not employed by the overseas business; or
  • sponsored workers can meet the requirements for the Skilled Worker route (including English language and salary requirements without allowances) and wish to remain in the United Kingdom for more than one year or wish to immediately be on a path to settlement in the United Kingdom. This may be the case for example if the worker's permanent position will be in the United Kingdom after they complete their training course.

Skilled Worker

Use
The Skilled Worker route can be used:

  • by a UK business that is already active and trading in the United Kingdom, irrespective of whether that business has any linked entities abroad;
  • to facilitate immigration permission for workers whose jobs are skilled to at least RQF Level 3 (ie, A-level equivalent); and
  • where the sponsored workers will be sponsored for up to five years at a time, with no limit on how many extensions can be applied for.

Considerations
The Skilled Worker route may be attractive to some intra-group assignees because it offers the possibility of settlement in the United Kingdom. Some assignees may prefer to use this route from the outset if offered because time spent in UKX, SSW and Graduate Trainee cannot be counted towards settlement, even if the worker subsequently switches into the Skilled Worker route.

Where a UK business is already active and trading in the United Kingdom and does not anticipate wanting to assign group employees to the United Kingdom who will not meet the requirements for the Skilled Worker route, it may be possible to bypass holding a UKX or SSW licence. Holding an SSW licence may however be beneficial for cases where a transferee cannot meet the requirements for a Skilled Worker visa for any reason.

Other sponsorship options

If an overseas business does not intend to become established in the United Kingdom but has significant contracts with UK-based clients, then the UK-based client may agree to obtain or use an existing Service Supplier or Secondment Worker sponsor licence to facilitate the short-term presence of the overseas business's personnel (for further details please see "New Global Business Mobility routes seek to reform immigration and international business").

For further information on this topic please contact Andrew Osborne, Supinder Singh Sian, Li Xiang or Hennie Shin at Lewis Silkin by telephone (+44 20 7074 8000‚Äč) or email ([email protected], [email protected]m, [email protected] or [email protected]). The Lewis Silkin website can be accessed at www.lewissilkin.com.