This visa category is designed to attract skilled workers from outside the UK who can contribute to the growth and development of your business. With its flexible eligibility criteria and streamlined application process, the Expansion Worker Visa offers a unique pathway for talented individuals to pursue their career aspirations in one of the world's most dynamic and diverse economies.
What is the Expansion Worker visa?
The UK Expansion Worker allows workers to come to Britain to set up the first UK branch or subsidiary of their overseas business. It allows eligible businesses to sponsor senior managers or specialist workers being assigned to the UK for a temporary period to undertake work related to the expansion of the overseas business in the UK.
Sponsor Requirements for Expansion Workers
The employing organisation must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business. The UK Expansion Worker route can only be used if the business hasn’t yet begun trading in the UK.
As a UK Expansion Worker, the visa-holder will be allowed to work in the UK for the job they’ve been sponsored, as described in their sponsorship certificate. They will also be permitted to undertake voluntary work and study in the UK.
Applicants must be at least 18 to qualify for a UK Expansion Worker visa. The applicant must also already be working for a linked overseas business on the date of application and have worked for that business for a prescribed minimum period.
The applicant must have:
- a valid CoS from a UK-licensed sponsor
- a passport or other travel document showing their identity and nationality.
- evidence that they have worked for their employer outside the UK for at least 12 months, where applicable
- proof of funds, where applicable
- a valid tuberculosis test certificate, if from a listed country.
Expansion Worker visa requirements
The UK Expansion Worker visa requires applicants to be awarded a total of 60 points against three criteria: sponsorship, skill, and salary.
To score 20 points each for skill and salary, the applicant must have sponsorship for an eligible job role at or above an appropriate minimum skill level, with an annual salary of at least £42,400 or the ‘going rate’ for that job, whichever is higher.
In addition to the points-based requirements, a UK Expansion Worker from a listed country must provide a valid TB test certificate. Those applying for either entry clearance or leave to remain, where they have been in the UK for less than 12 months, must also satisfy a financial requirement. The financial requirement must be met by showing proof of funds of at least £1,270, where the sponsor is unable to certify maintenance under this route.
The applicant will need to have had the money available for at least 28 consecutive days, where the end date of the 28 days must be within 31 days of the date that they apply.
Sponsor Requirements for Expansion Workers
The employing organisation must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business although, unlike other sponsored work routes, the UK Expansion Worker route can only be used if the business hasn’t yet begun trading in the UK.
If a linked overseas employer is looking to send a senior or specialist employee to the UK on a temporary work assignment in a business that is already trading in the UK, they should instead apply for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, or even a Skilled Worker visa, although the UK employer would need to be licensed to sponsor under these routes instead.
When sponsoring a UK Expansion Worker, the sponsor must hold a valid licence for this category of worker and ensure that the employment on offer in the UK meets the relevant skill and salary requirements. Only then can the sponsor issue a valid CoS.
When applying for a licence to sponsor applicants on the UK Expansion Worker route, the sponsor must show what’s known as a UK ‘footprint’. This can be demonstrated with evidence of UK business premises or registration with Companies House. They must also prove an overseas trading presence, together with credible plans to expand to the UK. To do this, the sponsor will usually need to show that the overseas business has been active and trading for at least 3 years and that it intends and can establish a new UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary within 2 years following the grant of a licence.
The type of rating a UK Expansion Worker sponsor will be given will depend on whether the Authorising Officer (AO) nominated in the sponsor licence application is already based in the UK or is currently based overseas. The AO must be the most senior person in the business responsible for the recruitment of migrant workers. If the person named as AO in the licence application is already based in the UK, the sponsor will be given an A-rating and full CoS allocation, up to a maximum of 5. The maximum allocation number at any one time is limited to the number of workers genuinely needed to establish the business in the UK, where once a UK trading presence has been established, other routes can be added to the sponsor licence.
In contrast, if the AO is outside the UK, the sponsor will initially be given a CoS allocation of just 1, with a provisional licence rating. The AO, who must also be the person responsible for using the sponsorship management system (SMS), known as the Level 1 user, must then assign that CoS to themselves to make a successful application for entry clearance. If granted entry clearance, the AO must make a request via SMS for the sponsor licence rating to be changed from provisional to an A-rating, in this way increasing the CoS allocation.
The licence will be valid for 4 years, in common with other sponsored work routes, but as the Home Office expect the overseas business to establish a full trading presence within 2 years, the licence cannot be renewed.
If the overseas business fails to establish a trading presence within the relevant timeframe, the sponsor’s CoS allocation on this route will be reduced to zero. They will be unable to sponsor any applications from new workers or extension applications from existing sponsored workers and could even have their licence revoked.
What is the application process for an Expansion Worker visa?
To apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa, the applicant will need to complete an online application, using their CoS reference number. They can apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day that they’re due to start work in the UK, as listed on the sponsorship certificate.
Expansion Worker Visa FAQs
What is a UK Expansion Worker visa?
The UK Expansion Worker visa is for companies from outside of the UK who do not have a trading presence in the UK.
How much is the UK Expansion Worker visa?
Application fees cost £259. However, the applicant will also need to pay an annual healthcare surcharge of £624. There will also be costs of applying for a sponsor licence under this route.
Do you need sponsorship for the UK Expansion Worker visa?
The applicant will need to be assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a UK sponsor (employer) authorised by the Home Office.
How long with the decision take?
A decision should be made within 3 weeks if outside the UK, and 8 weeks if applying from inside the UK.
What are the application costs for an Expansion Worker visa?
To apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa, there are various costs involved. In addition to needing funds of at least £1,270, where applicable, the applicant will need to pay an application fee of £259 and the annual immigration health surcharge.
The business will also need to factor in the cost of applying for sponsorship, plus a fee for issuing each CoS. As a temporary worker route for sponsor licensing fee purposes, the fee will be the standard fee for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence of £536, regardless of the size or charitable status of the sponsor. The fee for issuing a CoS for a UK Expansion Worker is £21.
How long does an Expansion visa last?
These visas are usually for one year. If the UK Expansion Worker is looking to stay longer in the UK, they can extend their visa, but only by 12 months. The maximum time that an individual can stay in the UK on a UK Expansion Worker visa is 2 years.
UK expansion workers are also subject to the maximum cumulative period for other GBM routes. This means that if they have spent time in the UK on this or another visa, they might not be able to stay on a UK Expansion Worker visa for as long. An individual can only stay in the UK for a maximum of 5 years in any 6 years if they’ve spent time on any of the other GMB visas or as an Intra-company graduate trainee or intra-company transferee.
The UK Expansion Worker route does not provide a path to settlement in the UK.
Why Choose UK Visas?
UK Visas provide a comprehensive Skilled Worker Visa Service. Whether you’re arranging sponsorship for the first time, or need ongoing support for your recruitment requirements, the rules and regulations can seem overwhelming.
As UK Visa experts, we steer thousands of companies through the licence process. We’ll support your application so you can rest assured your experience will be as stress-free as possible.