What is a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa?
The Senior or Specialist Worker Visa is part of the Global Business Mobility visa program. It is a work visa that enables the holder to come to or stay in the UK and work for the UK branch of their overseas employer. This relatively new visa category has replaced the Intra-company Transfer visa, previously the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Long-term Staff visa. The visa intends to provide large multinational firms with the mechanism to quickly transfer staff to the UK branch to support their business operations and growth plans in the UK.
For the visa to be granted, a number of different criteria need to be met, including:
- The employer must hold a valid Sponsor License
- A Certificate of Sponsorship must be issued to the prospective employee
- The job role must feature on the list of eligible occupations
- The job role must be above a minimum income threshold
Applicants will need to meet this criteria and provide specific supporting documentation. If the application is successful, a visa can be granted for up to 5 years, enabling the UK branch to benefit from the skillset and knowledge of the transferred employee.
There are various eligibility requirements that you need to meet to be eligible for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa. The following requirements apply to all applications:
- Sponsor Licence: You must be an employee of an organisation with a UK Sponsor Licence.
- Employment: You must have worked for your employer outside of the UK for a minimum period. This period is variable based on your salary.
- Certificate of Sponsorship: Your employer will need to provide you with a Certificate of Sponsorship outlining the details of the work you will undertake in the UK.
- Job Eligibility: The job you will be doing must be included in the list of eligible occupations.
- Minimum Salary: You must receive the higher of a minimum salary of £45,800 per year or the ‘going rate’ for your job.
- Maintenance Funds: You must prove you hold sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependants for the first month in the UK.
If you can satisfy all of the above requirements, you can proceed to make an application.
Eligibility Requirements in Further Detail
Certificate of Sponsorship Requirement
As your sponsor, your employer will provide you with an electronic document known as a Certificate of Sponsorship. The document details your specific work responsibilities in the UK and the proposed employment start date. This certificate can only be provided by an employer possessing a valid Sponsor Licence who must generate it through the Sponsor Management System (SMS).
The Certificate of Sponsorship exists solely in electronic form, not as a physical paper document. When you apply for your visa, you’ll need the reference number specified in your Certificate of Sponsorship to link it to your visa application. Certificates of Sponsorship can be generated well in advance of your proposed employment. However, it’s imperative to submit your visa application within three months of receiving the certificate.
To fulfill the salary criteria for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa, you need a salary of no less than £45,800 or the ‘going rate’ for your specific job, whichever amount is greater. The ‘going rate’ differs for each job code and is detailed in the going rates table. Examining the going rate relevant to your job is essential to ensure compliance with the salary requirement.
There are some exceptions to this requirement if you had a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Long-term Staff visa before 6 April 2011. Otherwise, the salary requirement needs to be met by all applicants.
Job Eligibility Requirement
Not all job roles are eligible for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa. Only roles listed on the Eligible Occupations List can be considered for this visa. It is essential to ensure your role is listed and your job description and responsibilities match the role. Each role on the list is given a 4-digit occupation code, and the correct code needs to be stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship, when your employer generates it.
The minimum period of employment with your employer overseas depends on your salary. If your annual salary is below £73,900, you must have a minimum of 12 months of employment with your employer outside the UK. However, if your annual salary is £73,900 or higher, no specific minimum duration of prior employment is required.
To demonstrate your capability to sustain and support yourself in the UK, you must show that you have maintained a minimum balance of £1,270 in your bank account. This amount should remain available for a continuous 28-day period, with the 28th day falling within 31 days before your visa application submission date. If your spouse or children are accompanying you, they must also demonstrate their financial capacity to support themselves in the UK. The supplementary funds required for them are as follows:
- £285 for your partner
- £315 for one child
- £200 for each additional child
Should your employer plan to assist you during your initial month in the UK, this must be clearly stated on your Certificate of Sponsorship. Your employer must complete the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ segment under ‘Additional data’ on your certificate.
Duration of the Senior or Specialist Worker Visa
You’re permitted to remain in the UK under a Senior or Specialist Worker visa for the shorter duration of either:
- The period specified on your sponsorship certificate plus an additional 14 days.
- A maximum of 5 years.
You can repeatedly apply for extensions or new visas, but the cumulative stay cannot exceed the maximum allowed duration.
The permitted duration for a Senior and Specialist Worker visa is as follows:
- Up to 5 years within a 6-year period if your annual pay is below £73,900.
- Up to 9 years within a 10-year period if your annual pay equals or exceeds £73,900.
Your time in the UK under any of these visas will count toward your overall maximum stay:
- Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa
- Intra-company Transfer visa
- Graduate Trainee visa (Global Business Mobility)
- Secondment Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
- Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
- Service Supplier visa (Global Business Mobility)
- UK Expansion Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)
It’s important to note that time spent on a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa does not count towards Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
Rights and Entitlements on a Senior or Specialist Visa
The Senior or Specialist Worker Visa allows you to:
- Work in the role specified on your Certificate of Sponsorship.
- Pursue educational programs.
- Bring your eligible family members to the UK, including your spouse and any dependant children.
- Engage in voluntary work.
- Travel in and out of the UK.
However, the visa comes with restrictions, and you will not be able to:
- Claim most benefits or the State Pension.
- Change jobs without updating your visa.
- Obtain a second job (unless you’ve previously had an Intra-company Transfer visa or a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Long term Staff visa.
- Apply for settlement in the UK.
Once your visa is approved, you will receive a detailed list outlining permitted and prohibited activities under the Senior or Specialist Visa.
Document List for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa
When applying for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa, you’ll be required to provide the following:
- The reference number from your Certificate of Sponsorship.
- A valid passport or any other suitable document verifying your identity and nationality.
- Specifics about your job, including the job title and annual salary.
- The occupation code for your particular job.
- Your employer’s name and sponsor licence number. These are listed on your Certificate of Sponsorship.
- Evidence of employment with your employer for the minimum required period outside the UK.
- Proof of sufficient personal savings to sustain yourself in the UK, like bank statements (unless your certificate states financial support from your employer).
- Evidence of your relationship with any accompanying partner or children if they apply with you.
- A tuberculosis test result certificate if you apply from a country where TB is prevalent.
Depending on your circumstances, you might also need to provide:
- If your job involves sensitive research at a PhD level or beyond, your employer may notify you about the necessity of a valid ATAS certificate. In such a case, include this certificate as part of your application.
Senior or Specialist Worker Visa Costs
There are several different costs associated with a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa, including:
- Certificate of sponsorship
- Application fee
- Immigration health surcharge fee
Before applying, you should be clear with your employer on who is responsible for paying each fee.
Certificate of Sponsorship Fee
A fee of £239 is payable when a Certificate of Sponsorship is assigned to a prospective worker. The certificate is issued through the Sponsorship Management System (SMS), which is provided to the employer when they are approved for a Sponsor Licence.
The application fee for a Senior or Specialist Worker Visa is variable depending on the application’s location and the visa’s length. The following fees apply:
|Visa Length||Inside the UK||Outside the UK|
|Up to 3 Years||£719||£827|
|More Than 3 Years||£1,420||£1,500|
The application fees are per applicant for a standard visa application. If you plan to bring a dependant partner or any dependant children, you must pay the application fee for each applicant. Additional fees will also apply if you intend to use a priority service to expedite the application.
You will be informed how much you must pay when submitting your application online.
Immigration Health Surcharge
Most immigrants to the UK on visas lasting six months or longer need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. Currently, the fee is £624 per year for adults and £470 per year for children below 18. Note that this fee will increase by 40% over the coming months. This fee is paid upfront at the point of application, based on the duration of the visa i.e. a 5 year visa will incur an upfront cost of £3,120 (5 x £624).
Senior or Specialist Worker Visa Processing Time
The processing time for a visa begins once you have completed the online application, uploaded the supporting documents, and attended your biometric appointment. From this point, a decision on your application is typically made within three weeks for applications from inside the UK and within eight weeks for applications from outside of the UK. In some instances, you may need greater certainty on when you can come to work in the UK, so you can either:
- Apply using a priority or super-priority service to expedite the application. These services incur additional costs, but you will receive a decision within one or five working days, depending on the service selected.
- Apply up to 3 months in advance of the date you are due to start work in the UK. This is the date that will be listed on your Certificate of Sponsorship.
Visa processing times can fluctuate throughout the year, so applying as early as possible is always best. If there are urgent deadlines, you should opt to use a priority service to ensure the visa is processed in plenty of time.