What is a UK Expansion Worker Visa?

The UK Expansion Worker Visa falls under the UK’s Global Business Mobility visa program, which is aimed at fulfilling the immigration and skill requirements of UK and international businesses. This specific visa is tailored for foreign companies looking to expand into the UK and establish a UK branch of their overseas business. The UK Expansion Worker Visa allows them to transfer overseas employees to the UK to help them set up the business and commence trading. To qualify for this visa, workers will need to be issued a Certificate of Sponsorship from the UK employer, have worked for the company overseas, and meet the specific salary and job requirements.

Upon approval, successful applicants can stay in the UK for a maximum of 12 months, with the possibility of extending for an additional 12 months, provided they meet all qualifying conditions. This niche visa helps overseas companies expand into the UK and can enable the employee to transition into a Skilled Worker Visa in due course.

Over the course of this guide we’ll be looking at all aspects of the UK Expansion Worker Visa, beginning with the detailed eligibility requirements.

Eligibility Requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Visa

You must meet various eligibility requirements to be eligible for a UK Expansion Worker Visa. The following requirements apply to all applications:

  • Licenced Sponsor: Your UK employer must hold a sponsor licence that enables them to sponsor foreign workers.
  • Employment: You must have been an employee of the sponsoring business outside of the UK for the past 12 months, unless you meet specific exemption criteria.
  • Certificate of Sponsorship: You must be issued a Certificate of Sponsorship from a UK business holding a sponsor’s licence. This certificate will outline your work in the UK, your salary, and your job title.
  • Job Eligibility: The job you will be doing in the UK must be included in the list of eligible occupations (see below).
  • Minimum Salary: You must receive a minimum salary of £45,800 per year or the ‘going rate’ for your job.
  • Applying from Overseas: Switching to a UK Expansion Worker Visa from within the UK is impossible. Therefore, you must apply from outside the country.
  • Maintenance Funds: You must prove you hold sufficient funds to support yourself 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

Your UK sponsor will provide you with an electronic document known as a Certificate of Sponsorship detailing your specific work responsibilities in the UK and the proposed start date. Only companies possessing a valid Sponsor Licence can generate this certificate using the Sponsor Management System (SMS).

The Certificate of Sponsorship is solely available in digital form and isn’t issued as a physical paper document. To link it to your visa application, you’ll require the reference number specified in your Certificate of Sponsorship when you apply for your visa. These certificates can be generated ahead of your planned start date. However, submitting your visa application within three months of receiving the certificate is crucial.

Salary Requirement

To meet the salary conditions for a UK Expansion Worker Visa, a minimum salary of £45,800 or the ‘going rate’ applicable to your particular job is necessary, whichever is higher. The ‘going rate’ varies for each job code and is specified in the corresponding rates table. Reviewing the relevant going rate for your job is crucial to ensure adherence to the salary criteria.

Job Eligibility Requirement

Not all job positions meet the criteria for a UK Expansion Worker Visa. Only roles listed on the Eligible Occupations List are eligible for consideration under this visa. It’s essential to ensure that your role aligns with this list, verifying that your job description and responsibilities match the designated role precisely. Each role on the list is assigned a specific 4-digit occupation code, which your employer must accurately include on the Certificate of Sponsorship when generating it.

Employment Requirement

Unless you fulfill one of the following conditions, you need to have worked for your employer outside the UK for a minimum of 12 months:

  • Earning a salary exceeding £73,900
  • Being a Japanese national engaged in work for a Japanese company expanding to the UK
  • Being a national or permanent resident of Australia involved in work for an Australian company expanding to the UK

Maintenance Requirement

To demonstrate your capability to financially support yourself in the UK on arrival, you must maintain a minimum balance of £1,270 in your bank account for 28 days. The last day of this period must be within 31 days of submitting your visa application. If your spouse or children accompany you, then the following additional balances apply:

  • £285 for your partner
  • £315 for one child
  • £200 for each additional child

During your initial month in the UK, your employer can provide support if it is explicitly mentioned on your Certificate of Sponsorship. To satisfy the maintenance requirement in this way, your employer must complete the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section under ‘Additional data’ on your Certificate of Sponsorship.

Duration of the UK Expansion Worker Visa

Under the terms of the UK Expansion Worker Visa, the length of your stay in the UK is determined by either:

  • The duration specified on your Certificate of Sponsorship, plus an additional 14 days or
  • 12 months following the indicated start date on your Certificate of Sponsorship.

The maximum permitted stay is whichever of these two timescales is shorter. The initial visa allows a maximum period of 12 months, but it can be extended for a further 12 months (subject to criteria), resulting in a maximum overall stay of 24 months in the UK on a UK Expansion Worker Visa.

A restriction on the overall time spent on Global Business Mobility Visas also exists. If you’ve held any of the visas listed below, the cumulative maximum stay within a 6-year period in the UK is limited to 5 years:

  • 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)

Rights and Entitlements on a UK Expansion Worker Visa

There are more limitations on a UK Expansion Worker Visa than on other worker visas such as the Skilled Worker Visa. Nevertheless, this visa does permit the following activities:

  • Working for your UK sponsor in the designated role specified in your Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • Engaging in studies or educational programs.
  • Bringing your eligible dependent partner and children to the UK.
  • Participating in voluntary work.
  • Traveling abroad and returning to the UK.

However, there are crucial restrictions associated with the UK Expansion Worker Visa that you should be aware of:

  • You cannot claim most public funds, benefits, or the State Pension.
  • Changing your job is prohibited unless you update your visa accordingly.
  • Undertaking secondary employment in the UK is not permitted.
  • The duration spent under a Secondment Worker visa does not count toward achieving Indefinite Leave to Remain.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) provides a comprehensive list outlining what is permissible and what isn’t once your visa is approved. Adhering to these regulations is essential to avoid breaching the UK’s immigration rules.

Document List for a UK Expansion Worker Visa

When applying for a UK Expansion Worker visa, you’ll be required to provide various supporting documents and information, including:

  • The reference number from your Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • A valid passport or an alternative document verifying your identity and nationality.
  • Your job title and the specific occupation code from the eligible occupations list.
  • Details of your UK sponsor and their sponsor license number (available on your Certificate of Sponsorship).
  • Proof of personal savings to sustain yourself and any dependents in the UK, such as bank statements (unless your certificate of sponsorship confirms financial support from your employer).
  • Documentation demonstrating your relationship with any dependent partner or children, like birth or marriage certificates.
  • A tuberculosis test result certificate if you are living in a country where TB is prevalent.

Depending on your circumstances, you might also be requested to provide:

  • Evidence of employment with your overseas employer for the preceding 12 months, such as payslips and bank statements.
  • In cases involving sensitive research at a PhD level or higher, your employer might notify you of the necessity for a valid ATAS certificate.

UK Expansion Worker Visa Costs

Several expenses are linked to obtaining the UK Expansion Worker Visa. Before proceeding with your application, you should confer with both your overseas employer and the UK sponsor regarding the responsibility for covering these costs.

The fees associated with this visa application include:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship fee = £239
  • UK Expansion Worker Visa fee = £259 (and an additional £259 for each dependent)
  • Immigration Health Surcharge fee = £624 annually for adults and £470 for children under 18. The primary applicant and each dependent are required to pay this charge.

You will receive guidance on the exact payment amount during the online application process. It’s required to make the payment online when submitting your application otherwise you won’t be able to schedule a biometric appointment and complete the submission.

UK Expansion Worker Visa Processing Time

Once you’ve completed the online application, uploaded the necessary documents, and attended your biometric appointment, the visa processing timeline commences. Typically, a decision is made within three weeks.

If you need assurance regarding your arrival for work in the UK, you can:

  • Opt to apply using priority or super-priority services, which expedite the process but with additional charges. However, these services guarantee a decision in one or five working days based on the chosen service.
  • Submit your application up to three months before your designated UK work start date as indicated on your Certificate of Sponsorship.

Visa processing durations can vary, so applying well ahead of time is advisable. In situations with urgent deadlines, selecting a priority service ensures adequate processing time for the visa.