Scale Up Visa

The scale-up visa is a new UK immigration route that is due to open to applications on the 22 August 2022.

The Scale-up Visa is for talented individuals recruited by a UK Scale-up Sponsor, who have the skills needed to enable the Scale-up business to continue growing. The Scale-Up route is a route to settlement in the UK. Applicants may be joined or accompanied by a partner and dependent children.

There are two types of scale-up visa applications:

  • The sponsored route and
  • The unsponsored route.

The Scale-up Visa route offers both a Sponsored Application route and an Unsponsored Application route.  The Unsponsored Application route is only available to applicants who have previously been granted permission as a Scale-up Worker.

Scale-up Visa – Unsponsored Application

In order to qualify for a Scale-up Visa via an Unsponsored Application, you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:

  • You are aged 18 or over;
  • You have previously been granted permission as a Scale-up Worker;
  • You had monthly PAYE earnings in the UK equivalent to at least £33,000 per year during at least 50% of your most recent grant of permission as a Scale-up Worker;
  • You are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B1 (equivalent to IELTS 4.0);
  • You have enough money to support yourself without relying on public funds;
  • You have provided a valid TB certificate if required.

In either case, the exact requirements you will need to satisfy may vary depending on your circumstances.  You may want to speak to an immigration lawyer for expert advice.

Scale-up Visa Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) Requirement for a Sponsored Application

In order to obtain a Scale-up Visa via a Sponsored Application, you will need to have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job you are planning to do.  Your Certificate of Sponsorship will need to have been issued by an employer that is authorised by the Home Office to sponsor a Scale-up Worker.

To register as a Scale-up Sponsor, your employer will need to demonstrate that they have had an annualised growth of at least 20% for the previous 3-year period in terms of turnover or staffing. Companies will also need to have had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of this 3-year period.

Your sponsor must be listed as A-rated on the Home Office’s register of licensed sponsors.

Once a Scale-up Sponsor has an A-rated licence, they can issue a CoS and sponsor you for 6 months in an occupation skilled to at least RQF level 6, with a salary that is equal to or exceeds: £33,000 per year, the going rate for the occupation code and £10.58 per hour.

Your Certificate of Sponsorship must have been issued not more than 3 months before the date of your Scale-up Visa Sponsored Application.

Your Certificate of Sponsorship must include certain mandatory information, including:

  • Details of your name, job and salary;
  • Confirmation that you are expected to work for your Sponsor for at least 6 months;
  • A start date which is no more than 3 months after the date of your Scale-up Worker Visa application;
  • Confirmation that the Certificate of Sponsorship has not been used in a previous application which was either granted or refused and has not been withdrawn by the sponsor or cancelled by the Home Office.

Genuine Job Requirement

In order to be granted a Scale-up Visa, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that you are being sponsored to undertake a genuine job.

If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the job you are being sponsored to do does not exist, is a sham or has been created mainly so that you can apply for a Scale-up Visa then your application will be refused.

The Home Office will also want to be satisfied that you have not entered into an arrangement whereby you will fill a temporary or permanent position with a third party who is not the sponsor or undertake contract work which involves undertaking an ongoing routine role or providing an ongoing routine service to a third party who is not your sponsor.

Skill Level Requirement for a Sponsored Application

In order to obtain a Scale-up Visa via a Sponsored Application, the job you are being sponsored to do must be an eligible job at or above a minimum skill level (at least RQF level 6).

Once the Scale-up Visa route opens, the Home Office will publish a list of jobs that are eligible for the Scale-up route. The list will include the relevant occupation code, job type and related job titles.

You will usually meet the job skill level requirement if the job you are being sponsored for is on the list.

However, your sponsor must choose an appropriate occupation code.  If the Home Office has reasonable grounds to believe that your sponsor has not chosen the most appropriate occupation code then your application for a Scale-up Visa will be refused.

In assessing whether your sponsor has chosen the most appropriate occupation code, the Home Office will consider factors such as whether they have shown a genuine need for the job as described, whether you have the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described and the sponsor’s history of compliance with the immigration system.

Salary Requirement for a Sponsored Application

In order to obtain a Scale-up Visa via a Sponsored Application, the salary for the job you are being sponsored for must equal or exceed both £33,000 per year, £10.58 per hour and the ‘going rate’ for the job (as set out in the relevant occupation code mentioned above).

The assessment of salary is based on guaranteed basic gross pay (up to 48 hours per week) and does not include any other pay or benefits.

Once the Scale-up Visa route opens, the Home Office will publish a list of going rates for eligible Scale-up Visa occupation codes.  The going rates stated will be based on a 37.5-hour working week and must be pro-rated for other working patterns.

The £10.58 per hour salary requirement must be calculated for your working pattern.

UK Earnings as a Scale-up Worker Requirement for an Unsponsored Application

In order to obtain a Scale-up Visa via an Unsponsored Application, you will need to have had monthly PAYE earnings in the UK equivalent to at least £33,000 per year during at least 50% of the time spent on leave as a Scale-up Worker.

The Home Office will consider your guaranteed basic gross pay, recorded through UK-based PAYE.  Other sources of income (including earnings from self-employment and earnings from outside the UK) will not be considered.

If you were absent from work in a job with PAYE earnings of at least £33,000 per year due to statutory maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, shared parental leave, statutory adoption leave or sick leave then these periods of absence will be treated as periods during which you were paid the equivalent of at least £33,000 per year.

Genuine Earnings Requirement

In order to be granted a Scale-up Visa, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that your PAYE earnings are genuine.

If there are reasonable grounds to believe that your PAYE earnings have been fabricated or inflated or do not relate to genuine employment then your Scale-up Worker application will be refused.

English Language Requirement for all Scale-up Applications

In order to qualify for a Scale-up Visa (via either a Sponsored or Unsponsored Application) you will need to demonstrate English language ability on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in all 4 components (reading, writing, speaking and listening) to at least level B1 (intermediate).

Talented individuals with a high-skilled job offer from a qualifying UK Scale-up business applying for entry clearance or leave to remain as a Scale-up migrant will satisfy the English language requirement if they:

  • Are a national of a majority English-speaking country;
  • Have passed a Secure English Language Test;
  • Have been awarded a degree taught in English;
  • Obtained a GCSE/A Level or Scottish Highers in English while at school in the UK; or
  • Have already shown that they met the requirement, of level B1, in a previous successful application for entry clearance or permission to stay.

Financial Requirement for all Scale-up Applications

Subject to the exemption below, in order to qualify for a Scale-up Visa (via either a Sponsored or Unsponsored Application), you will need to have cash funds of at least £1,270 available.

You will need to have held the money for at least 28 consecutive days ending not more than 31 days before the date of your Scale-up Visa application.

You will be exempt from the financial requirement if your sponsor is willing to meet your maintenance costs up to the end of the first month of your employment, to an amount of at least £1,270, if necessary.  Your sponsor will need to confirm this on your Certificate of Sponsorship.

If you are applying for permission to stay and have been in the UK with permission for 12 months or more at the date of application, you will meet the financial requirement and will not need to show funds.

Switching into the Scale-up Worker Route

If you currently have leave to remain in another immigration category, you may extend your stay by switching into the Scale-up route unless you have, or were last granted, permission as a Visitor, Short-term student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household or outside the Immigration Rules.

Duration of a Scale-up Visa

If you are granted a Scale-up Visa on the Sponsored Application route then you will be granted entry clearance or permission to stay for a period of 2 years.

If you are granted a Scale-up Visa on the Unsponsored Application route then you will be granted entry clearance or permission to stay for a period of 3 years.

Conditions of Stay on the Scale-up Visa Route

If you are granted a Scale-up Visa on the Sponsored Application route then you will need to be employed in the job that you are being sponsored for for an initial period of 6 months. After this initial 6 month period, your immigration status will no longer be tied to your original sponsoring employer.  You will therefore be able to undertake additional or alternative work (including employment, self-employment and voluntary work) without being sponsored.  You will also be permitted to study.  You will not be able to access public funds.

If you are granted leave as a Scale-up Worker on the Unsponsored Application route then you will have a full right to work from the outset (including employment, self-employment and voluntary work), meaning that you will not be tied to a sponsoring employer. You will also be permitted to study.  You will not be able to access public funds.

Settlement as a Scale-up Worker

In order to qualify for indefinite leave to remain as a Scale-up Worker you will need to satisfy UK Visas and Immigration that:

  • You have spent a continuous period of 5 years in the UK with valid leave;
  • The 5-year continuous period has comprised time spent with permission in any of the following routes (alone or in combination): Scale-up, Skilled Worker, Global Talent, Innovator, T2 Minister of Religion, International Sportsperson, Representative of an Overseas Business, as a Tier 1 Migrant, other than Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur);
  • You are in employment in the UK on the date of application with a salary paid through PAYE of at least £33,000 per year;
  • You have had monthly PAYE earnings in the UK equivalent to at least £33,000 per year during at least 24 months of the last 3 years immediately before the date of application;
  • You meet the Knowledge of Life in the UK requirement (unless an exemption applies).

The Home Office will consider your guaranteed basic gross pay, recorded through UK-based PAYE.  Other sources of income (including earnings from self-employment and earnings from outside the UK) will not be considered.

For the purpose of calculating your PAYE earnings in the UK during the last 3 years absences from work due to statutory maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, shared parental leave, statutory adoption leave or sick leave will be treated as periods during which you were paid the equivalent of at least £33,000 per year.

Genuine Earnings Requirement

In order to be granted settlement as a Scale-up Worker, you will need to satisfy the Home Office that your PAYE earnings are genuine.

If there are reasonable grounds to believe that your PAYE earnings have been fabricated or inflated or do not relate to genuine employment then your Scale-up Worker ILR application will be refused.

Dependants of Scale-up Visa Applicants

Scale-up Visa holders can be joined or accompanied by a dependent partner over the age of 18 and dependent children under the age of 18.

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