The UK Scale-up Worker Visa was launched on 22nd August 2022. The new visa is designed to make it easier, quicker, and cheaper for businesses to recruit staff from around the world. For individuals, the Scale-up visa offers the flexibility to change employers after 6 months and greater autonomy over their working lives.
What is a Scale-up visa?
A Scale-up visa is a fast-track visa that enables UK businesses that meet certain criteria to employ workers from overseas. These companies are referred to as ‘scale-up businesses.’
If an eligible UK employer is experiencing a skills shortage, the new visa makes it simpler for them to recruit the talent they need to grow.
The skills of potential employees are assessed through the UK’s points-based system. An individual must score above a certain threshold to qualify for a Scale-up visa.
What are the benefits of a Scale-up visa?
The biggest advantage of a Scale-up visa over any other skilled work visa is that a sponsored employee (‘scale-up worker’) only needs to be sponsored by an employer for 6 months, but they are permitted to remain in the UK for 2 years.
Here are other benefits for scale-up workers:
- A scale-up worker can take on an additional job whilst working for their employer sponsor, and for the rest of the time they are permitted to remain in the UK.
- The new visa immigration rules allow a scale-up worker to study. However, this is subject to the requirements of the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATS).
- Under this immigration route, scale-up workers can switch to another employer sponsor within the first 6 months, but they must update their visa.
- After being sponsored for 6 months, a scale-up worker can change employers without having to apply for another visa. Their new job does not have to be at the same skill level as their original job.
- A scale-up worker can apply for visa renewal so they can remain in the UK for longer than 2 years.
- Visa renewals are for 3 years at a time and do not require sponsorship from an employer, provided the scale-up worker earned the minimum salary (see below).
- Dependent family members can accompany someone entering the UK through the scale-up route.
- After 5 years, both the scale-up worker and their dependent family members can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, if they meet certain criteria.
Here are the main benefits of a UK Scale-up visa for an employer:
- As sponsorship only lasts for 6 months, this frees employers from the administrative responsibilities that come with other types of skilled worker visa.
- The new visa requires fewer documents than other types of skilled worker visa so the administrative burden is lighter.
- There is no Immigration Skills Charge which means a UK scale-up sponsor can save thousands of pounds in fees.
What’s a Scale-up business?
A scale-up business is a company in a high-growth phase that meets both these criteria:
- Had annualised growth of at least 20% in the past 3 years. The percentage can be based on staff count or turnover.
- Employed at least 10 people at the start of this 3-year period.
The UK Scale-up visa was introduced to provide a vital skills boost to businesses that fuel economic growth.
Scale-Up Visa Requirements
To be eligible to apply to work in the UK through the Scale-up visa route a skilled worker must:
- Have an eligible job offer from a scale-up business.
- Have received a job offer for a post that:
- Will last at least 6 months.
- Is in the category of eligible occupations.
- Meets minimum salary requirements (see below).
- Have a Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer.
- Be able to prove they are fluent in speaking, understanding, reading, and writing English (see below).
What jobs are eligible for a Scale-up visa?
Only occupations with a skills shortage are eligible for a Scale-up visa. Skilled worker occupations are listed on the UK Government’s website.
To apply through the scale-up route an applicant must meet minimum salary requirements. That means they must be paid either:
- £33,000 a year guaranteed basic gross pay.
- £10.10 per hour.
- A fair rate for the job. Rates of pay are listed on the UK Government table of eligible occupations.
A skilled worker must be able to demonstrate fluency in English Level B1 or higher on the Common European Framework of Reference of Languages (CEFR) scale when they apply through the scale-up route.
Evidence of proficiency under the Common European Framework could include:
- Proof that they have passed the Secure English Language Test (SELT).
- English certificates gained through studying at a UK school as a child. This might be a GCSE, A Level, Scottish National Qualification (level 4 or 5), Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English.
- A qualification at degree level or higher that was taught in English.
Under immigration rules, nationals from these countries do not need to demonstrate English skills:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- the Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
How much does the Scale-up visa cost?
A skilled worker who applies through the scale-up route will need to pay these charges:
- £715 application fee
- Healthcare surcharge. This is normally £624 a year.
The applicant must also prove they have at least £1,270 in their bank account to support themselves when they first arrive in the UK. They need to show that the money has been in their bank account for at least 28 days. Applicants will be told exactly how much they need to pay when they apply.
In some cases, an employer might agree to support a scale-up worker financially. The employer will need to confirm this arrangement on the Certificate of Sponsorship.
If a scale-up worker is arriving with family members, evidence will need to be provided to demonstrate there is enough money to support them (see FAQs).
How Tann Law can help you with your Scale-up visa application
Tann Law immigration specialists have an outstanding success rate in securing skilled work visas for people wishing to live and work in the UK. Whether you are a UK employer or an individual, we can advise you about the scale-up route.
We can assist by:
- Providing confidential immigration advice.
- Evaluating whether the scale-up route is best for you.
- Advising on alternative visas if the scale-up route is not the right option.
- Making sure a business and job role meet Scale-up visa criteria.
- Applying for a Scale-up visa.
- Ensuring your application is completed to a high standard with correct supporting documentation.
- Keeping you informed at every stage of your application, so you always know how matters are progressing.
We have many years of experience specialising in UK immigration cases. With our expertise, your application has the greatest chance of being accepted first-time round. This saves you the expense, time, uncertainty and stress of reapplication.
Tann Law is authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and is a member of the Warwickshire Law Society. We are proud to have been awarded the Law Society’s Immigration & Asylum Accreditation quality standard.
Can I apply for a Scale-up visa from outside the UK?
You can apply through the scale-up visa route if you live outside the UK. Applications must be made via the Government’s Scale-up Worker visa website.
How long does it take to get a decision for a Scale-up visa?
It takes approximately 3 weeks to receive a decision on a Scale-up visa application. However, there may be cases where it takes longer.
Does a Scale-up visa need sponsorship?
Scale-up visa applicants must be sponsored by an employer for the first 6 months they work in the UK.
How long does a Scale-up visa last?
A Scale-up visa lasts for 2 years. It can be extended for 3-year periods as many times as the applicant wishes, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.
Can my partner and children join me?
The partners and children of scale-up workers can apply to stay in the UK if they meet the eligibility criteria.
Eligible dependants are:
- Husbands, wives, and civil partners.
- Unmarried partners if they have been living with the applicant for at least 2 years.
- Children under 18 years of age.
- Children over 18 if they are financially supported by the applicant and they live with the applicant (unless they are away at school, college, or university).
There must also be enough money for dependents to live on when they first arrive in the UK.
A scale-up worker’s partner must have at least £285 in their bank account. For children the amount is £315 for one child and £200 for every additional child.