What is a Scale-Up visa?
The Scale-Up visa is a route which enables businesses in the U.K. to recruit talented foreign nationals who have the skills needed to allow the Scale-Up business to continue growing. One of the main benefits of the visa is its exemption from the Immigration Skills Charge. The Scale-Up visa is a route to settlement in the U.K.
What is the New UK Scale-Up Visa?
The Scale-Up visa is a work visa aimed at those who have high levels of skills and qualifications and it is going to launch in Spring 2022. The new scheme was initially mentioned by the Home Office in a policy paper entitled, ‘New plan for immigration: legal migration and border control strategy statement’.1 It was later confirmed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in last Autumn’s budget speech.
The aim of the Scale-Up visa is to make it easier and quicker for companies experiencing rapid growth (i.e. those in the Scale-Up phase) to hire the best-skilled labour from around the world. A ‘Scale-Up’ is a business that is experiencing a rapid phase of growth and is ready to move to the next stage of its commercial development. Such businesses tend to be past the start-up phase and have built up greater confidence when it comes to returning on investment (ROI).
In some sectors (such as Fintech), it is known that there is a high reliance on overseas skilled talent. The new Scale-Up visa is needed to ensure that growth companies do not need to move to a different country to find the skills they require.
Here we will take a look at who will be able to apply for a Scale-Up visa UK, the eligibility requirements for businesses, the difference between a Scale-Up visa and a skilled worker visa, and staying longer on a Scale-Up visa, including gaining Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Who can apply for the new Scale-Up visa UK?
The UK Scale-Up visa 2022 is a work visa for those with high levels of skills and qualifications but will differ from the Skilled Worker visa in that no sponsorship is needed to acquire one (a job offer is still required, however). Full details of the Scale-Up visa UK eligibility are not yet known but will be made available in due course prior to the Spring 2022 launch of the scheme.
It is expected the UK Scale-Up visa 2022 will be open to those meet below requirements:
• High levels of skills or who are academically elite
• a highly skilled job offer with a UK business that meets the criteria of a Scale-Up company
• a salary of at least £33,000
• Sufficient English language proficiency
We will let you know when the Scale-Up visa UK requirements are confirmed.
What is an eligible business?
In order to sponsor an overseas worker under the UK Scale-Up visa 2022 scheme, Scale-Up Visa UK companies will need to meet certain eligibility criteria. It is expected that businesses will need to show they have achieved:
• 3 years of annual average revenue, or
• employment growth of 20%, and
• at the start of the 3-year period, the business must have had at least ten employees.
At present, it is believed there are around 34,000 businesses that would fit the criteria of Scale-Up visa UK companies. Those who meet these requirements will be able to apply through a fast-track application system. Given that businesses will not need to apply for and gain a sponsorship licence under this scheme, this will reduce the time to recruit skilled overseas personnel considerably.
It is also possible that these requirements will be broadened to include other companies which are expected to reach the status of Scale-Up. There may also be some flexibility in how the requirements are applied, given that rates of growth will not be as high as expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020.
Scale-Up Visa vs Skilled Worker Visa
Both visas are part of the Home Office’s points-based immigration system, and both require a job offer from a UK employer, but only the Skilled Worker visa requires applicants to be formally sponsored. This means that Scale-Up employers will not need to apply for, gain, and maintain a sponsor licence.
The salary requirement for the Scale-Up visa is also higher at £33,000 compared to £25,600 for the Skilled Worker visa. Both visas also require applicants to meet English language requirements.
Another possible difference between these two schemes is the fast-tracking of applications under the Scale-Up Visa application process. While details are not yet available, it is possible that applications will be processed within just a couple of days. Indeed, according to the Scale-Up Institute, given the small window of time for securing skilled labour from overseas, this should ideally be within 72 hours2. This compares with 3 weeks under the skilled worker visa for applications made outside the UK and 8 weeks for applications made in the UK.
Can the Scale-Up visa be extended?
It is expected that the Scale-Up visa will allow holders and their eligible dependant family members to extend their stay in the UK. While it is yet to be confirmed, we expect extensions will allow holders to stay for up to 5 years, at which point they will be able to apply for settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain – ILR).
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