On April 11, 2022, the UK Home Office implemented major changes to its immigration system, resulting in the closure of the Sole Representative visa. The UK introduced a new immigration route called Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker to replace it.
Expansion Worker Visa
The UK Expansion Worker Visa is a modernized version of the previous Sole Representative visa. This visa permits senior executives and specialized workers to temporarily relocate to the UK for the purpose of expanding an overseas business in the UK.
The UK Expansion Worker route is exclusively for situations where the UK business requires a presence in the UK but has yet to start operations, such as having a business premise or registering with Companies House as a branch of an overseas company or a subsidiary of the linked overseas business. It’s worth mentioning that if the business is already active in the UK, applicants must apply for the Global Business Mobility – Specialist or Senior Worker Visa route instead.
Sole Representative Visa
The Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa was previously available for foreign businesses to send a high-level worker to the UK to establish a branch company and broaden their reach into the UK market. To be eligible for this program, both the applicant and the overseas company had to meet certain requirements.
What are the Key Differences?
Applicants should be aware of the several significant modifications to the program. Here are the things you need to keep in mind.
1. Permanent Residency
In contrast to the Sole Representative visa, the Expansion Worker visa does not provide a path to UK permanent residency, and the duration spent on this route does not contribute to the required length of stay for permanent residency. Nonetheless, once the company has started trading as a UK entity, employees may transition to a Skilled Worker visa, which can lead to settlement.
2. Length of Stay
Under the Sole Representative visa, employees were permitted to stay for a maximum of five years. However, the UK Expansion Worker visa now limits employees to a preliminary 12-month stay, with the possibility of a 12-month extension, for a maximum stay of only 2 years.
In contrast to its predecessor, the Sole Representative visa, which was an unsponsored route, anyone seeking a UK Expansion Worker visa must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from the UK branch or subsidiary. This requirement necessitates that the new UK business must apply for and obtain a sponsor license before any applicant can apply for this visa.
4. Number of workers
The UK Expansion Worker visa enables foreign businesses to send up to five workers at a time, a substantial difference from the Sole Representative visa which only allowed for one worker.
The requirement for representatives to hold less than 50% of the shares in the overseas company has been eliminated.
6. Employee Salary Requirements
Under the Sole Representative visa, the applicant’s salary only needed to be suitable for a senior employee in the business and higher than the salaries of other employees. However, the new UK Expansion Worker visa necessitates that applicants be paid a minimum of £42,400 per year or the prevailing wage for their occupation (whichever is greater).
7. Employee Minimum Terms
The UK Expansion Worker visa requires applicants to have worked for the parent overseas company for a minimum of 12 months prior to submitting their application unless they earn over £73,900 or they are a Japanese national working for a Japanese company that is expanding into the UK.