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The Scale-up visa allows foreign nationals to come to the UK to work in an eligible job for a fast-growing UK business for at least six months.

The government has recently launched a new scale-up worker visa to attract the world’s top talent to the UK, stating that it will give employers “greater flexibility to hire, often in-demand, talent they need so they can go to the next level, while boosting the UK’s high-skilled pool".

In this guide to the scale-up worker visa, we will cover :

What is a scale-up visa?

The scale-up visa allows foreign nationals to come to the UK to work in an eligible job for a fast-growing UK business (a ‘scale-up business’) for at least six months. Scale-up visa holders can then stay in their role or extend the visa. They can also leave their sponsored role after six months and switch to an unsponsored role, which cannot be done on a skilled worker visa.

In similarity with the skilled worker visa, applicants will have to meet criteria, e.g., skill level, English language requirement and financial requirement. Dependent partners and children can apply.

After the initial two-year visa period, a scale-up worker can apply for an extension (as an unsponsored scale-up worker), which can be granted permission for a further three years at a time. After five years continuous qualifying residence, eligible workers can apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

What are the criteria for the scale-up visa?

A scale-up business must be fast growing and, in the three years prior to being approved by the Home Office, must have:

  • grown by 20% in each year in either employment or total sales
  • had at least 10 employees at the start of the three-year period.

Scale-up worker visa applicants must:

  • have a job that is eligible for this visa
  • be working for a UK scale-up business that has been approved by the Home Office
  • meet the salary requirements
  • be working in their sponsored job for at least six months.

What are the benefits of the scale-up visa?

  • The scale-up visa is mainly a “fast-track" immigration route that does not require the same time, cost, and responsibility as sponsoring under the skilled worker routes
  • The scale-up visa permits holders to leave their sponsored role after six months and switch to an unsponsored role
  • There is no immigration skills surcharge for the scale-up visa, making it cheaper than the skilled worker visa
  • Scale-up visa holders do not need to update their visa if they start a different, eligible job with the same employer.
  • The general salary threshold for the scale-up worker visa is £36,300 or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher, compared to that of the skilled worker visa, which is the higher of £38,700 or the going rate for the job for new applicants.

What are the drawbacks of the scale-up visa?

  • For an employer, there is specific criteria (mentioned above) that must be met to apply for a scale-up sponsor licence. The skilled worker visa does not have any such criteria for sponsors.
  • Migrants have increased flexibility to change employer under this route, which may raise some concerns regarding employee retention.

Can my business apply for a scale-up visa?

Businesses that qualify can apply for a scale-up licence — a new sponsor licence or by adding scale-up to the scope of an existing sponsor licence. Note that it will only be granted for four years, with no option to renew.

To determine if you meet the requirements, the Home Office will use PAYE data from HMRC. Applicants should have a minimum of 37 months’ worth of unbroken history with HMRC. If you do not meet the employment growth criteria, the Home Office will check whether you meet the turnover growth criteria. If there are gaps in HMRC records, the check is likely to fail.

How can we help you?

We have a team of experienced immigration solicitors, who can help and advise you on obtaining the right sponsor licence, maintaining your sponsor licence at the highest rating, managing your sponsor licence, and complying with your ongoing sponsor duties and responsibilities.

For further information or to speak to our team of immigration solicitors please get in touch with us.