On 15 March 2022, the UK government published a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules along with an Explanatory Memorandum. These changes to UK immigration form part of the UK government’s ‘Build Back Better‘ plan, seeking economic growth through infrastructure, skills and innovation. The changes explained below shall come into force between 6 April 2022 and 22 August 2022.
This Statement of Changes introduces new visa routes into the UK, including the Global Business Mobility, High Potential Individual and Scale-up routes. These will be key for businesses seeking to recruit talent from outside the UK, second intra-group staff to UK entities, as well as for overseas businesses looking to expand into the UK.
The Global Business Mobility route comes into force on 11 April 2022 and allows businesses to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK for specific business purposes. The five routes highlighted below replace four existing business mobility provisions and create a new provision for secondments. All five routes must be sponsored and none of them lead to settlement. They are as follows:
The High Potential Individual route is described by the UK government as an “elite points-based route to attract the brightest and best to the UK to maintain our status as a leading international hub for emerging technologies”. It comes into force on 30 May 2022.
Applicants for the High Potential Individual route do not need sponsorship and must have either a bachelor’s or postgraduate degree qualification from one of the top non-UK universities in the Home Office’s Global Universities List. The applicant must have been awarded their university degree in the last five years and the non-UK institution will only satisfy the requirements for this route if it is included in the top 50 universities of at least two of the following ranking systems:
For applicants with a qualification equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s or Master’s level degree, permission will be granted for a period of 2 years. Applicants holding a qualification equivalent to a UK PhD will be granted permission for 3 years. They will not be able to access public funds and this is not a route that leads to settlement.
This route allows individuals with a job offer at the required skills level from a recognised UK scale-up company to qualify for a fast-track visa and comes into force on 22 August 2022. A scale-up company is defined as a business with an annualised growth of at least 20% for the previous 3-year period in terms of turnover or staffing and a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the 3-year period.
The job offer from a scale-up company must be for a graduate-level role (RQF 6 and equivalent) and they must be paid at least £33,000 per year or the going rate for the particular occupation, whichever is higher.
The Scale-up visa involves two stages. The first stage requires the qualifying job offer from a recognised Scale-up company, in which job the applicant is expected to work for at least the first 6 months of their permission. The second stage enables the Scale-up visa holder to extend their stay as unsponsored migrants.
Initial permission will be granted for 2 years and applicants who qualify for an extension will be granted further permission for three years. To qualify, the applicant must show that they have had PAYE earnings equivalent to at least £33,000 per year during at least 50% of their permission as a Scale-up Worker.
This route leads to settlement.
With both routes, standard suitability requirements will apply, with criminal misconduct and breaches of immigration law disqualifying an individual from being granted permission.
As with other routes, finance and English language requirements will apply. The level of English required will be B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).
Successful applicants will be able to bring dependent family members (so spouses/partners and children under 18) as in other work routes.
With these changes coming into force shortly, employers should consider whether they have the necessary sponsor licences in place to take full advantage of the new visa routes. Particular consideration should be given to the increasing delays processing sponsor licence applications and businesses that need a licence or to expand the remit of an existing licence, should start the process early.