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Last year the UK government announced provisional plans for immigration reform. Getting under way in 2022, the overarching aim of these changes is to help corporate sponsors more easily access overseas talent, and enable those coming into the country to start work or study more quickly.

These are part of longer term plans for a full transformation of the UK border and immigration system, with hopes of transitioning to a fully digital end-to-end experience, leading to strengthened security and smoother passage, improved accessibility and usability of systems by the first quarter of 2024.

In the recent Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, a number of previously proposed new UK immigration routes were confirmed.

Global business mobility route

Due to come into effect from 11th April 2022, the global business mobility route is a new category of sponsored routes appropriate for overseas organisations seeking to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK for specific business purposes.

Some of the subcategories within this route will replace existing visa types as part of a re-packaging of sorts. There is also the addition of a new visa route for workers being seconded to work in the UK.

These visa types are specifically designed with temporary business assignments in mind. The five routes set out are as follows:

  • Senior or specialist worker route (replaces the intra company transfer visa).
  •  Graduate trainee route (replaces the graduate trainee intra company transfer visa).
  • UK expansion worker route (replaces the sole representative visa).
  • Service supplier route (replaces the contractual service supplier and independent professional route under the current temporary worker international agreement route).
  • Secondment worker route (this is a new route).

It is worth noting that UK businesses will still need Home Office issued sponsor licenses to sponsor workers within these categories. As part of the eligibility requirements to be able to get a sponsor license as an employer, you will need to have appropriate systems in place to monitor and manage sponsored employees within your business.

As these global business mobility routes are designed for businesses and workers undertaking business assignments of a temporary nature in the UK, they will not lead directly to settlement in the UK. However, once in the UK, holders of this visa type may be able to progress into another immigration route for the purpose of permanent settlement.

Looking to later in the year, with implementation dates further down the line but still in 2022, the high potential individual and scale-up routes hope to offer UK employers access to a wider pool of highly skilled workers.

The high potential individual route

Coming in on 30th May this year, high potential individuals looking to go down this immigration route must have a BA or postgraduate degree from one of the top global universities outside the UK, as published in the specific annual Home Office “Global Universities List”.

Entry via this route is subject to applicants meeting English language and financial requirements. If successful, high potential individual visa holders will be granted permission to live and work in the UK for a period of two to three years, dependent on the level of qualification they hold.

The scale-up route

The scale-up visa route, which goes live on 22nd August, will enable the top overseas talent with a job offer at the required skills level from a recognized UK scale-up company to qualify for a fast-track visa. As with the high potential individual route, this route is subject to applicants fulfilling the minimum English language requirements.

Although the initial application requires sponsorship, visa extensions do not. Applicants are only required to work for their sponsoring employer for the first six months of their stay – after this their immigration status is no longer associated with that employer.

Successful applicants of this route will be granted permission to live and work in the UK for a period of two years. In order to be granted extended permission to stay, applicants will be required to prove that they have received PAYE earnings of £33k+ per annum for at least 50% of their time on this immigration route. Extensions will be granted for three years and this route does lead to settlement.

The outlook and actions for businesses

Simon Higson, K2 UK Immigration Manager comments:

“2022 is shaping up to be a year of big changes in business immigration and as these new changes are implemented over the coming months, it is vital that you are aware of the implications and how they will affect future employment requirements to the UK. Increases to minimum salary levels and amendments to routes leading to settlement are just some of the changes that will be implemented.” 

How K2 can help

K2’s team of immigration specialists can offer support for businesses preparing to make applications for overseas talent via any of the above routes.

Get in touch today to find out how K2 can help.

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