Overview of an Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
An overseas company seeking to expand their business operation in the UK, or set up a UK branch or subsidiary, will need to apply to the Home Office for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence. This licence will allow them to sponsor their overseas senior staff coming to the country for undertaking temporary work assignments related to the expansion plan.
The UK Expansion Worker immigration route was launched on 11 April 2022, as part of the wider Global Business Mobility sponsorship pathway. It replaces the (unsponsored) sole representative provisions of the Representative of an Overseas Business route.
Foreign national business owners, senior managers and specialist employees key to their company’s expansion plan are eligible to apply for a UK Expansion Worker visa, provided their overseas company already holds a valid UK Expansion Worker licence and is eligible to issue them the Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS).
The UK Expansion Worker visa sponsor licence falls in the category of a Temporary Worker sponsor licence. A UK Expansion Worker visa is valid for 12 months from the start date of the job on the sponsorship certificate. This visa can be extended only for another 12 months.
Furthermore, companies holding a valid UK Expansion Worker licence can only sponsor the number of workers that they genuinely need to set up or expand their UK business operation. At any given point of time, this number must not go above five workers.
If the overseas staff you intend to sponsor are Irish citizens, or have been granted settled or pre-settled status in the UK on the EU Settlement Scheme, or have been granted with indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK, you will not need to apply for a licence to sponsor them for the UK Expansion Worker visa.
- Overview of an Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
- General Eligibility Requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
- Specific Eligibility Requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
- Required Documents for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
- How to Apply for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
- Processing Time
- Application Fees
- What If My Application Has Been Accepted?
- What If My Application Has Been Refused?
- How Can Total Law Help?
General Eligibility Requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
To be eligible to apply for a UK Expansion Worker licence, you will first have to prove to the Home Office your:
- Genuineness: You are a genuine and active trading entity, operating overseas lawfully. You will need to submit specified supporting documents along with your licence application to prove your business’ genuineness, which we will discuss in the supporting documentation section of this article
- Honesty and Reliability: You are an honest, dependable, and reliable business, not engaging (and have never engaged in the past) in activities that are not conducive to the public good. Specifically, you should not have any record of an immigration abuse or involvement in financial crimes like money laundering, fraud etc.
- The Home Office will assess the history and background of your business operation, your employees, and your appointed Key Personnel to satisfy themselves that you meet this criteria
- Compliance: You should be able to demonstrate with evidence that you can carry out your sponsorship responsibilities in compliance with the timeframe and manner mentioned in sponsor guidance
Specific Eligibility Requirements for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
Specifically for the UK Expansion Worker route, you must satisfy the Home Office that:
- The overseas company/organisation expanding to the UK is active and trading in their home country for at least three years, unless an exception applies in their case
- You are not already actively trading in the UK at the time of your sponsor licence application, but you have a UK ‘footprint’
- The job you are seeking to sponsor is a genuine job, and falls under the category of eligible occupations as listed in the ‘Appendix Skilled Occupations’ of the Immigration Rules
- Your employment offer to the prospective senior manager or specialist employee meets the skill level requirement (i.e. at least level 6 or above) and the salary level requirement (i.e. at least the general salary threshold of £45,800 per annum, or the specified ‘going rate’ for the job, whichever is higher) for the UK Expansion Worker route
- You are not seeking to sponsor a role that will involve working for a third party
- You have a qualifying link with the overseas business entity, which will send their staff to you via the UK Expansion Worker route. Your proposed UK business entity is either wholly owned by that overseas business or is part of the same legal entity
- You seek to, and can expand, your business operation in the country and establish a UK trading presence within two years
- You intend to expand in the same type of business in the UK that you operate overseas
- You have appointed the Key Personnel i.e. an Authorising Officer, a Key Contact and at least one Level 1 User, to manage your sponsorship duties
If you fail to meet the eligibility criteria for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, your application will be refused, and you may also be prohibited from reapplying for a period of at least six months.
Given that, please consider consulting with an expert immigration lawyer before you apply. Call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375 to speak to our legal team.
Proof of a UK ‘footprint’
- Proof of your UK business premises, owned (proof of purchase) or rented (a lease agreement)
- Proof that your UK business is registered with Companies House, either as a UK branch or as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the overseas business entity
Proof of an Active Trading Presence Overseas
You will have to prove that a) either you have been trading overseas for at least 12 months, or b) your business was trading overseas for three years, prior to the date of your sponsor licence application.
To prove that you have been trading overseas for at least 12 months prior to your application, you must submit one of the following documents:
- Your company bank statements showing active transactions for goods/services received or provided for the said period
- Your latest audited or unaudited accounts
- If you are not required to file such accounts, then your balance sheet along with a profit and loss statement for the most recent financial year, along with an accountant’s certificate of confirmation, including the accountant’s registration details with any appropriate regulatory body in your company’s overseas country of operation
AND one of the following documents:
- Copies of contracts for goods/services covering the 12-month period
- Proof of advertising for goods/services offered by your overseas business
To prove that you have been trading overseas for three years prior to your application, you must submit one of the following documents for the said three-year period:
- Business accounts, audited if required by the applicable laws in the jurisdiction of your company’s overseas country of operation
- Company bank statements
- Contracts for goods/services provided or received
- Annual reports and investor information
- Any other credible evidence to show that you were trading actively during this time
Proof of an Expansion Plan in the UK
To prove that you have a credible expansion plan in the UK, you must:
- Submit one of the following documents as evidence of your capability to fund your planned expansion:
- Company bank statements showing transactions for the 12-month period prior to the application
- A letter from your corporate banking provider, detailing their dealings with you, including such dealings’ nature and duration
- Submit two of the following documents as evidence of your expansion plans:
- A summary of your overseas business, including information about which sector(s) you operate in; the current hierarchy chart in your company mentioning the owner (if any), directors and board members as well as the total number of employees; and details regarding any jobs you intend to fill in the UK, along with the said job title, occupation code and salary
- A business plan containing information about the last 12 months’ activity of the overseas business entity, its financial position, reasons for UK expansion, proposed investment in the UK, and projected operating expenditure in the country for at least the first year of operation
- Proof of market research regarding why you have chosen the UK for your business expansion (if not already included in your business plan above)
- If the expansion is subject to a shareholder vote process, evidence that this process has been followed
- Certified copies of the third-party contract or agreement in case such parties put together, wholly or partially, your business plan or market research as mentioned above
Other Relevant Documents
You will have to submit any of the following documents:
- Annual reports and investor information
- Proof of engagement with specialists, such as company formation businesses, relocation firms, UK corporate law services etc., to seek their professional advice regarding your UK expansion plan
- Details of your recruitment campaigns (or any plans thereof) in the UK for hiring staff for your UK business
- Articles of Association for your overseas business entity, or equivalent documents
- Any tendering or other process details for activities conducted by an independent third party relating to your UK business expansion plan
If your supporting documents are not in English or Welsh language, please enclose their certified translation copies. In all scenarios, even if an exemption applies in your case, the Home Office may ask for more information and supporting documents from you, if necessary, to reach a decision on your application.
How to Apply for a UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence
Before you start with your sponsor licence application, please ensure that you:
- Meet both the general and specific eligibility requirements to apply for the licence
- Have already appointed your Key Personnel, i.e. an Authorising Officer to manage your sponsor licence, a Key Contact who will be the main liaison between the Home Office and your company, and at least one Level 1 User to carry out the day-to-day sponsorship activities
- Have decided how many UK Expansion workers you are likely to sponsor in your first year, the total not being more than five anyway
- Will be able to send the required supporting documents to the Home Office within five working days of submitting your application
Start with registering your details online by completing the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) Online sponsor application registration. After this, please go to the UKVI ‘Sponsor application log in’ page to start filling up the online application form.
You must email scanned copies of the submission sheet (as received at the end of your online application) and supporting documents to the Home Office within five working days. The relevant Home Office email ID is provided on the submission sheet.
The application should not take more than 30 minutes to complete if you have all necessary information with you before filling up the online form.
It may take up to eight weeks for the Home Office to reach a decision on your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application.
However, fast-tracking your application by paying an extra fee of £500 may be possible, where you can get a decision within 10 working days.
UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence falls under the Temporary Worker sponsor licence route. A small or charitable organisation will have to pay £536 for a Temporary Worker licence, or a combined Worker and Temporary Worker licence.
A medium or large sponsor will need to pay £536 for a Temporary Worker licence, £1,476 for a combined Worker and Temporary Worker licence.
Either type of organisations can add a Temporary Worker licence to an existing Worker licence for no fee.
What If My Application Has Been Accepted?
Successful applicants will receive an A-rated licence. However, if you fail to meet your sponsor duties later on, your licence may be downgraded to a B-rating, where you will not be able to issue CoS to your overseas staff applying for UK Expansion Worker visas.
To get back to the A-rating, you will need to apply to UKVI for an action plan, and pay a fee of £1,476. If you can successfully complete all the steps listed in the plan, you will be upgraded back to an A-rating. You will lose your licence if you fail to do so.
Once a licence is revoked, no appeal is possible. You will have to wait for at least 12 months before they can reapply for a licence.
What If My Application Has Been Refused?
If the Home Office refuses your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application, you may request a review of this decision, only if you are able to prove that:
- Your application was refused because the caseworker processing your application made a mistake, or
- Your supporting documents were not considered while reaching the decision
How Can Total Law Help?
Applying for a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence is a complex process, especially arranging for the required documentation. Moreover, a rigorous compliance regime on your part is crucial to keep your licence valid and A-rated.
If your licence is revoked, no appeal is possible, and you will have to wait for a mandatory period of at least 12 months before you can reapply. This may significantly impact your expansion plans in the UK.
We can help you.
If you are seeking bespoke advice for your UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence application, including eligibility, supporting documentation and the application process, our team of immigration experts can assist you, even when your case is complicated.
We offer a document and application checking service if you just need a final check to confirm that your documents and application are in line with UKVI specifications, as well as an appeal package if you need to appeal a refusal decision.
Please call us today on +44 (0)333 305 9375 to speak with one of our legal team members.
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The CoS for a UK Expansion Worker visa will cost your company £25 per worker (applicable from 4 October 2023 onwards), which is in addition to the fees for obtaining a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence.
No, the UK Expansion Worker route is not a valid pathway to settle in the UK. You will be eligible to stay in the country for a maximum of 24 months on a UK Expansion Worker visa.