What is the Scale-Up Worker Visa UK?
The Scale-Up Visa is a relatively new visa introduced in August 2022. It was created to offer a new immigration route for high-skilled professionals to the UK. This visa allows foreign nationals to work in eligible roles for rapidly growing UK businesses, also known as ‘scale-up businesses’. Currently, it is estimated that there are around 34,000 businesses in the UK that fit this criteria.
The Scale-Up Visa is initially valid for two years, then can be extended for a further three years. After five years, you can apply for permanent residency in the UK. One unique feature of this visa is that after six months in a sponsored role, you have the flexibility to switch to an unsponsored role within the UK.
- What is the Scale-Up Worker Visa UK?
- What Happens After the First Six Months of the Scale-Up Visa?
- What Happens After the First Two Years of the Scale-Up Visa?
- Eligibility & Requirements for Scale-Up Visa
- Eligible Occupations for the Scale-Up Visa
- Knowledge of English Requirements for Scale-Up Visa
- Financial Requirements and Costs of the Scale-Up Visa
- Documents Required for the Scale-Up Visa
- How to Apply for a Scale-Up Visa
- Switching to the Scale-Up Worker Visa
- How Long Can You Stay in the UK on a Scale-Up Visa?
- Renewing Your Scale-Up Visa
- Bringing dependants on a Scale-Up Visa
- Permanent Settlement in the UK via a Scale-Up Worker Visa
- What is the Life in the UK Test Requirement?
- If You’re Not Eligible for a Scale-Up Worker Visa
- How Can Total Law Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens After the First Six Months of the Scale-Up Visa?
After your first six months of sponsored employment in the UK, you have a couple of options. The first is that you can stay with your current employer but they will no longer be sponsoring your stay in the UK. The second option is that you can look for other employment, if you wish.
Your new employer does not have to sponsor you. However, the new role must still meet the same Scale-Up Visa salary, occupational, and employer eligibility criteria.
What Happens After the First Two Years of the Scale-Up Visa?
After being in the UK for two years on a Scale-Up Visa, you can apply for an extension of three years. This means that the Scale-Up Visa can last for a maximum of five years. After this, you can apply to live permanently in the UK and can also apply to become a citizen. This is known as indefinite leave to remain and gives you the right to live, work, and study in the UK, as well as the right to claim benefits.
Eligibility & Requirements for Scale-Up Visa
To be eligible for the UK Scale-Up Worker Visa, you must meet specific requirements, including:
- Age—you must be 18 or over.
- Job offer—you must have a job offer from an approved scale-up business in the UK. The job must last at least six months.
- Certificate of sponsorship (CoS)—your prospective employer must provide you with an official Certificate of Sponsorship.
- Eligible occupation—your job must be on the UK government’s list of eligible occupations.
- Salary—you need to meet minimum salary requirements, generally £34,600 per year or the going rate for your type of work.
- English language proficiency—it is essential to meet English language requirements. However, if you are a US national, then you don’t need to prove your proficiency.
- Funds—you must have sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependents that you are applying to bring.
Eligible Occupations for the Scale-Up Visa
Below is a sample list of eligible occupational categories for the Scale-Up Visa. However, the list is wide and it is advisable to check the latest full and detailed version on the British Government website. The British Government list also has the going rates for required salaries for each job.
- Academic professionals
- Archivists and curators
- Construction, engineering, and mining professionals
- Directors in various fields
- Doctors, nurses, dentists, and healthcare professionals
- Educational professionals
- IT, electronics, and telecommunications professionals
- Journalists and editors
- Lawyers and judges
- Marketing, sales, PR, and advertising professionals
- Musicians and arts professionals
- Police officers
- Probation officers
- Quantity surveyors
- Social workers
- Town planners
- Welfare professionals
Knowledge of English Requirements for Scale-Up Visa
If you are a US national then you will not have to prove your English language abilities to apply for the Scale-Up Visa. If you are not a US national but living in the US, then you will have to provide evidence of one of the following:
- That you have gained a required score on a Secure English Language Test (SELT).
- That you have completed a degree-level qualification taught in English. Note that this will have to be equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or PhD.
- That you have an A level, GCSE, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English from a UK school. Note that you will have to have gained this qualification before the age of 18.
Financial Requirements and Costs of the Scale-Up Visa
You must have £1,270 or more in your bank account and maintain these funds for at least 28 consecutive days before applying for the Scale-Up Visa. In some cases, applicants can be exempt from this requirement.
The application fee for a Scale-Up Visa is £822. You will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge, which is generally £624 per year. So you can expect to pay around £1446 in total upfront.
Documents Required for the Scale-Up Visa
To apply for the Scale-Up Visa, you will have to provide the following documents:
- Your job title and annual salary
- Your occupation code in the UK government’s eligible job list
- A valid passport or other official identity document
- A copy of your certificate of sponsorship with the four-digit reference number—your employer will provide this for you
- The name of your employer and their sponsor license number—this will also be on your certificate of sponsorship
- If you are not a US national, then proof of your knowledge of English
Other documents that you might need
- Evidence that you can support yourself financially in the UK
- Evidence that you can support any dependents that you might be bringing
- Proof of your relationship with your partner or child dependents
- For research roles, a valid ATAS certificate.
How to Apply for a Scale-Up Visa
Applying from outside of the UK
You can apply for the Scale-Up Visa via the UK government website and ID Check app. You will have to:
- Have all of your documents ready in advance.
- Have the funds ready to pay your application fee.
To apply, you will need to:
- Create a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account via the UK government website.
- Prove your identity by scanning it via the UK Immigration: ID Check app. You will be able to use your passport or another official identity document.
Usually you will get a decision emailed to you within three weeks.
In some cases, you may also be asked to take a biometric test at a visa application center in the US. This will involve having your photograph and fingerprints taken. You may also have to temporarily leave your passport and other documents at the center while they are being processed.
Visa application centers in the US
There are various visa application centers across the US. Below is the current list but it is a good idea to check for the most up-to-date one. You will need to phone in advance to make an appointment and get instructions on which documents to bring:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- Washington DC
Switching to the Scale-Up Worker Visa
You can also apply for the Scale Up Worker Visa from within the UK if you are on another type of visa, including a Student Visa. It is very important not to travel outside of the UK, Ireland, or the Channel Islands while your application is in process, as you will become ineligible. You must also meet the same eligibility requirements as individuals applying from within the US.
If you are looking to Switch a Student Visa to the Scale-Up Worker Visa, then you must also meet one of the following requirements:
- You have completed your course of study
- Or have an offer of an eligible job starting after your course has finished
- Or have studied for a PhD for at least 24 months
You cannot switch to the Scale-Up Worker Visa if you are on one of these visas:
- Visit Visa
- Short-term Student Visa
- Parent of a Child Student visa
- Seasonal Worker Visa
- Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa
However, if you are on one of these visas, then you can still apply for the Scale-Up Worker Visa if you leave the UK.
How Long Can You Stay in the UK on a Scale-Up Visa?
The initial duration of a Scale-Up Visa is for two years. After that, you can extend your stay for an additional three years. Note that continuous residence in the UK, with no more than 180 days outside the country in any consecutive year, is crucial for your Scale-Up Visa to remain valid and for you to extend it.
Renewing Your Scale-Up Visa
After the initial six months, Scale-Up Visa holders can switch jobs or employers without requiring a new visa. However, you must continue to meet salary requirements when applying for extensions.
Bringing dependants on a Scale-Up Visa
Your partner and children may also be eligible to join you as your ‘dependants’. Their visas will usually last the same duration as yours.
Under the Scale-Up Visa, a dependant is classed as:
- A husband, wife, civil partner, or unmarried partner meeting certain criteria
- A child under 18
- A child over 18—but only if they are already living in the UK with you as your dependant
If you and your partner are unmarried, then you must provide evidence to prove that you have been living together in a relationship for at least two years prior to your application.
Financial requirements for dependents
You must also prove that you have funds to bring your dependants to the UK, which are as follows:
- £285 for your partner
- £315 for one child
- £200 for each additional child
You will also need to provide evidence that this money has been in your bank account for 28 days in a row.
Application process for dependents
Your partner and children will have to make their own separate applications to come to the UK. This might include either biometric testing or a UK Immigration ID Check.
Application time for dependents
Generally, if you are applying from outside of the UK, then the application time for dependents on the Scale-Up visa is up to three weeks. This timeframe is dependent upon all documents and evidence being provided.
If you are applying from within the UK for your and your dependents to switch visas to the Scale-Up Visa, then this can take up to eight weeks.
Dependants born in the UK during your visa
If you have a child who is born in the UK while you are on a Scale-Up Visa then they do not automatically become British citizens. You will also have to apply for them to be given a dependent visa.
Permanent Settlement in the UK via a Scale-Up Worker Visa
If you would like to stay in the UK indefinitely after your Scale-Up visa has expired, then you will need to demonstrate the following to the UK government:
- You have spent a continuous period of five years in the UK.
- You have been working for a UK employer through the PAYE system, generally earning at least £34,600 per year. However, this can vary, as the initial salary requirement for the Scale-Up Visa was £33,000. Additionally, the salary requirement can depend on your occupation.
- Over the five-year continuous period, you have either been under one of the following visas, or a combination of them: Scale-up, Global Talent, Innovator, Skilled Worker, T2 Minister of Religion, International Sportsperson, Representative of an Overseas Business, Tier 1 Migrant, Migrant other than Tier 1.
- You meet the Life in the UK test requirement (although there can be exemptions to this)
What is the Life in the UK Test Requirement?
The Life in the UK test is an assessment that people who want to immigrate to Britain must pass. It assesses the person’s knowledge of British life, customs, and culture. You must attend a test center to complete this assessment and the cost is £50. It is taken via computer and you will have 45 minutes to complete it. You will be asked 24 questions covering the following categories:
- UK history
- The British government
- UK geography
- Local culture
If You're Not Eligible for a Scale-Up Worker Visa
For individuals who don’t meet the criteria for the Scale-Up Worker Visa, there are alternative options. These include other work visa categories and immigration pathways, such as the following:
- Innovator Founder Visa
- Start-Up Visa
- Global Talent Visa
- Skilled Worker Visa
- High Potential Individual Visa
- Representative of an Overseas Business Visa
How Can Total Law Help?
Understanding the UK immigration system can be complicated. Total Law can help you with navigating a Scale-Up Visa, as well as other immigration routes.
We are experienced, sympathetic immigration lawyers working within the field of international immigration. We have the tools and expertise to assist you, regardless of your personal circumstances or the complexity of your case.
Whether you’re looking for assistance with Scale-Up Visa requirements, or are unsure of how to navigate the application process, or just need to speak to an immigration professional regarding your case, we can help.
For more information about the services we provide and how we can help you with UK immigration and work permits, please reach out to a member of our team today. Call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or contact us online.
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The key difference lies in the flexibility of the Scale-Up Visa, which allows individuals to switch jobs or employers after six months. Skilled Worker visa holders must remain sponsored.
To be eligible, a business must show that it has had 20% overall growth in either turnover or employees over the previous three years. It must also show that it had a minimum of 10 employees at the beginning of the three-year period.
You can apply to get a faster decision for a Scale-Up Visa, for an additional cost. There are two options:
- The priority service—this takes around five working days and costs an additional £500, plus an additional £500 for every one of your dependents applying with you.
- The super priority service—this takes around one to two working two days and costs an additional £1000, plus an additional £1000 for every one of your dependents applying with you.
However, these expedited services can take longer than the stated time if the UK Home Office needs you to supply additional information.