The Government’s “Plan for Growth” is in full swing, with the new visa routes introduced by the Home Office commencing earlier this month and subsequent ones to follow very shortly. These new visa routes are expected to be helpful for businesses seeking to facilitate knowledge transfer within an international group, to set up or expand a business in the UK, or to access a bigger pool of skilled talent from abroad. We will discuss these new visa routes in a series of blog posts, starting with this one.
Global Business Mobility routes
This blog post will talk about the first of these routes which has already come into effect on the 11th of April, the Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes. The GBM routes are made up of five different routes: Senior or Specialist Worker (SSW); Graduate Trainee; UK Expansion Worker; Service Supplier and Secondment Worker. Migrants taking the GBM routes may only be granted immigration permission for up to five years in any six-year period, except for high earning Senior or Specialist Workers, who may be granted a maximum of nine years in any ten-year period. Aside for some transitional arrangements for existing Intra-Company Transferees, GBM migrants will not be allowed to carry out supplementary employment. The logic of this policy appears to be that workers connected with international businesses should focus solely on the work tasks they have been brought to the UK to fulfil.
Senior or Specialist Worker route
The SSW strand of the GBM routes reforms and replaces the Intra-Company Transferee (ICT) route. It is designed for use by senior managers and specialist employees of an international group business who are being transferred to one of the group’s UK businesses. Many elements of the ICT route are carried over and SSWs must be working for the sponsor group at the time of application and have worked for the group abroad for at least 12 months, unless they are a high earner. However, some creative occupations have been removed from this route, meaning applicants under these occupations need to choose a different route, which is unfortunate as these creative occupations make a great contribution to our society. Although the Migration Advisory Committee recommended this route should lead to settlement, the Home Office has rejected this, another disappointing decision. As the skill level and bar to settlement for SSWs is the same as it was for the ICT route, there will be a continuation of the trend for global businesses to apply for and hold Skilled Worker sponsor licences in addition to licences under the GBM routes. Doing this enables them to transfer certain employees who wish to settle in the UK. The maximum grant of immigration permission under this strand is five years after the start date of the UK assignment, and subject to the overall maximum grant periods for the GBM routes.
Graduate Trainee route
The new Graduate Trainee provisions reform and replace the Intra-Company Transfer Graduate Trainee route for work placements in the UK as part of a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position within an international business. Graduate Trainees must have worked for the sponsor group for at least the three months immediately before the date of application. The minimum salary requirement received a tiny raise from £23,000 to £23,100. Further, the salary must also be above 70% of the going rate for the relevant occupation, and the occupation must be listed as eligible for the GBM routes, such as Financial Manager, IT Specialist Manager or Medical Practitioner. With this route, the maximum grant of immigration permission is one year after the start date of the UK assignment, and subject to the overall maximum grant periods for the GBM routes. A Graduate Trainee visa holder can apply for a Skilled Worker visa provided they meet the relevant requirements.
UK Expansion Worker route
The UK Expansion Worker strand replaces and expands the Representative of an Overseas Business provisions for sole representatives. People who already have immigration permission as a sole representative will still be able to extend in this capacity and settle, and the overseas media representative provisions also remain in place. The new rules for UK Expansion Workers will allow a team of key senior management or specialist employees of an overseas business with no trading presence in the UK to staff the set-up phase of a UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary. Unlike the sole representative provisions, the new GBM strand requires a sponsor and does not lead to settlement. Immigration permission may be granted for up to one year initially and extended up to a maximum of two years. This new route is a disadvantage to businesses hoping to maintain the loyalty of their employees, and we hope that the Home Office can reconsider their plans for this route.
Service Supplier route
This Service Supplier strand reforms the Temporary Work – International Agreement provisions for service suppliers coming to the UK to provide services in line with one of the international trade agreements the UK is a party to. ‘Service suppliers’ are defined as contractual service suppliers employed by an overseas business, or self-employed independent professionals based overseas. Applicants must meet a list of eligibility requirements and Immigration permission under this strand will be granted for up to 12 months.
Secondment Worker route
Finally, the Secondment Worker strand covers individuals being seconded to the UK as part of a ‘high value contract or investment by their overseas employer’. Sponsorship must be provided by the UK business involved in the transaction, and the relevant contract must be registered with the Home Office. Immigration permission may be granted for up to one year initially and extended up to a maximum of two years. Secondment Workers may be accompanied by dependants, whereas the dependants of secondee visitors were previously granted leave outside the Immigration Rules.
Read the next blog post to find out more about the other new visa routes being introduced in the coming months.
Tahir Shahab Khan
Managing Director of Law Lane Solicitors