New Global Mobility visa route – coming Spring 2022
The Home Office has announced a new Global Business Mobility visa route, launching in the Spring of 2022. This follows an extensive review of the existing Intra-Company Transfer route as well as the current options for business visitors and entities looking to establish a new branch in the UK.
The new route will combine various different business immigration scenarios under one umbrella. These will include the following:
- Overseas businesses with an existing UK presence who are looking to transfer overseas employees with specialist skills, senior executives or graduate trainees to the UK
- Overseas businesses with no existing UK presence who are looking to transfer overseas staff to work on expansion in the UK or send staff on secondment to a UK business for specific purposes such as knowledge transfer. This sub-category will also cover service suppliers travelling to the UK to fulfil a specific service in line with a UK trade agreement
While the details of the new route are still being finalised, it is likely that there will be 5 sub-categories under the Global Business Mobility header, which will be: Senior or specialist workers, Graduate trainees, UK expansion workers, Secondment workers and Service suppliers.
Many elements of the existing Intra-Company routes will remain, including the requirement for UK businesses receiving workers to have a sponsor licence from the Home Office, and minimum skill and salary thresholds. There will continue to be no English language requirement, which is currently one of the main advantages of the Intra-Company transfer route. While the exact criteria for each sub-category will vary, it is likely that for at least some of them, a minimum length of service overseas will be required before an employee is eligible for a GBM visa. We anticipate that all categories will require some form of business relationship between the sending overseas entity and the receiving UK business to underpin the arrangement.
Reform of this area of immigration law is undoubtedly overdue and its expansion is welcome. It remains to be seen how onerous the evidential and administrative burden will be on employers, and this is likely to be a significant factor in determining the success of this new visa route.
New Scale-Up visa route for the fastest-growing start-ups
This new visa category was first announced in the Spring 2021 Budget and expanded upon in the government’s UK Innovation Strategy published last summer. It is designed to enable the UK’s fastest growing businesses to access overseas talent. Whilst the full details of the route have not yet been published, here is what we know so far.
In order to be eligible, businesses must demonstrate an annual average revenue or employment growth rate of more than 20% over a 3 year period and must have a minimum of 10 employees. They must be registered appropriately with HMRC.
Eligible businesses will need to apply to the Home Office for a sponsor licence. We understand that the government is looking at ways to make this process quicker and simpler than the current application process for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence, including conducting more assessment checks directly with HMRC.
It remains to be seen what the Scale-up licence fee will be, although we can speculate that it may be in line with the current sponsor licence fee for small businesses, which is £536. There will be no Immigration Skills Charge payable upon sponsorship of an individual worker, which will be welcome news for SMEs.
Visa applicants will need to meet an English language requirement and have a high-skilled job offer (at level RQF 6 or above) from their sponsoring business with a salary of at least £33,000 or the minimum salary stated in the applicable occupational code, whichever is higher. As with sponsorship under the Skilled Worker route, a genuineness test will apply; the sponsor must be a genuine business with a genuine vacancy and the individual to be sponsored must have the requisite skills, qualifications and experience for the role.
It is expected that the initial visa will be granted for 2 years, with the option to extend at the end of that period if certain criteria are met. We understand that this will be a route to settlement in the UK, though the conditions of that have not yet been published. Individuals in this route will have greater flexibility to change jobs or employers than those under the Skilled Worker route and self-employment will also be permitted.
The route is expected to go live in Spring 2022.
Right to Work checks go increasingly digital
Two significant changes have been announced to the way in which employers conduct Right to Work checks, both of which will take effect from 6 April 2022.
The first change relates to employees or prospective employees who hold a biometric residence card (BRC), biometric residence permit (BRP) or frontier worker permit (FWP). From 6 April, employers will no longer be able to accept physical BRCs, BRPs or FWPs as evidence of right to work. Instead, holders of those documents will need to evidence their right to work using the Home Office’s online service only. Note that retrospective online checks for BRC, BRP or FWP holders who started employment on or before 5 April 2022 are not required.
This change is part of the government’s commitment to move towards a fully digitised immigration system over the next few years. It follows the rollout of digital immigration status to EEA & Swiss nationals and their family members under the EU Settlement Scheme (though some non-EEA family members will still receive a BRP as well for the time being) and the introduction of the Home Office’s ‘Prove your right to work to an employer’ service on GOV.UK. Certain individuals who apply under the Skilled Worker and Intra-Company routes using the new ID check app will also now be granted an ‘eVisa’ only, and will need to demonstrate their right to work through the Home Office portal.
Additionally, from 6 April employers may legally use certified identity service providers (IDSPs) to carry out digital right to work checks for British & Irish nationals using Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT). This will be an additional option for employers and landlords, alongside conducting manual checks, rather than replacing the old methods entirely. It will only be available where an employee is relying on a current British or Irish passport to evidence their right to work.
This change will mean that employers can verify prospective employees’ identities, using potentially secure and consistent methods, which may reduce risk and allow safer recruiting practices, as well as promoting employee mobility and agile working practices.
Using IDVT will allow employees to upload images of their personal documents, instead of presenting physical documents to a prospective employer. The IDSP will receive the evidence of claimed identity from the individual in the form of an uploaded document, check its genuineness and history, check whether the claimed identity is at high risk of identity fraud and check that it belongs to the person claiming it. As a final stage, the employer must then take a photograph of the prospective employee during an in-person meeting or a video call and provide that photograph to the IDSP with confirmation that the image is a true likeness of the individual. Costs to the employer for this service are likely to vary between providers, as well as between service packages.
Under the scheme, private sector IDSPs will need to become independently certified by UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited assessors to ensure the technology meets the standards of the UK Digital Identity and Attributes Trust Framework and the applicant’s data is protected. The Trust Framework is currently in its alpha phase, with the beta phase not expected until Spring/Summer 2022. Employers should also be aware that there are currently no certified providers or certification bodies and there is no indication of when a list of these will be available. Therefore, while the legislation will be in place from 6 April to facilitate this option, it may be some time before employers can actually make use of it in practice.