In April 2022, the Home Office introduced the UK Expansion Worker Visa, replacing the previous Representative of Overseas Business (ROB) Visa & the Sole Representative Visa. Like the ROB, the UK Worker Expansion Visa allows companies based outside the UK to set up a branch or subsidiary of the overseas business in the UK.

The route allows an eligible business to sponsor an existing senior manager or specialist worker to undertake work related to the expansion of the business in the UK.

The UK Expansion Worker application process can be divided into two stages: The first stage is the UK sponsor licence application and the second is the Expansion Worker Visa application itself.

In this post, we answer 10 of the most frequently asked questions about the UK Expansion Worker Visa.

1. How do I apply for the UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence application?

The Sponsor Licence application is an online application which requires detailed planning, particularly when preparing the supporting documents. The Home Office provide a list of the documents you need as part of your application. It can be tricky navigating these requirements, particularly when you may have never set up a UK business before.

2. What documents will I need for the UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence application?

The evidence required will be in the form of a document, or a combination of documents that you must send to the Home Office.

You must provide evidence of your UK ‘footprint’. This means providing evidence that you have registered a UK branch or that you have brought or leased business premises.

You must demonstrate that you have been trading overseas for at least 3 years before the date of your application. You must provide evidence that the overseas business has been trading throughout the 12-month period immediately before your application for a Sponsor Licence

In addition to the above, the Home Office will want to see that you have a credible expansion plan such as providing evidence of the funds you are planning to invest in the UK branch.

In preparing your application, we will work closely with your accountants and HR department and a business plan writer to ensure that the relevant supporting documents are prepared and submitted accurately. Given the complexity of the Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence application, companies are advised to consult expert legal advice.

3. How long will the licence be valid for?

If your Sponsor Licence application is successful, your licence will be valid for 4 years, in common with other sponsored work routes. However, you will not be able to apply to renew your licence for this route at the end of the 4 years.

4. I have a UK trading company and I would like to sponsor a migrant worker; can I apply for this visa?

In order to qualify for the UK Expansion Worker route, you must not already be actively trading in the UK, but you need to have a UK footprint. If the UK company is actively trading, the Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence will be more appropriate.

5. How do I apply for the Expansion Worker Visa?

This means that before you can sponsor an employee under the Expansion Worker route, the UK company must obtain the sponsor licence by demonstrating to the Home Office that the company is reliable, organised, dependable and capable of managing the sponsor licence.

An employee wishing to apply under the Expansion Worker route will need to be sponsored by a licenced sponsor in the UK. As discussed above, the overseas business will need to set up a non-trading UK branch or subsidiary and apply for the UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence in order to sponsor one of its senior employees under this route.

Once the sponsor licence is granted, a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) can be assigned to the employee in the overseas business.

6. How many employees can be sponsored under the UK Expansion Worker route?

The UK company will only be permitted to sponsor as many people as it genuinely needs to establish the UK business, up to a maximum of 5 employees at any time.

7. Who can apply for the UK Expansion Worker Visa?

The worker must have worked for you, outside the UK for at least 12 months. The role of the senior manager or specialist worker must meet the skill level requirement. The UK Expansion Worker must also be paid at least the general salary threshold of £42,400 per year or the specified going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.

8. How long can I stay under the Expansion Worker Visa?

If your application for the Expansion Worker Visa is successful, you will be granted entry clearance for 1 year.

If you need to stay longer, you can extend your visa for a further year. However, you will only be able to stay in the UK for a maximum of 2 years on the Expansion Worker Visa.

9. I want to sponsor a senior worker under the Expansion Worker route for more than two years, are there alternative routes?

The Home Office will expect that you have established a full trading presence in the UK within two years from the date your licence was granted. At the end of the two years, the Home Office will reduce your CoS allocation to zero which will prevent you from sponsoring employees under this route.

Further to this, once your worker has stayed in the UK for a maximum of 2 years on the UK Expansion Worker Visa, they will need to switch to an alternative visa to continue working in the UK.

As an employer, the UK branch can apply for the Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence to be able to sponsor migrant workers. Your employee can switch to the skilled worker visa once the sponsor licence is granted which will give him or her the ability to continue working for the business in the UK.

10. Does the UK Expansion Worker Visa lead to settlement?

No, this visa route does not lead to settlement. However, alternative UK work visa routes may lead to settlement such as the Skilled Worker visa.

Contact Saracens Solicitors today for expert legal advice: +44 20 3588 3500

Saracens Solicitors’ immigration team has been advising businesses on all aspects of UK immigration law for over 16 years. We work directly with businesses in the UK and overseas to provide tailored and strategic advice that ensures that the immigration requirements are met. We have established a market-leading reputation for delivering exceptional client services.