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UK launches Scale-up visa to make it easier for fast-growing firms to hire skilled staff

Financial district of London

BritishAmerican Business

6 September 2022

The latest in the UK Government’s points-based post-Brexit immigration routes has launched, promising to help high-growth tech, financial services and small businesses recruit the talent they need to keep growing.

The new Scale-up visa is initially sponsored by eligible scale-ups, but it is a fast-track, flexible way to hire highly-skilled staff from around the world.

Scale-up sponsor licences and Certificates of Sponsorship for staff will be cheaper than similar sponsored work immigration routes and there is no Immigration Skills Charge to pay.

Launching the visa, immigration minister Kevin Foster said: “we’re enabling businesses to focus on their growth and innovation by giving them more freedom to bring in the diverse skills and experience they need, making them more attractive on an international stage… we are ensuring the UK remains a global hub for emerging technologies and innovation.”

Scale-up businesses of all sizes add over £1 trillion a year and three million jobs to the UK economy. This new immigration route won’t provide a solution for every hire, but hopefully it will redress the skilled labour shortages many firms currently face.

The Scale-up visa offers flexibility

Unlike other sponsored visas, the Scale-up visa will involve an initial two years’ permission to stay, of which employers need only have the responsibility of sponsoring workers for the first six months. Scale-up workers who have arrived in the UK on this route are permitted to do other work, including self-employment. They can switch to different sponsored roles in the same company in the first six months, then after at least six months work for their sponsor, they may move jobs without a further visa application.

After the initial application, Scale-up Workers will be able to renew their visa for three years at a time, but with none of the cost or admin of having to be sponsored as long as previous UK PAYE earnings of at least £33,000 per annum have been recorded in at least half the two-year duration of their initial Scale-up visa. Alternatively, they can switch to another worker visa.

After five years on this route they may if eligible apply for settlement in the UK. Eligible dependent family members may join Scale-up workers too.

Which businesses may qualify for the Scale-up visa?

A Scale-up visa sponsor must show annualised growth in either turnover or staff of at least 20% for the previous three-year period, with a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the period.

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