UK Visa and Immigration's Post-Brexit Revamp – Introducing the Scale-up Visa

Brexit happened. Now, we are all feeling the impact in some way or another. Adding to the long list of those who have been adversely impacted by Brexit are start-up and scale-up businesses, who have been battling to engage talent amid a digital, tech and engineering skills shortage. Recent data published by growth platform Tech Nation reports that tech job vacancies are at a 10-year high as many businesses struggle to identify the right skillset within a significantly narrower talent pool.

Enter the Scale-up visa. Launched on 22 August 2022, the intention behind this route is to make it easier for UK businesses experiencing rapid growth to hire the best and brightest from around the world.

So, what actually is a Scale-up business?

Under the Immigration Rules, to qualify as a 'Scale-up' businesses must show that, in the 3 years before gaining approval for a Sponsor Licence (which is required to sponsor under this route), it has:

  • grown by at least 20% in each year in either employment or turnover; and
  • at least 10 employees at the outset of the 3-year period.

At present, it is estimated there are over 30,000 businesses in the UK that may qualify as a Scale-up.

Which applicants are eligible for a Scale-up visa?

In order to apply via this visa route, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • have a job offer from an approved Scale-up business lasting for a minimum period of 6 months;
  • have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from their sponsor;
  • have a job on the list of eligible occupations;
  • meet the minimum salary requirements - £33,000 per year or £10.10 per hour or the ‘going rate’ for the type of job they will be doing;
  • meet the English language requirements; and
  • have sufficient funds to support themselves*.

 *unless the sponsor certifies maintenance on the CoS, or the applicant has been in the UK for 1 or more years prior to the date of the application.

What is the difference between a Scale-up and Skilled Worker visa?

On first glance, they are very similar. However, there are a couple of significant distinctions between the two visa types.

Firstly, the minimum salary requirement for a Skilled Worker visa is significantly lower, set at £25,600 (outside of the tradeable points system), compared to £33,000 for a Scale-up visa. Secondly, after the applicant's initial 6-month stay in the UK, they are free to switch to a different employer and role without needing sponsorship, which is a huge leap from the UK immigration status quo. The thinking behind this unique feature is to allow Scale-up visa holders the flexibility to explore alternative positions once in the UK. However, whilst this may be attractive to prospective applicants, this may cause some trepidation amongst employers considering sponsoring someone via this route.

Beyond the above differences, this visa route is similar in many ways to the Skilled Worker visa, including the requirement to prove a sufficient English language ability and the possibility to settle in the UK after 5 continuous years.

If you are a business, or prospective applicant, and would like to find out more about the Scale-up visa route, please do get in touch with our team, here.