What are the Differences Between The Sole Representative Visa and The UK Expansion Worker Visa?
Establishing a UK Presence: Differences Between The Sole
Representative and The UK Expansion Worker Visas
The new Global Business Mobility routes (GBM) immigration routes were introduced on 11th April 2022. This new category of visas has replaced and consolidated some the temporary worker visas. One of the routes that has been closed to new applicants is the Sole Representative visa (known officially as the (unsponsored) sole representative provisions of the Representative of an Overseas Business visa). It has been replaced with the new UK Expansion Worker visa. The intention of new visa remains the same as its
predecessor; to enable overseas business to set up a new branch or wholly-owned subsidiary for the purpose of establishing a UK presence. Although the replacement comes with some positive changes, there are also some additional restrictions. This post will outline the differences between the Sole Representative and the UK Expansion Worker Visas.
It should however be noted that individuals who are already in the UK as sole representatives are still permitted to apply to extend their Sole Representative visa and are not required to switch to the UK Expansion Worker visa.
Differences between the Sole Representative and the UK Expansion Worker Visas – Visa Eligibility
Perhaps the most notable change is that the UK Expansion Worker visa allows overseas businesses to send up to five workers at any one time. This is significantly different from the Sole Representative visa that permitted only a single worker. The change aims to refocus the route to allow overseas businesses to send the number of workers that are genuinely needed to establish a UK presence.
The requirement that representatives must own less than 50% of the shares in the overseas company has also been removed. The company now need only demonstrate that there is a genuine UK vacancy.
Despite these more lenient amendments, the replacement does come with a few more restrictions, namely:
Employee Minimum Terms – applicants must now have worked for the
company for at least 12 months unless they are a high earner (salary over
£73,900) or a Japanese national doing work for a Japanese company that is
expanding to the UK.
Employee Salary Requirements – applicants must be paid a minimum salary
of £42,400 per year or the ‘going rate’ for their job (whichever is higher).
Maintenance Requirement – applicants must have at least £1,270 in their
bank account and demonstrate that they have had this money available for at
least 28 days in a row. Day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for the UK
Expansion Worker visa.
Whereas the old route was an unsponsored one, the new route requires the worker to have a UK sponsor. This means that the new branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of the established overseas business will now need to become the sponsor. The effect of this in practice is that the business will have to start by setting up a UK entity and obtaining a sponsorship license before that entity begins trading. The complexities of this new procedure make it all the more important for businesses to seek expert legal advice at an early stage of the expansion process.
Length of Stay and Settlement
An additional change that will be disappointing to many is the length of stay permitted and the possibility of indefinite leave to remain. With the Sole Representative visa, employees could stay for an initial three years and extend this for a further two. Thereafter, they could apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Under the UK Expansion Worker visa, employees can now only stay for an initial 12 months with the option of a limited 12-month extension. The maximum length of stay on this visa is only 2 years and, as the GBM route is not a route to settlement, this time does not count towards the length of stay required for indefinite leave to remain.
The reasoning behind the decision is that it is believed, with a larger team now eligible to apply, employees should be able to establish the UK presence within the two-year period. The idea is that once the company has begun trading as a UK entity (with at least one employee, a company bank account and a payment system etc) they can then apply for a Skilled Worker sponsorship license and will be able to
sponsor overseas workers using that.
Prospective applicants will however be pleased to hear that the application fee has been reduced from £625 (outside UK) and £719 (inside UK) for the Sole Representative visa to £259 (outside and inside UK) for the new UK Expansion Worker visa.
How Can NA Law Solicitors Help?
Whether you’re an overseas business or an individual looking to obtain a visa under the GBM routes, NA Law Solicitors is here to help.
Both sponsorship license and visa applications must be carefully prepared and meet all the necessary requirements. If mistakes are made in the application process, long delays can follow and there is a high risk of the application being refused. We have a proven track record for preparing successful visa and sponsorship licence applications and will provide expert guidance for you or your organisation throughout the process.
If you require any further information on the above or are looking to make an application, please do not hesitate to get in touch for a consultation.