Senior or Specialist Worker Visa for Intracompany Transfers

The Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa has been replaced by the Senior or Specialist (GBM) Worker visa. Contact us for visa advice on transferring key employees to the UK.

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The Senior or Specialist Worker visa allows overseas companies to transfer key employees to the UK. It replaced the ICT visa in 2022 and offers a critical route for companies to pursue UK-based growth through talent mobility.

 

Who can apply for the Senior or Specialist Worker visa?

The Senior or Specialist Worker route, as the name suggests, is specifically designed for senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned to a UK business linked to their overseas employer to undertake a temporary work assignment in the UK. However, the applicant will first need a UK-based sponsor, where the affiliated UK business must have a valid sponsor licence in place to be able to sponsor this specific category of worker.

A sponsor licence is essentially the permission needed from the UK Home Office to be able to lawfully take on a transferring senior manager or specialist employee. It is only once an organisation has been approved by the Home Office as a sponsor on the Senior or Specialist Worker route that they can assign a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to their proposed new recruit to enable that individual to apply for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa.

Senior or Specialist Worker sponsor requirements for intracompany transfers

To be eligible to sponsor a Senior or Specialist Worker, the sponsor must be operating lawfully in the UK and be linked by common ownership or control with an overseas business for which the applicant is currently working. Alternatively, the overseas business must have a joint venture with the sponsor on which the applicant is sponsored to work.

There are several ways in which a UK-based and linked overseas business can demonstrate common ownership and control, for example, where both entities have a common parent entity or where one entity holds sufficient shares in the other to have more than half the voting rights. Alternatively, if the prospective sponsor is looking demonstrate a qualifying link with the overseas business via a joint venture agreement, the sponsor must provide evidence to show that the venture is in operation and also satisfy the Home Office that the senior or specialist employee will be working as part of the joint venture agreement.

In addition to meeting the general sponsor requirements, including that the sponsor is honest, dependable and reliable, and is capable of carrying out its sponsorship duties, the prospective sponsor will also need to show they can offer genuine employment meeting the relevant skill and salary requirements under the Senior or Specialist Worker route.

Senior or Specialist Worker visa requirements for transferees

The requirements for granting entry clearance or permission to stay on this route can be found in the eligibility requirements contained in ‘Appendix Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker’ of the UK’s Immigration Rules. However, to be eligible for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, all applicants must be awarded 60 points as follows:

  • 20 points for sponsorship: the applicant must have been assigned a valid CoS for the job they are planning to do for their UK sponsor. A sponsorship certificate is only valid if certain requirements are met, where the certificate assigned to the applicant must confirm all the necessary information, including the details of the job role and salary. The CoS must also confirm that the applicant has worked outside the UK for the sponsor group for a minimum of 12 months, known as the overseas work requirement, unless they are applying as a high earner with a proposed annual salary in the UK of at least £73,900.
  • 20 points for a job at the appropriate skill level: the applicant must be coming to the UK to do a job role that falls within an occupation code listed as being eligible for one of the GBM routes in either Table 1 or Table 2 of Appendix Skilled Occupations of the Rules.
  • 20 points for a salary at the required level: the applicant must be paid a salary by their UK sponsor that is at or above both the general salary threshold of £45,800 or the going rate for Senior or Specialist Workers as set out under Appendix Skilled Occupations, where the going rate is the minimum salary applicable for a particular occupation code.
 

When it comes to the overseas work requirement, an applicant must usually have worked for the sponsor or any linked overseas business for at least 12 months. The 12 months outside the UK do not need to be immediately prior to the application, and nor do they need to be consecutive, provided the applicant was working continuously for the sponsor group from the start of the 12-months to the date of their application. However, there is no minimum work experience period for high earners, with a salary of £73,900+ based on a maximum 48-hour week, although they must be currently working for the sponsor group.

The points requirements are mandatory under the Senior or Specialist Worker route. An applicant must also satisfy a number of non-points requirements in relation to tuberculosis testing, where applicable, available funds to able to support themselves on arrival in the UK, known as the financial requirement, and a maximum length of assignment rule.

An applicant can meet the financial requirement by either their UK sponsor certifying that they will maintain and accommodate their employee up to the end of the first month of their employment to an amount of at least £1,270 or, alternatively, by providing evidence showing they have held funds in their bank account of at least £1,270 for a 28-day period. The applicant will not need to prove this requirement if they are applying to switch to this route or extend their visa and have already lived lawfully in the UK for at least 12 months.

However, the maximum length of time an applicant can hold permission on any of the GBM routes is a cumulative total of 5 years in any 6-year period, although high earners can have a maximum of 9 years in any 10-year period. Importantly, this means that if an applicant has already had permission to be in the UK under either the same route, another GBM route or the ICT legacy route, they may not be granted further leave under the Rules.

How to apply for an intracompany transfer visa

Applying for a Senior or Specialist Worker licence and visa will each require an online application and payment of the relevant fees. For a sponsor licence, this will include payment of an application fee of up to £1,476. There is also a fee to assign a sponsorship certificate of £199, plus an Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) of up to £1,000 for the first 12 months of sponsorship, plus up to an additional £500 for every additional 6 months. As with the application fee, the ISC is a charge based on the size and charitable status of the UK sponsor, together with the length of time that the visa-holder will be in the UK.

For the visa itself, provided the UK sponsor is approved for a licence, the fee is up to £1,235 for an application made outside the UK, or up to £1,423 from inside the UK. The visa applicant will also be required to pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS)

Given the costs involved, not to mention the costs associated with the potential loss of a key overseas recruit for the UK sponsor, and the loss of an opportunity to acquire invaluable experience in the UK for the foreign worker, specialist advice should be sought.

Applying for a sponsor licence can be a complex process, requiring detailed documentation to show that a business is connected to the overseas employer, and that there are suitable people to manage the sponsorship process, not to mention the job role requirements. Equally, when applying for a Senior and Specialist Worker visa, the application process will require detailed information and evidence in support. By seeking expert assistance in navigating the application process for both a licence and visa, not least in navigating the various evidential requirements, this can maximise the prospects of a successful outcome.

 

Can you extend the Senior or Specialist Worker visa?

The length of a Senior or Specialist Worker visa will depend on the initial length of contract with the UK sponsor, although it is not uncommon for the visa-holder’s contract to be extended. This means that an application would need to be made to extend their visa.

It is possible to apply to extend the Senior or Specialist Worker visa, provided the applicant continues to meet the relevant requirements. However, a Senior or Specialist Worker can only be granted permission to enter or remain in the UK up to the maximum cumulative period for workers on the GBM routes, where the maximum total stay is:

  • 5 years in any 6-year period if the employee is paid less than £73,900 a year
  • 9 years in any 10-year period if they are paid £73,900 a year or more.
 

Importantly, any time spent in the UK on any one of the GBM routes will be included in the maximum total stay when exercising the option to extend the Senior or Specialist Worker visa. Any time spent under the legacy ‘ICT visa UK’ route or as an ICT graduate trainee will also be included. As such, if an existing ICT visa-holder seeks to extend their stay under the new rules, they will be limited to either 5 years in any 6 year period or 9 years in any 10.

Do existing ICT visa-holders need to switch to a Senior or Specialist Worker visa?

Existing ICT visa-holders do not need to switch to a Senior or Specialist Worker visa, unless and until their existing grant of leave is due to expire. Importantly, if they are planning to extend their stay as a transferring senior manager or specialist employee, they must apply prior to expiry of their existing ICT visa. Equally, the dependants of those with permission on the legacy ICT route must also apply to extend their stay in the UK, as appropriate.

For dependants looking to join an existing ICT visa-holder, they will need to apply as the partner or dependent child under the new Specialist and Senior Worker rules.

Does the Senior or Specialist Worker visa lead to UK ILR?

The Senior or Specialist Worker visa is to facilitate skilled overseas workers coming to the UK to undertake temporary work assignments with a linked UK sponsor, although visa-holders will have the option to extend their stay up to the maximum cumulative period.

However, this route does not provide a visa-holder with a path to settlement, where they would need to switch into a different route, such as the Skilled Worker route, if they were looking to settle in the UK on a permanent basis. Under a Skilled Worker visa, the visa-holder can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) having lived in the UK under this route for a continuous period of 5 years. At this stage, provided they meet all the relevant requirements for ILR, including knowledge of the English language and life in the UK, they can apply to settle. This would mean they can live and work in the UK without restrictions.

Need assistance with an ICT visa? We can help

Our legal experts are highly experienced in all areas of immigration, including Intra-Company Transfer Visas.

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for effective and efficient management and processing of visa applications, and for providing expert visa-related advice. We also understand the stresses involved with moving across the world, and take great pride in playing a supportive role to ease the pressure.

Senior or specialist worker visa FAQs

What is an ICT visa in UK?

The ‘ICT visa UK’, also known as the Intra-Company Transfer visa, is the legacy route to the Senior or Specialist Worker route that was introduced on 11 April 2022 under the Global Business Mobility umbrella of the UK’s Immigration Rules.

Who is eligible for ICT visa in the UK?

The ICT visa, now known as the Senior or Specialist Worker visa, is for senior managers or specialist employees who are being transferred to a UK business linked to their overseas employer to undertake a temporary work assignment.

Who is eligible for ICT visa?

The ICT visa has now been replaced by the Senior or Specialist Worker visa, where senior or specialist intra-company transferees who are being assigned to the UK office of their overseas employer may be eligible for this new visa.

Is UK ICT visa still available?

The UK’s ICT or Intra-Company Transfer visa is no longer available, although this was replaced by the Senior or Specialist Worker visa. Also, existing ICT visa-holders can apply to extend their visa under the new Senior or Specialist Worker rules.

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