What is the UK Mobility Visa?

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Technically, there is no ‘UK mobility visa’, although there are several immigration options which provide overseas nationals with the ability to come to the UK for the purposes of work.

 

UK mobility visa options

The mobility visa categories for work in the UK include the five immigration routes under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) umbrella which provide existing workers of overseas businesses that have a presence in the UK with the chance to undertake temporary work assignments, as well as any qualifying worker of an overseas business not yet trading but looking to expand in the UK. These routes include:

  • The Senior or Specialist Worker route: for senior managers or specialist employees being assigned to a UK business linked to their employer overseas
  • The Graduate Trainee route: for those on a graduate training course leading to either a senior management or specialist position required to do a work placement in the UK
  • The UK Expansion Worker route: for senior managers or specialist employees being assigned to the UK to undertake work related to a business’s expansion to the UK
  • The Service Supplier route: for contractual service suppliers employed by an overseas service-provider, or a self-employed independent professional based overseas, needing to undertake an assignment in the UK to provide services under an international trade agreement that is currently in force or being provisionally applied
  • The Secondment Worker route: for workers being seconded to the UK by their employer overseas as part of either a high-value contract or investment.

 
In addition to the GBM visas, mobility visas are also offered to certain nationalities under the Youth Mobility Scheme, reflecting similar reciprocal schemes around the world for young people to experience life in the UK, while being able to work and fund their trip.

 

Applying for a UK visa

The requirements that an applicant must meet to be granted any type of UK mobility visa — either a Global Business Mobility or Youth Mobility visa — are split into three parts:

  • Validity requirements: these outline the minimum criteria that must be met in order for a full consideration by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to take place. These requirements ensure that, for example, the correct online form has been used and that the applicant has supplied a valid identity document. Importantly, applications that do not meet these requirements are invalid and may be rejected without further consideration.
  • Suitability requirements: these check the suitability of the applicant, where applicants must not fall for refusal on the general grounds under the UK’s Immigration Rules or be in breach of UK immigration laws. As such, an applicant can be refused a mobility visa, for example, if they have been convicted of a serious offence or have a history of immigration violations. Applicants that do not meet these requirements must be refused.
  • Eligibility requirements: these are the main criteria of the various UK mobility visa routes, where applicants that do not meet these requirements must again be refused.

 
Below we provide a brief overview of the route-specific requirements for one of the mobility visas in the UK.

 

Global Business Mobility visas

The various different routes provided under the GBM umbrella are aimed at overseas businesses looking to transfer existing staff to a linked business or, alternatively, to establish a UK trading presence. The GBM routes opened to applicants on 11 April 2022, although these 5 visa options mostly replaced or expanded on previous routes.

The Senior or Specialist Worker route replaced the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route, while the Graduate Trainee route replaced the ICT Graduate Trainee route, although any visa-holders still on these legacy routes can apply for extensions and changes of employment under the new corresponding routes. Equally, the dependants of workers with permission on legacy ICT routes can apply to join those workers using the provisions within the Senior or Specialist Worker route, and the Graduate Trainee route, as appropriate.

The UK Expansion Worker route replaced the provisions for Sole Representatives on the Representative of an Overseas Business route. However, the Representative of an Overseas Business route is not considered a legacy route, where visa-holders with permission on that route can continue to apply for extensions and settlement in that route and are not expected to switch to a GBM visa — not unless they meet the relevant requirements and choose to do so, although they will not be able to settle on the GBM route if they do.

The Service Supplier route replaces the provisions for contractual service suppliers and independent professionals on the Temporary Work – International Agreement route, as well as its predecessor Tier 5 visa route. Contractual services suppliers and independent professionals with permission on the Temporary Work – International Agreement route can apply to extend their permission on the Service Supplier route up to the maximum time permitted by the trade agreement that they are providing their services under.

The Graduate Trainee route is specifically for use by overseas companies to deploy graduates to the UK as part of qualifying structured graduate training programmes.

Finally, the Secondment Worker route is an entirely new route introduced for the first time in April 2022 for overseas nationals undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK.

There are different requirements for each of the 5 GBM routes although, in all cases, the applicant must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from an approved sponsor assigned no more than three months prior to the date of application. This is a virtual document, or database record, which is assigned by the sponsor containing a unique reference number that will allow the applicant to make their GBM visa application. This virtual record will provide proof that the applicant has been offered a suitable job that meets any minimum skill and salary requirements for the relevant route.

The eligibility requirements are set out in various appendices attached to the UK’s Immigration Rules at GOV.UK. Under the rules, applicants are required to attain a certain number of mandatory points, including points for sponsorship. They must also meet certain non-points based requirements regarding tuberculosis testing and available funds of at least £1,270 (unless exempt), as well as maximum length of assignments for GBM routes.

All GBM visas are temporary only, each with a maximum period of stay. For example, the maximum authorised stay in the UK on a Senior or Specialist Worker visa is 5 years in any 6-year period if paid less than £73,900 a year, or 9 years in any 10-year period if paid £73,900 a year or more. A visa-holder on this route can apply to extend their visa as many times as they like, but only up to the maximum total stay. Any time spent in the UK on one of the other GBM or legacy routes will also count towards this total time.

The maximum periods of stay on the other GBM routes are much shorter, so just 12 months for graduate trainees and service suppliers, and 2 years for expansion workers or secondment workers. Additionally, in all cases, any time spent time in the UK on another GBM or legacy route will count towards the maximum stay of 5 years in any 6-year period.

The GBM routes do not provide visa-holders with a path to settlement in the UK, although an individual may be able to switch to a different immigration route, such as the Skilled Worker route, if they meet the relevant requirements. Time spent on any one of the GBM routes will not count towards the qualifying period of stay required to settle when looking to apply for indefinite leave to remain as a Skilled Worker, but the visa-holder can apply to switch without leaving the UK and then apply to settle after a further 5 years.

For all GBM routes, the partner and dependent children can accompany or follow to join the primary applicant or principle visa-holder to the UK, provided they are eligible, where their leave to remain can be extended in line with that of their partner or parent. They too can switch to another route at the same time as the principal applicant.

 

Youth Mobility Scheme visas

The Youth Mobility Scheme is a cultural exchange programme aimed at young people from participating countries and territories aged between 18 to 30, or 18 to 35, depending on their nationality, who wish to experience life in the UK. In many cases, this can be used as an extended gap-year before going to University or after graduating, although many applicants will use this as an opportunity to network and expand their career opportunities.

An overseas national can apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa if they are aged between 18 to 35 and from Australia, Canada, New Zealand or South Korea. An individual may also be eligible for a visa if they are aged 18 to 30 and from Andorra, Iceland, Japan, Monaco, San Marino, Uruguay, Hong Kong or Taiwan, although anyone from Hong Kong or Taiwan must be selected in the Youth Mobility Scheme ballot before they can apply. There is also a different scheme for Indian nationals, known as the India Young Professionals Scheme visa.

The eligibility requirements for Youth Mobility Scheme visas are again set out in the relevant appendix attached to the UK’s Immigration Rules at GOV.UK, where all applicants will need to meet a financial requirement of least £2,530 in savings. They may also need to meet certain country-specific requirements, as well as a tuberculosis requirement.

A visa under the Youth Mobility Scheme is again only temporary, lasting for up to 2 years, although nationals from Australia, Canada or New Zealand can extend their stay by an additional year. A Youth Mobility Scheme visa is far stricter than other types of mobility visas insofar as this route is limited to certain nationalities and will not allow dependants of approved visa-holders to apply. Moreover, an overseas national with children under 18 who live with them or are financially dependent on them will be prohibited from applying.

On the plus side, a visa-holder under the Youth Mobility Scheme will have the flexibility to undertake any type of work in the UK, except as a professional sportsperson. They will also be able to work on a self-employed basis, and even set up a company, as long as their premises are rented, with equipment worth less than £5,000 and no employees. Further, at the end of their authorised stay, a visa-holder will have the choice of leaving the UK or applying to switch to a different work-based route, provided they meet the requirements.

 

What is the cost to apply for a mobility visa UK?

The cost to apply for a mobility visa UK will again depend on the basis on which an overseas national is looking to come to the UK and the specific visa sought.

Under the GBM umbrella, with the exception of the Senior or Specialist Worker visa, the application fee is £298. As the Senior or Specialist Worker visa is classified as a Worker visa, allowing for a much longer period of stay in the UK than a Temporary Worker visa, there is a higher application fee of £719 for up to 3 years and £1,420 for more than 3 years. If applying to switch to the Senior or Specialist Worker route from inside the UK, this fee increases to £829 for up to 3 years and £1,500 for more than 3 years.

The cost to apply for a visa under the Youth Mobility Scheme is £298.

In all cases, the applicant must also pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) to access the UK’s National Health System. The IHS is set at £1,035 per year of stay for all GBM workers and £776 per year of stay for those coming to the UK under the Youth Mobility Scheme. Any dependants applying will be required to pay a separate application fee, at the same rate as the primary applicant, plus the IHS, although this is set at £776 for under 18s.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists, with expertise in supporting employers with overseas recruitment and immigration compliance. Contact us for expert guidance on hiring foreign workers.

 

UK mobility visa FAQs

What is UK mobility visa?

There is no singular 'UK mobility visa’, although there are various routes providing overseas nationals with the ability to mobilise to the UK for the purposes of work, including 5 Global Business Mobility visas and the Youth Mobility Scheme visa.

How much money do you need for UK youth mobility visa?

The cost to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa is £298, together with an annual healthcare surcharge to access the UK’s NHS of £776. You will also need proof of £2,530 in savings as part of the application process.

What is UK Global Mobility visa?

The UK Global Mobility visa can refer to one of 5 different visa options under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) umbrella, including a GBM visa for Senior or Specialist Workers, Graduate Trainees, UK Expansion Workers, Service Suppliers and Secondment Workers.

 
Last updated: 18 January 2024

Author

Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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