Scale Up visa

The Scale Up visa offers overseas nationals a route to work for a high-growth UK business.


The Scale Up visa is a hybrid work visa, which allows qualifying foreign workers to come to the UK to work in a sponsored role. After 6 months, the Scaled Up worker no longer requires sponsorship by an employer.


What is the UK Scale Up visa?

The scale up visa is a points-based route for migrant workers who have been recruited by a UK scale up sponsor, and who have the skills necessary to enable the sponsor’s business to continue growing. This visa is designed to allow those with a suitable job offer at the required skill level from a recognised UK scale up to qualify for a fast-track visa. In this way, together with a number of other business immigration routes designed to boost the UK economy.

Although the applicant must be employed in the job for which they’re being sponsored for the first 6 months of their grant of leave, scale up workers are then permitted to work full-time at any skill level.

Study is also permitted under this route, subject to the ATAS condition — this is a requirement to obtain an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before studying certain sensitive subjects at postgraduate level.

The scale up worker will be able to bring dependent family members to the UK, as in other work routes, including a dependent partner and dependent children. The primary visa-holder and any qualifying family members may also be able to eventually apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, provided they meet the eligibility requirements for settlement.

Entry clearance, or permission to remain when switching from a different immigration route from inside the UK, will initially be granted under the scale up route for a period of 2 years.

The worker will be sponsored only for the first six months of this period, after which they are able to work for any employer.


Scale Up visa requirements

Applicants on this route must be aged 18 or over on the date of application. They must also have a genuine, high-skilled sponsored job offer from an authorised UK scale up business at the required salary level. The job must be skilled to RQF 6 and equivalent (graduate level). This means that the applicant must be sponsored for a job in an occupation code listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations under the UK’s Immigration Rules that is identified as eligible for the new scale up route. The applicant must also be paid at least £36,300 per year, or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation code in question, whichever is the higher.

The English language and financial requirements will apply under the scale up route, as in other work routes under the UK’s points-based system. This means that, unless an exemption applies, the applicant must be able to prove their English language ability in reading, writing, speaking and listening to at least CEFR level B1 (the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). The applicant must show that they meet the English language requirement as set out in Appendix English Language under the Immigration Rules.

Under the financial requirement, unless the applicant is applying for permission to stay and has been lawfully in the UK for 12 months or longer on the date of application, they must either show funds of at least £1,270, or have their UK sponsor certify that they’ll maintain and accommodate their recruit up to the end of the first month of their employment. Where applicable, the applicant must show that they’ve held the required funds for a 28-day period and must show funds as specified in Appendix Finance of the Rules.

Overall, the applicant must be awarded a total of 70 points to be eligible for a scale up visa first time round, including 50 points for sponsorship, and a job offer at an appropriate skill and salary level, plus 10 points each for both the English language and financial requirements.

In addition to the eligibility requirements, the standard suitability requirements will apply under the scale up route. This means that criminality, misconduct and breaches of immigration law will disqualify an applicant from being granted leave, except if periods of overstaying can be disregarded. Police registration will also be required for certain nationals.


Scale up worker visa requirements

The scale up route allows UK businesses that meet the definition of a qualifying scale up sponsor to recruit talented individuals from overseas, although the worker must have the necessary skills needed to enable your business to continue to grow. As such, to be eligible for a scale up visa, this means that the worker must meet the following requirements:

  • have a genuine job offer at the required skill-level, ie; graduate level or above
  • be paid at least £36,300 per annum or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation code in question, whichever is the higher of these figures
  • be expected to work for their UK sponsor for a minimum of 6 months
  • speak, understand, read and write English to the required minimum standard, ie; level B1 or above on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for languages
  • have sufficient funds to support themselves on arrival in the UK, ie; £1,270.

Accordingly, to successfully sponsor a scale up worker, you must be able and intend to offer employment that not only meets the skill-level and salary requirements for this route, but is genuine and, where relevant, meets the rules on third-party working. Under the ‘genuineness’ requirement, UKVI will not award points for sponsorship if it has reasonable grounds to believe that the job role does not exist, is a sham, or has been mainly created so that the migrant worker can apply for entry clearance or permission to stay.

To be granted a scale up visa, an overseas worker must accumulate a total of 70 points. This comprises 50 points for valid sponsorship in a genuine job role that meets the appropriate skill-level and salary. The remaining 20 points will be awarded for meeting the English language requirement (10 points) and the financial requirement (10 points).



What happens after 6 months of scale up sponsorship?

A sponsored scale up worker who makes a successful visa application on the scale up route will initially be granted permission to work in the UK for a period of 2 years. However, the worker will only be sponsored for the first 6 months of their permission.

After 6 months, the original employer will no longer sponsor the worker after this period, even if they continue to employ them. At this stage, the worker can continue working for their original employer without being sponsored. However, they will also have the option to change job or even employer without requiring renewed sponsorship, provided they continue to meet the relevant requirements on the scale up route.

For the original sponsor, who is likely to have invested a great deal of time and resources in applying for a scale up sponsor licence so as to recruit a migrant worker from overseas, this can prove to be an expensive exercise, so it is often in the interests of the sponsoring employer to provide an incentive for the worker to stay on. This is perhaps the biggest downside for sponsors when it comes to recruiting scale up workers.

However, on the plus side, if the worker continues to work for their original employer, the employer will be relieved of any further sponsorship duties moving forward. It is therefore only during the first 6 months that you will need to comply with your reporting duties, for example, informing UKVI if the worker is absent from work without your permission, or if there are any significant changes to the nature of their role or salary, or to your business.


What happens after 2 years of scale up sponsorship?

At the end of the 2-year visa under the scale up route, the migrant worker can opt to make an unsponsored application and be granted permission on this route for a further period of 3 years.

There is also no limit on the number of times that they can apply to extend their stay. After 5 years’ lawful continuous residence in the UK on the scale up route, or even in combination with another eligible or eligible routes, the overseas worker can then apply to settle permanently in the UK, otherwise known as indefinite leave to remain.


Need assistance with a Scale Up visa application? We can help

DavidsonMorris are UK business immigration specialists. Our team of experts support employers to meet their talent needs through international recruitment. We advise on sponsoring workers under the Scale Up route, and provide guidance on making Scale Up Sponsor Licence applications.

Contact us for expert advice.


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