Senior or Specialist Worker Visa Requirements

Senior or Specialist Worker requirements

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The Senior or Specialist worker visa replaced the UK ICT visa for workers to transfer temporarily on assignment to the UK.

In this guidance, we look in detail at the visa requirements, for both primary applicants and their family members, providing an overview of who is eligible and what this visa allows.

 

What is the Global Business Mobility Senior or Specialist Worker visa?

The Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa is an umbrella visa comprising a number of different sponsored immigration routes for overseas businesses looking to either establish a UK presence or transfer staff to the UK, including the GBM senior or specialist worker route. Along with four other sponsored routes, the Global Business Mobility senior or specialist worker visa opened to applicants on 11 April 2022.

This category of visa replaced the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa under the UK’s points-based immigration system, with applications under the ICT route no longer being accepted. However, ICT visa-holders already in the UK will not be affected, where their existing visa will continue until its expiry date.

 

What does the GBM senior or specialist worker visa allow?

On the grant of a GBM senior or specialist worker visa, the visa-holder will be allowed to come to the UK to undertake the job role for which they’re being sponsored to do, typically for the duration of that role, plus a period of 14 days.

However, even though this category of visa is designed for overseas workers undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, a GBM senior or specialist worker visa-holder will be able to apply to extend this visa from within the UK — provided they continue to meet the Global Business Mobility visa senior or specialist worker eligibility requirements. Existing ICT visa-holders will also be able to apply to extend their stay under the new GBM senior or specialist worker rules, provided they too meet the relevant requirements.

The maximum period of stay in the UK will depend on how much the senior or specialist worker earns. For those being paid a gross salary of less than £73,900 per year, they’ll be able to remain in the UK for up to 5 years in any 6-year period. This will be calculated by looking at the cumulative permission under both the GBM and ICT routes. In contrast, for those working in the UK as a high earner, being paid a salary of £73,900 per year or more, they’ll be able to live and work in the UK for up to 9 years in any 10-year period.

The Global Business Mobility visa senior or specialist worker route does not provide a path to settlement in the UK. This means that the senior or specialist worker visa-holder will not be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain, although they may be able to switch into a different route, such as the Skilled Worker route, to enable them to settle in the UK long-term.

 

Who can sponsor a Senior or Specialist Worker?

The senior or specialist worker route is, as the name suggests, for senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned by a linked overseas business to a UK branch or subsidiary to undertake temporary work in the UK. This replaced the Intra-Company Transfer route from 11 April 2022.

However, to be able to sponsor an overseas worker on this route, the UK-based sponsor will first need to have a senior or specialist worker sponsor licence in place. This is the permission needed from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to be able to lawfully employ a transferring senior manager or specialist employee.

It is only once an organisation has been approved by UKVI as a sponsor on the senior or specialist worker route that they can issue a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to their proposed new recruit to enable that person to apply for a senior or specialist worker visa.

 

Senior or specialist worker sponsor licence requirements

The senior or specialist worker route allows a UK-based organisation to sponsor overseas workers to undertake work in the UK on a temporary basis, where the worker is either a senior manager or specialist employee being assigned by a linked overseas business.

To sponsor a worker under the GBM senior or specialist worker route, a business must first hold an A-rated sponsor licence. Businesses should therefore be taking steps to apply for a sponsor licence, if not already on the register of licensed sponsors, or to add senior or specialist workers to their existing licence. Only once permission has been granted by the Home Office can the UK employer assign a valid CoS to a prospective overseas transferee.

To be eligible to apply for a senior or specialist worker sponsor licence, the sponsor must be operating lawfully in the UK and linked by common ownership or control or, alternatively, by a joint venture agreement, with an overseas business.

To be linked by common ownership or control to the overseas business, the sponsor must be able to show, for example, that one entity holds sufficient shares in the other to have more than half the voting rights in that other entity, or that both entities have a common parent entity. In cases where the link between the overseas business and proposed sponsor is through a joint venture agreement, UKVI must be satisfied that the worker will be working as part of that agreement before accepting that the applicant can sponsor that worker.

However, there are various ways in which a UK-based and linked overseas business can demonstrate common ownership and control, as well as many forms of joint venture, where applicable, with different evidence required to show that the venture is in operation. The proposed sponsor will also need to show that they can offer genuine employment which meets the relevant skill-level and salary requirements for the senior or specialist worker route. As such, it is best to seek expert advice and assistance from a specialist in sponsor licence applications to help navigate the various evidential requirements and maximise the prospects of a successful outcome from UKVI first time round.

 

Who is eligible under the GBM senior or specialist worker route?

The GBM senior or specialist worker route is designed for either senior managers or specialist employees looking to be assigned to a UK business that’s linked to their employer overseas, and who wish to undertake temporary work assignments in the UK.

To obtain a GBM senior or specialist worker visa, the applicant will need to be sponsored by a Home Office approved employer authorised to sponsor this category of worker. Sponsorship under this route operates on the principle that the UK business receiving the worker will be the sponsor licence holder, where applicants would need to demonstrate that they have a receiving business, a sending business and that there’s a relationship between the two.

If an application for a GBM senior or specialist worker visa is successful, leave to work in the UK in this capacity will be granted for at least the duration of the temporary work assignment, provided this is less than the maximum amount of time permitted under the rules.

 

What are the eligibility requirements for senior or specialist workers?

Under the Global Business Mobility visa senior or specialist worker eligibility requirements, in addition to the sponsorship requirement, to be eligible for a senior or specialist worker visa, the applicant must also meet the following requirements for this route:

  • be currently worked for their linked overseas employer and, where applicable, meet the minimum overseas work requirement
  • be doing a job that is on the list of UKVI’s eligible occupations
  • be paid the minimum eligible salary required for their job role
  • be able to support themselves on arrival in the UK, where applicable
  • provide a tuberculosis test certificate if from a listed country
  • where applicable, an applicant must provide a valid tuberculosis test certificate.

 

They must also meet a financial requirement, although they’ll not be required to satisfy an English language requirement. When applying for entry clearance, or where the applicant has been living in the UK for less than 12 months, they must have proof of savings of at least £1,270. This is to show that they can support themselves without relying on public funds. Alternatively, the applicant’s sponsor can certify maintenance and accommodation on their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) up to the end of the first month of employment.

Additionally, to be eligible for a GBM senior or specialist worker visa, an applicant must be awarded 60 points under three main headings: sponsorship (20 points); a job at an appropriate skill level (20 points); and a salary for that job at the required level (20 points).

 

Points for sponsorship

To obtain the requisite 20 points for sponsorship, the following requirements must be met:

  • the applicant must have a valid CoS for the job they’re planning to do — this must confirm their name, that they’re being sponsored as a senior or specialist worker, details of their job and salary, a start date for the job which is no more than 3 months post-application, and unless the applicant is applying as a high earner, confirming that they’ve worked outside the UK for the sponsor group for the period required;
  • the UK sponsor must be authorised by the Home Office to sponsor a senior or specialist worker, and the sponsor must have paid in full any required Immigration Skills Charge.

 

At the date of application, the applicant must be working for the sponsor group and, unless they’re applying as a high earner, they must have worked for that employer outside the UK for a cumulative period of at least 12 months. The Home Office must also be satisfied that the job offer in the UK is genuine, rather than a sham created so that the applicant can apply for leave. Equally, the Home Office must not have reasonable grounds to believe that the job the applicant is being sponsored to do amounts to the hire of that individual to a third party who is not the sponsor, or contract work to undertake an ongoing routine role or service.

 

Points for job at appropriate skill level

To obtain the requisite 20 points for a job at an appropriate skill level, the applicant must be sponsored for an eligible role at or above a minimum skill level for a GBM senior or specialist worker. This means that it must be a job listed under Appendix Skilled Occupations of the UK’s Immigration Rules, that’s identified as eligible for the Global Business Mobility routes.

The Home Office must be satisfied that the occupation code selected by the sponsor is the appropriate code, and not one chosen either because the most appropriate code is not eligible under the GBM routes or has a higher going rate than the proposed salary. In determining whether the code is correct, the Home Office will consider whether or not the sponsor has a genuine need for the job described, whether the applicant has the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do that job, and the sponsor’s history of immigration compliance, including paying its sponsored workers appropriately.

 

Points for salary at required level

When it comes to the appropriate salary for a senior or specialist worker, the applicant’s proposed pay must be at least the general salary threshold of £48,500 or the specified ‘going rate’ for their occupation, whichever is the higher. Each occupation code has its own annual rate, as set out in the going rates table for eligible occupations on the Home Office website.

For example, for chief executives and senior officials under occupation code 1111, the ‘going rate’ is £54,700, and so higher than the general salary threshold, currently set at £48,500. This means that an applicant who has been assigned an CoS for a job role falling within this occupation code, they must be paid at least £54,700 per year. In contrast, for an applicant working as a charitable organisation manager under code 1135, the going rate is £45,500, where they would need to be paid at least the annual general salary threshold of £48,500.

 

Senior or specialist worker financial requirement

Under the financial requirement, the applicant must be able to show funds of £1,270 or, alternatively, the sponsor must certify that they will maintain and accommodate the senior or specialist worker for the first month of employment. The requirement to show funds will arise either if the applicant is applying for a visa from overseas or making an in-country application but has only been living in the UK for less than 12 months.

 

Overseas work requirement for senior or specialist workers

To be eligible for sponsorship for a senior or specialist worker visa — unless the applicant is applying as a high earner, being paid a gross annual salary of at least £73,900 — they must be working for a linked overseas employer and have done so for a minimum of 12 months. If the applicant is earning at least £73,900 per year, there is no minimum time requirement, although they must be working for a linked overseas business when they apply.

 

What is a CoS and what information does it need to show?

Prior to applying for a senior or specialist worker visa, the sponsor must provide the proposed new recruit with a valid CoS (Certificate of Sponsorship). This is an electronic record, not a paper document, and will contain information about the work that the individual will be doing in the UK. It will also contain a unique reference number to enable the new recruit to apply for a visa, where an application will need to be submitted within 3 months of getting their CoS, otherwise they will need to be assigned a fresh certificate.

The sponsor will be able to assign a valid CoS once they have been approved by UKVI for a senior or specialist sponsor licence and been granted access to the Home Office sponsorship management system (SMS). However, before assigning an CoS using their SMS account, the sponsor must be satisfied that the worker meets the relevant immigration requirements.

It costs £239 to assign a CoS to a Senior or Specialist worker.

 

Can dependents accompany or join GBM senior or specialist workers?

Both partners and dependent children can accompany or join a GBM senior or specialist worker visa-holder. However, to be eligible to come to the UK under this route, there are again various eligibility requirements, including a relationship and financial requirement.

For the unmarried partner of a senior or specialist worker, the couple must have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage or a civil partnership for at least two years. Further, any previous relationship of the applicant or primary visa-holder must have permanently broken down, and the couple must not be so closely related that they wouldn’t be allowed to marry or form a civil partnership in the UK. The relationship must also be genuine and subsisting, where both parties intend to live together throughout the applicant’s stay.

In the case of dependent children, the applicant must be the child of a parent who has been, or is at the same time being granted, permission on the GBM senior or specialist worker route, or as a partner of a senior or specialist worker. The applicant’s parents must be applying at the same time or have permission to be in the UK, other than as a visitor, unless:

  • the parent is the sole surviving parent or has sole responsibility for the child’s upbringing
  • the parent who doesn’t have permission as a senior or specialist worker is a British citizen or a person with a right to enter or stay in the UK without restriction, and is, or will be, ordinarily resident in the UK, or
  • there are serious and compelling reasons to grant the child leave.

 

There must be suitable arrangements already in place for the child’s care and accommodation in the UK. The child must also be aged under 18 at the date of their application, and if the child is aged 16 or over, they must not be leading an independent life.

In respect of the financial requirement, a certain level of funds must usually be held by either the applicant and/or the GBM senior or specialist worker visa-holder or parent. This is set at £285 for a partner, £315 for the first child and £200 each for any subsequent children. Alternatively, the employer of the primary visa-holder can confirm on the CoS that they’ll maintain and accommodate any dependants up to the end of their first month in the UK.

 

How much is the Senior or Specialist Worker visa?

The cost of applying for a senior or specialist worker visa from overseas is £719 for a CoS valid for up to 3 years and £1,420 for a CoS for more than 3 years. When applying from inside the UK to switch into the senior or specialist worker route, or to extend any existing grant of leave, the fee is £827 for a CoS of up to 3 years and £1,500 for a CoS of more than 3 years.

Immigration Health Surcharge

The visa applicant will also be liable to pay what is known as the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). The IHS is an annual fee set at £1,035 for a successful visa-holder to be able to access the UK’s National Health Service. For example, for a senior manager or specialist employee looking to work in the UK for 3 years without any dependants, the IHS will be £3,105.

 

What costs do sponsors have to pay for senior or specialist workers?

The cost of applying for a senior or specialist worker visa from overseas is £719 for a visa for up to 3 years’ stay and £1,420 for a visa for more than 3 years. When applying from inside the UK to switch into the senior or specialist worker route, or to extend any existing grant of leave, the fee is £827 for a visa of up to 3 years and £1,500 for more than 3 years.

In addition to the fee for applying for a licence to sponsor senior or specialist workers, the sponsoring organisation will also be liable to pay a fee of £239 for each CoS assigned to a migrant worker, together with the Immigration Skills Charge (ISC). The ISC is a charge based on the size and charitable status of the sponsoring organisation, together with the length of time the visa-holder will be in the UK, using the start and end dates on the CoS.

For small or charitable sponsors, the ISC is £364 for the first 12 months’ leave, plus £182 for each additional 6-month period. For medium or large sponsors, this is £1,000 for 12 months, plus £500 for each additional 6 months. The sponsor will be classed as a small sponsor if two of the following criteria apply: its annual turnover is £10.2 million or less; its total business assets are worth £5.1 million or less; and/or it has 50 employees or fewer. This charge, together with the fee to assign the CoS, must be paid in full to enable an applicant to be eligible to apply for a senior or specialist worker visa.

The cost to apply for a sponsor licence will also depend on the size and charitable status of the sponsoring organisation. The fee to apply for a senior or specialist work sponsor licence is £536 for small or charitable sponsors, and £1,476 for medium or large sponsors.

 

Is it possible to switch to the senior or specialist worker visa from the UK?

If an overseas national is already in the UK on a different visa route, they may be able to switch to the senior or specialist worker visa without having to leave the country. The only exceptions to this rule are where an individual is in the UK as any one of the following:

  • as a standard or other type of visitor
  • as a short-term student
  • as the parent of a child student
  • as a temporary seasonal worker
  • as a domestic worker within a private household, or
  • outside of the Immigration Rules.

However, to be eligible to switch into the senior or specialist worker route, the applicant must still meet all of the relevant requirements of this route, including the 12-month overseas work requirement, where applicable. However, the 12 months of overseas work does not have to have been continuous, so long as it was accumulated during a period of continuous work for an eligible business, either in or out of the UK, before the application.

For example, where an applicant has worked for the sponsor group for 3 years, during which time they regularly moved between offices in the UK and overseas, they would satisfy the overseas work requirement, provided at least 12 months was spent working outside of the UK and the applicant is still working for the sponsor group when they apply.

 

How long can a senior or specialist worker stay in the UK?

A senior or specialist worker will be granted a visa for whichever is the shortest of 14 days after the end date of the job detailed on their CoS or 5 years after the start date of that job. However, the period of permission UKVI will grant to a senior or specialist worker if they make a successful application for either entry clearance or permission to stay in the UK will also depend on whether they have had previous permission on any of the GBM routes.

Under the maximum stay rules, senior or specialist workers are subject to a maximum cumulative visa period of 5 years in any 6-year period, unless they are a high earner in receipt of at least £73,900 per year. A high-earner will be allowed to stay in the UK for up to 9 years in any 10-year period. These maximum periods include time spent in the UK on any one of the five GBM routes, including the predecessor Intra-Company route.

The senior or specialist worker visa is to facilitate skilled foreign workers coming to the UK to undertake temporary work assignments. However, a senior or specialist worker visa-holder who continues to meet the relevant requirements on this route will be able to extend their grant of leave if their contract in the UK is extended, up to the maximum period of stay. Importantly, however, the senior or specialist worker route does not provide a visa-holder with a path to settlement in the UK, where they would need to switch into the skilled worker route if they were looking to make a life in the UK on a permanent basis.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are specialists in UK business immigration, with substantial experience and recognised expertise in advising employers and workers on UK employment sponsorship, sponsor licence applications and management, and visa applications such as the Senior or Specialist Worker GBM visa. We work with employers to provide expert guidance on global mobility programmes and UK immigration options and to support with all types of UK Home Office applications.

For specialist immigration advice to support your talent mobility and business operations, contact us.

 

Senior or Specialist Worker visa requirements FAQs

What is the GBM senior or specialist worker visa?

The GBM senior or specialist worker visa is specifically designed for senior managers and specialist employees being assigned to a UK business that's linked to their employer overseas, and who wish to undertake a temporary work assignment in the UK.

Does the GBM visa need sponsorship?

To obtain a Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa, the GBM applicant will need to be sponsored by an employer in the UK authorised to sponsor under this route. They’ll also need to be assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.

How long does it take to get a GBM visa?

It takes around 3 weeks for a decision to be made on an application for a GBM visa when applying from outside the UK, and around 8 weeks when applying to extend this visa from within the UK.

How much is a specialist worker visa UK?

The cost of applying for a visa from outside the UK to transfer as a specialist worker to a UK subsidiary or branch of their overseas employer for up to 3 years is £719, and £1,420 for 3 years plus. If applying from within the UK, the application cost is £827 with a CoS of up to 3 years, or £1500 per applicant if the CoS is for longer than 3 years.

Last updated: 5 April 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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