The senior or specialist worker visa is for employees transferring to a UK subsidiary or branch of an overseas company. We are specialists in work visa applications and sponsorship guidance for employers pursuing opportunities in the UK.
Foreign national employees being assigned to a UK business that is linked to their overseas employer will need to apply for a senior or specialist worker visa.
The specialist and senior workers is one of five Global Business Mobility (GBM) visas for overseas organisations looking to establish a UK presence or transfer staff to the UK.
The GBM senior or specialist worker visa, as the name suggests, is specifically for senior or specialist employees looking to transfer to a UK subsidiary or branch of their overseas employer.
The GBM senior or specialist worker visa is a category of visa under the UK’s points-based immigration system that replaces the old Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visa. Applications for an ICT visa will no longer be accepted, although existing ICT visa-holders will not be affected.
There are a number of Global Business Mobility visa senior or specialist worker application requirements that must be met. The applicant must be aged 18 or over. They must also satisfy:
As a points-based system visa, an applicant must be awarded 60 points, divided equally between the sponsorship, skill and salary requirements.
This means that the applicant must have been issued a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) by a UK sponsor authorised by the Home Office to sponsor a senior or specialist worker. To be eligible for sponsorship, unless they’re applying as a high earner being paid at least £73,900 per year gross, the applicant must be currently working for an overseas linked employer and have done so for a cumulative period of at least 12 months. In contrast, if the applicant is earning £73,900 per year or more, they must be currently working for an overseas business or organisation that’s linked to their UK sponsor, but they don’t need to have been employed outside the UK for any specific period of time.
The applicant must also have sponsorship for an eligible and genuine job role at or above an appropriate minimum skill level for senior or specialist workers, with an annual salary of at least £45,800 or the ‘going rate’ for that job, whichever is higher.
Finally, under the financial requirement, where applicable, the applicant must either have proof of funds at least £1,270, or the applicant’s sponsor must certify that they will maintain and accommodate their overseas recruit up to the end of their first month of employment. The requirement to show funds will apply if the applicant is either applying for entry clearance or applying from inside the UK but has been living in the UK for less than 12 months.
The Global Business Mobility visa senior or specialist worker application process is similar to that required under the former ICT route. The applicant will need to complete an online visa application, using their CoS reference number. It’s important to note that the sponsorship certificate must not have been issued more than 3 months prior to the date of application and confirm a start date of no more than 3 months after the date of that application.
The applicant will also need to pay the relevant fee and submit various detailed documents in support and, depending on where they’re from and the type of passport they have, they may need to have their fingerprints and photograph taken. This is to enable them to get a biometric residence permit. Where an appointment has been scheduled, the applicant can take their supporting documents with them to be scanned.
The applicant must have:
If a GBM senior or specialist worker visa is successfully granted, the applicant will be permitted to work in the UK in the job for which they have been sponsored. They will also be permitted to undertake voluntary work and, subject to certain conditions, study in the UK.
A Global Business Mobility visa senior or specialist worker application can also be made by the dependent spouse or partner of a senior or specialist worker, or a child under the age of 18. However, if applying under the GBM senior or specialist worker route as a dependant, the applicant will need to satisfy both a relationship and financial requirement.
Under the financial requirement, a spouse or partner of a senior or specialist worker must be able to show funds of £285, whereas for children this is set at £315 for the first child and £200 each for any additional child applying. Alternatively, the employer of the senior or specialist worker can certify that they will maintain and accommodate the whole family.
An application made by the dependant of a senior or specialist worker can be made at the same time or at a later date. If the application is successful, their visa will end on the same date as the period of leave granted for the primary visa-holder.
To apply for a GBM senior or specialist worker visa, there are various costs involved. In addition to being able to show funds, where applicable, the applicant will also need to pay an application fee and the annual immigration health surcharge.
When applying from outside the UK, the application fee for a senior or specialist worker is £625 when seeking up to 3 years’ leave and £1,235 when seeking more than 3 years. When applying from inside the UK to extend a visa or switch into this route, the fee is £719 for up to 3 years’ leave and £1,423 for more than 3 years. The healthcare surcharge is set at £624 for every year that the applicant is granted leave. This means that if an applicant is applying to stay in the UK, for example, for 3 years, they will need to pay a surcharge of £1,872.
There are also costs associated with sponsorship. These include the cost of obtaining a sponsor licence, or adding the senior or specialist worker route to that licence, plus an Immigration Skills Charge for every CoS assigned to a prospective transferee, with limited exceptions. However, if the UK sponsor already holds a valid sponsor licence for the Intra-Company route before 11 April 2022, the senior or specialist worker route will be automatically added to their licence.
The cost of applying for a licence will depend on the size and status of the organisation. For small or charitable sponsors, the fee is £536, and £1,476 for medium or large sponsors. The sponsor will be a small sponsor if at least 2 of the following apply:
The amount that a sponsor will need to pay for the Immigration Skills Charge is again based on the size and status of the organisation, as well as how long the specialist or senior worker will be in the UK, using the start and end dates on the employee’s sponsorship certificate. For small or charitable sponsors, this is set at £364 for the first 12 months, plus £182 for every additional 6-month period. For medium or large sponsors, this is set at £1,000 for the first 12 months, plus £500 for every extra 6 months. The sponsor must have paid this charge in full in order for an applicant to be eligible to apply for a GBM senior or specialist worker visa.
There is also a fee for issuing the sponsorship certificate itself of £199.
The GBM senior or specialist worker visa has only recently opened to applications, so it’s yet unclear how long applications for this type of visa will take to process. However, given that it directly replaces the ICT route, it’s anticipated that the processing time will be similar. Typically, under the old rules, an ICT visa would take up to 3 weeks to be processed for overseas applications, and a period of 8 weeks for in-country applications.
Following the successful grant of a GBM senior or specialist worker visa, the visa-holder will be allowed to work in the UK in the job role for which they are being sponsored to do. Leave will usually be granted for at least the duration of that work assignment in the UK, plus 14 days, provided this is less than the maximum amount of time permitted under the rules.
The GBM senior or specialist worker visa is to facilitate skilled migrant workers coming to the UK on temporary work assignments. However, a GBM senior or specialist worker visa-holder who continues to meet the relevant requirements will be able to renew their leave under this route if their contract in the UK is extended. Equally, existing ICT visa-holders will be able to apply to renew their visa up to the maximum period permitted. This will be calculated on the basis of cumulative permission under both the GBM and ICT routes.
The maximum period that a senior or specialist worker can stay in the UK under this route is 5 years in any 6-year period, unless they’re a high earner in receipt of £73,900 per year or more. In the case of high-earners, they will be able to stay for up to 9 years in any 10-year period.
The GBM senior or specialist worker visa is a temporary work visa, even though some senior or specialist employees can live in the UK under this route for up to 9 years. This means that a visa-holder, regardless of how much they earn or whether their UK sponsor would like them to stay on in the UK, they will not be eligible to apply to settle permanently.
None of the five routes under the Global Business Mobility umbrella provide a path to settlement. However, provided an individual meets the eligibility requirements, they may be able to switch into a different immigration route, such as the Skilled Worker route, to enable them to make a permanent life and home in the UK.
DavidsonMorris’ business immigration specialists can support your organisation with all aspects of UK work visa sponsorship.
Wherever you are in the lifecycle of the sponsor licence – whether you are looking to apply for your first sponsor licence, wanting to renew an existing licence, have been refused a licence application or are looking for support with applications for senior or specialist work visas, we can help.
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office personnel, we can work in support of your in-house HR team or take care of the entire visa and sponsor licence application on your behalf.
This category of visa is aimed at senior managers and specialist employees looking to transfer to a UK subsidiary or branch of their overseas employer on a short-term basis.
A GBM visa applicant must have sponsorship from a licensed UK employer and have been issued with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship with a start date for the job which is no more than 3 months post-application.
The processing time for a Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa application should be 3 weeks for overseas applications and 8 weeks for in-country applications.