Following the introduction of five different Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes for migrant workers, many overseas businesses are now looking to the new rules on how to sponsor these workers to help establish a UK presence or transfer staff to the UK.
These routes are designed for businesses who need to temporarily send individuals to the UK for a work assignment with a linked UK business that cannot be done by a settled worker.
Below we examine the rules and requirements that must be met to sponsor a GBM worker, together with the procedure that must be followed to obtain Home Office sponsor approval.
How do you sponsor a Global Business Mobility visa worker?
To obtain any one of the new Global Business Mobility visas, a migrant worker will need to be sponsored by a Home Office approved licence-holder, authorised to sponsor the specific category of worker in question. These categories include senior or specialist workers, graduate trainees, UK expansion workers, service suppliers and secondment workers.
Only once the sponsor has obtained a licence from the UK Home Office for the relevant GBM route, can they then issue a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to enable the migrant worker to apply for a visa and, provided that individual is successfully granted entry clearance or leave to remain as a GBM worker, to undertake the job role as set out in their CoS.
There are various route-specific eligibility requirements that must be met before a migrant worker will be granted a GBM visa, although sponsorship is required under all five routes. This includes the UK expansion worker route, which replaces the sole representative provisions of the previously unsponsored representative of an overseas business route.
Likewise, the senior and specialist worker visa, and the graduate trainee visa, replace the intra-company transfer (ICT) routes, whilst the service supplier route replaces the provisions for independent professionals and contractual service suppliers on the international agreement route. In contrast, the secondment worker route is a new route to enable overseas workers to be seconded to the UK temporarily as part of a high value contract or investment.
There are transitional arrangements for existing sponsor licence-holders. This means that where the sponsor held a licence on a relevant predecessor route before 11 April 2022, the new route may be automatically added to their licence. However, where any licence isn’t covered by the route-specific transitional arrangements — or where the sponsor didn’t hold a valid licence prior to 11 April 2022, or they’re now looking to sponsor a worker under a previously unsponsored or new route — they will need to apply for Home Office approval.
Global Business Mobility visa sponsor requirements
If your organisation doesn’t already have a sponsor licence, you will need to apply for Home Office approval before you can sponsor a Global Business Mobility visa worker. To be eligible for a GBM sponsor licence, you must meet various route-specific requirements, including:
- you must be able to offer genuine employment in the UK that meets the relevant skill and any salary requirements of the GBM route in question;
- have a qualifying overseas business link, although the nature of this link depends on the route, for example, to sponsor a senior or specialist worker, the UK sponsor and overseas business must be linked by common ownership or control, whilst for a secondment worker licence you must have an eligible overseas contract for either goods or investment worth no less than £10 million per year or £50 million in total;
- if applying on the UK expansion worker route, you must also meet the additional requirements for that route. This means that you must be able to show via a UK ‘footprint’ and credible plans, that you intend and are capable of establishing a new UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary within a period of two years, and have an established overseas trading presence, which has been active and trading for at least three years.
In addition to meeting any route-specific requirements for the category of worker you are looking to sponsor, you must also be able to establish that you:
- are a genuine organisation that’s operating lawfully in the UK, although you must not have an existing active trading presence in the UK if applying on the UK expansion worker route;
- are honest, dependable, reliable, and haven’t behaved in a way that is not conducive to the public good, where the Home Office will have regard to the key personnel named in your application and any person involved in the day-to-day running of the business;
- are capable of carrying out all your sponsor duties, where the Home Office will have regard to your current human resources and recruitment practices, and may conduct a site visit.
If you don’t meet all of the specific and general requirements, your application for a Global Business Mobility visa sponsor licence will be refused. You may also not be eligible to re-apply for at least six months although, in certain circumstances, this cooling-off period can be longer.
How to apply for a Global Business Mobility sponsor licence
To apply for a Global Business Mobility visa sponsor licence, you must complete an online application form and submit the supporting documents specified in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance. This includes documentation to show that you’re a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK, or have a UK footprint and credible plans to establish a UK presence when under the UK expansion worker route, together with details of any linked overseas business.
When applying for a sponsor licence, you must also pay a fee for your application. The amount you must pay will depend on the type of licence you’re applying for and, in the context of a senior or specialist worker licence, the size or charitable status of your organisation.
The application process, and preparation involved to obtain the necessary documentation, can be complex. You will also be required to give certain responsibilities to members of your staff, known as key personnel, some or all of whom will have access to the Home Office sponsorship management system (SMS) once a licence is granted. This can become especially complex in the context of applying for a licence to sponsor UK expansion workers, with specific rules around who can act as your authorising officer and level 1 SMS user. The Home Office will also look into the background of any individual involved in the sponsorship process.
Given the complexities involved, it’s always best to seek expert legal advice before applying for a Global Business Mobility visa sponsor licence. In this way, you can maximise your prospects of a successful outcome to your application, and minimise the possibility of being unable to re-apply until after any cooling-off period if your application is refused.
If your application for a Global Business Mobility visa sponsor licence is successful, your organisation’s name will appear on the Register of Sponsors. You’ll also be given access to the SMS, and will be able to sponsor workers who meet the criteria under the relevant route by assigning them a CoS. In most cases, you’ll be granted an A-rating, except under the UK expansion worker route, where you’ll be given either an A-rating or provisional rating depending on whether your authorising officer is overseas or already in the UK.
Assigning Certificates of Sponsorship for GBM visa workers
If you want to sponsor a worker on a Global Business Mobility route, they must be assigned a valid CoS using your SMS account. This will be the responsibility of the Level 1 user.
Before assigning a CoS, the Level 1 user must satisfy themselves that the worker can meet the relevant immigration requirements for the route in question. You must pay a fee for each CoS you assign. You may also need to pay an immigration skills charge if you’re sponsoring a senior or specialist worker. Once a CoS has been assigned, the worker must use it within 3 months to apply for entry clearance or leave to remain. The worker must also not apply for a visa or extension more than 3 months before the start date recorded on their CoS.
For a CoS to be valid, it must confirm a number of different things, including the GBM route on which you are sponsoring the worker, their personal details, the start and end date of their employment, where they will be working, their job title and relevant occupation code for the role, details of their salary, and more. The job on offer must also be genuine, and you must not assign a CoS to a worker for a role which amounts to either the hire of the worker to a third party who is not the sponsor or contract work to undertake or provide an ongoing routine role or service for a third party who is not the sponsor.
Global Business Mobility visa sponsor licence costs
There are various costs associated with sponsorship, although the nature and extent of these costs will depend on whether you’re sponsoring a worker under the senior or specialist route or any one of the other four GBM routes. These costs can be broken down into the sponsor licence fee, an immigration skills charge, where applicable, and a fee to issue each CoS.
Sponsor licence fees
When sponsoring a senior or specialist worker, and you do not already have an existing valid ICT licence, you will need to factor in the cost of obtaining a sponsor licence. For sponsor licensing fee purposes, the senior or specialist route is classified as a ‘worker’ route, where the licence cost will depend on the size and status of your organisation. The fee is £536 for small or charitable sponsors, and £1,476 for medium or large sponsors.
For all other GBM routes, which for sponsor licensing fee purposes are classed as ‘temporary worker’ routes, the fee will be the standard fee for a temporary worker sponsor licence set at £536, regardless of the size or charitable status of the sponsor.
Immigration skills charge
To sponsor a senior or specialist worker, you must pay an immigration skills charge for each migrant worker that you sponsor. The amount payable is again based on the size and status of your organisation, as well as how long the specialist or senior worker will be in the UK. For small or charitable sponsors, the immigration skills charge 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.
Assigning a sponsorship certificate
The fee for issuing a sponsorship certificate is either £199 for senior or specialist workers, or £21 for workers under any of the other GBM routes. A CoS assigned to a senior or specialist worker will attract the higher fee, regardless of the size, status or duration of employment.
DavidsonMorris are UK business immigration specialists. We support employers with all aspects of corporate immigration to meet their UK talent needs through international recruitment and global mobility.
GBM sponsor guidance FAQs
How much does it cost to sponsor an overseas worker?
Sponsorship costs can vary depending on the nature of the sponsor licence needed, and the size or charitable status of the business. There will also be a cost for issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship and possibly an immigration skills charge.
Do businesses who want to sponsor workers from outside the UK have to have a sponsor licence?
If a migrant worker is required to obtain one of the new Global Business Mobility visas to undertake work in the UK, they will need a UK sponsor with a Home Office approved licence to sponsor that category of worker.
How much does it cost to sponsor a service supplier worker?
The fee for a temporary worker licence to sponsor a service supplier worker will be the standard fee of £536, regardless of the size or charitable status of the sponsor, plus a £21 fee for issuing a Certificate of Sponsorship.
Last updated: 30 March 2022