UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence

uk expansion worker sponsor licence

IN THIS SECTION

If you are looking to expand your business by establishing a branch or subsidiary in the UK, you may need an Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence that will allow you to sponsor a company representative for a UK Expansion Worker visa. The UK expansion worker route allows overseas companies to deploy senior managers or specialist employees to the UK to open a new office.

In this guide, we explain what an expansion worker sponsor licence is, together with the requirements to apply and the process, costs and timescales involved in making an application.

 

What is an expansion worker sponsor licence?

There are five different immigration routes under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) umbrella of the UK’s Immigration Rules, aimed at overseas businesses looking to establish a business presence in the UK or to transfer staff to work in the UK on a temporary basis.

The UK expansion worker route under the GBM umbrella is aimed at owners of overseas businesses looking to set up a new UK branch or subsidiary, where this licence will enable the business to assign a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to a senior manager or specialist employee so that they can apply for a visa to oversee the expansion works. Additional workers can also be sponsored to help get the UK business up and running.

 

When is an expansion worker sponsor licence needed?

If you are looking to expand your overseas operations by establishing a UK branch or subsidiary, you will need an expansion worker sponsor licence. In this way, provided your existing business is eligible, you will be able to sponsor a senior manager or specialist worker for a temporary period of time to undertake work related to this. Once they have been granted a visa, it will then be possible to sponsor up to four additional workers.

To be eligible to apply for the expansion worker sponsor licence, you must be either a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an existing overseas business, where this GBM route can only be used when a business has not yet begun trading in the UK. As the purpose of this route is solely to facilitate the business’s expansion to the UK, if your business already has a UK trading presence, you should apply to sponsor workers on a different route, such as the Senior or Specialist Worker (GBM) route or the Skilled Worker route.

 

UK expansion worker sponsor licence requirements

When applying for an expansion worker sponsor licence, there are both general and route-specific requirements that must be met. We look at each in turn.

 

General expansion worker sponsor licence requirements

As with any licence under one of the five GBM routes, you must be able to show that:

  • you are a genuine organisation
  • you are honest, dependable and reliable
  • you are capable of discharging your sponsorship duties.

 
When considering whether you are honest, dependable and reliable, the UK Home Office will not only have regard to the key personnel named in your expansion worker sponsor licence application, but to any individual involved in the day-to-day running of the business. The Home Office will also have regard to the human resources and recruitment practices of your existing business to assess your ability to meet your sponsorship duties.

 

Route-specific expansion worker sponsor licence requirements

In addition to the general requirements, you must also be able to show that:

  • you have a UK ‘footprint’: such as having UK business premises, or having registered your UK business with Companies House as either a branch of an overseas company or a new company that is a subsidiary of the overseas linked business. For all other GBM routes, you must be operating lawfully in the UK, while the expansion worker route will only require you to show that steps have been taken to establish a UK trading presence.
  • overseas trading presence: where your business must be either a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business which has been both active and trading for a minimum of three years, although there are some limited exceptions to this.
  • you have credible expansion plans: where you intend and are capable of establishing a new UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of your overseas business within two years.

 
You must also be able to show that you can offer genuine employment in the UK that meets the relevant skill level requirement for this route and that you will pay any UK expansion worker appropriately. The relevant skill requirement for the UK expansion worker route is Level 6 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (graduate level), where qualifying expansion workers must usually meet a general salary ‘and’ going-rate requirement. This means that a worker must either be paid at least the general annual salary threshold of £45,800 or the specified going rate for the occupation in question, whichever is higher.

 

How to apply for an expansion worker sponsor licence

To apply for an expansion worker sponsor licence you must complete an online application form. As part of the application process, you must also appoint key personnel to certain roles. This means that, in common with other sponsored work routes, you must nominate an Authorising Officer (AO), a Key Contact (KC) and a Level 1 User when you apply.

The Level 1 User will be granted access to the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) on approval of the licence application. This is the Home Office online portal used by sponsors to manage the sponsorship process, including assigning CoS. The AO will be responsible for the actions of anyone who uses the SMS, while the KC will liaise with the Home Office.

Your AO can either be someone already based in the UK who will be tasked with overseeing your UK expansion works or, if there is no suitable UK-based individual who can fill this role, a senior employee of your overseas business who will be assigned to the UK to oversee the work. In either case, this individual must be the most senior person in your business responsible for the recruitment of migrant workers and ensuring that you meet all of your sponsorship duties, or is otherwise responsible for your activity as a licensed sponsor.

If your appointed AO is someone based in the UK, they must appoint a UK-based Level 1 User and KC. The Level 1 User must usually be a settled worker, unless an exception applies, although the AO can choose to appoint themselves as the Level 1 User and/or KC if they meet the relevant requirements. If the AO named in your application is an employee of the overseas business, they must be appointed as the Level 1 User and may be your KC.

 

UK expansion worker sponsor licence supporting documents

You must provide a number of documents in support of your sponsor licence application within 5 working days of submitting your online form, including documentation to show that your overseas business has a UK footprint and credible plans to establish a presence in the UK. This could include evidence of a lease agreement or documents showing that you have purchased premises in the UK, as well as any Companies House reference number or numbers. The Home Office will also be looking for evidence of your business planning and finances, taking into account the size of your business, its previous activity and potential.

The planned expansion must be in the same type of business as that conducted overseas, and cannot be a new business venture. The business you are establishing in the UK must also be either wholly owned by, or part of the same legal entity as, the overseas business, with audited accounts and corporate bank statements as evidence of your overseas trading.

 

How much does it cost to apply for an expansion worker sponsor licence?

The expansion worker route is classified as a ‘Temporary Worker’ route under the UK’s Immigration Rules for sponsor licensing fee purposes. This means that when applying for a licence on this route, you will pay the standard fee for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence, regardless of the size or charitable status of your business. This fee is currently set at £536.

When assigning an CoS to a senior manager or specialist employee for them to apply for a visa, this will also be the standard Temporary Worker CoS fee of just £25. Equally, if additional CoS are assigned at a later date, the fee for each certificate will again be £25.

 

How long does it take to apply for an expansion worker sponsor licence?

Once you have submitted your online application, together with your supporting documentation within 5 working days, a decision should be made within 8 weeks. For some sponsor licence applications it may be possible to pay for a faster decision, but the pre-licence priority service is not currently available for expansion worker applications.

 

How long is an expansion worker sponsor licence valid for?

If your application for an expansion worker sponsor licence is successful, your licence will be valid for four years, in common with other sponsored work routes. However, you will not be able to apply to renew your licence for this route at the end of this period.

The purpose of the expansion worker route is to enable genuine overseas businesses to expand to the UK, where the Home Office expects you to have established a full trading presence in the UK within two years from the date your licence was granted. At the end of this two-year period, your CoS allocation will be reduced to zero on this route. This means that you will be unable to sponsor any applications from new workers or extension applications from your existing sponsored workers. However, having established a UK trading presence, you can apply to add alternative work routes to your licence, where your sponsored workers can switch to these routes if they meet the relevant requirements.

Importantly, the Home Office may undertake a compliance visit to ensure that you are meeting the conditions of your expansion worker sponsor licence and if there is a realistic prospect that you will be able to establish a UK trading presence. If they are not satisfied that you are continuing to meet the relevant requirements, your licence may be revoked.

 

After the expansion worker sponsor licence is granted

If an application for an expansion worker sponsor licence is approved, an CoS can be assigned to the individual who will be tasked with overseeing the work related to the business’s expansion to the UK. This will then allow them to apply for their visa. However, given that this person may also be the nominated AO and Level 1 User, they may need to assign themselves a sponsorship certificate before submitting their visa application.

If the person named in your licence application as your AO is already in the UK, and you are granted an expansion worker sponsor licence, you will be given an A-rating and your full CoS allocation. However, you will only be permitted to sponsor as many people as you genuinely need to establish your business in the UK, up to a maximum of five. You can replace workers within this allocation if a sponsored worker leaves your business or returns overseas, but you cannot sponsor more than five workers on this route at any one time.

If the person named in your licence application as your AO is outside the UK, you will be given an initial CoS allocation of one, with a provisional licence rating. The AO, who must also be the Level 1 User, must assign that CoS to themselves to be able to make a successful application for entry clearance to the UK. They will then need to take certain actions to update your licence details and up-rate your licence rating having been granted permission to come to the UK. The AO can also ask to increase your CoS allocation via your SMS account, up to a maximum of four, and appoint different people to the key personnel roles once they are legally resident in the UK and have obtained an A-rating for your licence.

 

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are UK business immigration specialists. We provide expert guidance to overseas companies establishing operations in the UK, including immigration advice on visa and sponsor licence requirements, as well as support with related employment law matters. Contact us to discuss your plans to set up in the UK.

 

UK Expansion Worker Sponsor Licence FAQs

How much is the UK expansion worker sponsor licence fee?

The expansion worker route is a ‘Temporary Worker’ route for sponsor licensing fee purposes, where organisations applying for a licence on this route will pay the Temporary Worker sponsor license fee of £536, regardless of their size or charitable status.

What is an expansion worker visa?

The UK expansion worker visa is for senior managers or specialist employees being assigned to the UK to set up a UK branch or subsidiary of an overseas business, provided that business does not already have an active trading presence.

How can I get sponsorship license in UK?

To apply for a sponsor license in the UK, you will need to apply online to the UK Home Office, providing documentary evidence to show that you meet the general and route-specific requirements to be approved to sponsor overseas workers.

Can I sponsor a foreign worker in the UK?

It is possible to sponsor foreign workers to undertake work for your business in the UK, provided you meet the relevant requirements for the immigration route in question including, for example, any minimum skill and salary requirements.

 
Last updated: 16 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.

Contact DavidsonMorris
Get in touch with DavidsonMorris for general enquiries, feedback and requests for information.
Sign up to our award winning newsletters!
We're trusted