UK Expansion Worker Visa Requirements


The UK Expansion Visa allows overseas companies to deploy key personnel to the UK to set up operations and expand their business. The route is aimed at overseas companies without a trading presence in the UK that require senior personnel to establish their business in the UK.

Eligibility under the expansion worker route requires both the worker and the overseas entity to meet certain criteria. This must be evidenced to the Home Office through a formal application under the Global Business Mobility route.

Overseas businesses that are already trading in the UK would hire workers under the Senior or Specialist Worker visa.


UK Expansion Worker Visa sponsor requirements 

Overseas companies will have to apply for a sponsor licence to hire under the UK Expansion Worker route. The following eligibility requirements have to be met to qualify as a licensed sponsor.


UK footprint requirement

To be eligible to sponsor under the UK Expansion Worker visa, the overseas employer cannot already be trading in the UK, but they have to show they already have a ‘UK footprint’. Evidence of a UK footprint could include evidence of business premises in the UK through a lease or purchase agreement or evidence that the entity has been registered in the UK as either an overseas company branch, or a new company that is a subsidiary of an overseas linked business, through Companies House.



The Home Office will also consider the credibility of the overseas trading business, requiring evidence that it has been trading for the three years previously to the submission of the sponsor licence application through documents such as Corporate business bank statements for the full period of 3 years, audited accounts.


Expansion plan

The UK Expansion Worker visa can only be used to move into the UK market by expanding an existing overseas business. It cannot be used to set up a new business venture in a new line of work. The UK based business must be owned in full by the overseas business or at least part of the same legal entity such as a branch.

The Home Office will require sight of the business’ expansion plan as proof that the visa applicant personnel is needed in the UK to implement the expansion plan and that the business is capable of successfully expanding into the UK.


Apply for a sponsor licence

The UK business ‘receiving’ the visa worker must secure a UK Expansion Worker visa sponsor licence from the Home Office. The application must evidence that the entity has an existing presence in the UK, has qualifying links to an overseas business from which it will receive workers and have suitable key personnel to manage the sponsor licence and meet the compliance duties.

If the Authorising Officer is a UK settled person, the sponsor can apply for A rated licence and up to five Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to allocate to UK Expansion Workers.

If the entity does not have a suitable ‘settled’ person in the UK who can take on the role of Authorising Officer, under the UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence, the entity can nominate a Proposed Authorising Officer from outside the UK. This would result in the UK sponsor being attributed a ‘provisional rating’ with only one initial Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). This CoS would be allocated to the Proposed Authorising Officer as the entity’s first sponsored worker.

Once the Proposed Authorising Officer is in the UK, the sponsor can re-rate to an ‘A-rating’ and make a request for up to four additional CoS.



As a business though you must provide the evidence showing which exemption is applicable, of the following:

  • The business is listed on the London Stock Exchange- either the Main Market or the AIM market
  • The business is listed on an international Stock Exchange, that the FCA recognizes as the equivalent level of regulation to the UK markets
  • The business is supported by the Department of International Trade, the Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, or another UK government department and they confirm the viability of expansion.


Japanese businesses

A Japanese business which is looking to expand into the UK as a subsidiary or a UK branch under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement wouldn’t have to show the documents relating to trading for a historical 3 years. But they must be able to show that they are genuinely trading overseas, and capable of entering into the UK market with a UK based business. If the business has been trading less than 3 years, then the only negative point o note would be that you can only sponsor one worker at a time. Unlike an overseas business that has been trading for over three years can sponsor up to five candidates to enter and work on building the business in the UK.


Austrialian businesses 

Australian nationals and permanent residents coming to the UK to open a branch or subsidiary of their Australian employer will not need to demonstrate that they have worked for their overseas employer for 12 months prior to coming to the UK.


How many workers can be sponsored?

Businesses can sponsor up to five people under the Expansion Worker visa, but these must each meet the requirements and be genuinely needed to establish the UK presence.


If the application is successful

If the application for a sponsor licence is approved, the sponsor licence will be valid for four years. This is the same as all other types of sponsor licence.

Businesses can opt to make their UK Expansion Worker licence dormant, or they can leave it to expire.

At the conclusion of the four year validity period, the business will not be allowed to renew the licence for this route, but instead, an application should be made by the UK entity for the relevant type of sponsor licence such as the Skilled Worker licence.

Any sponsored workers that match the qualifications can apply to switch to these routes.

The overseas entity has 2 years to establish the business within the UK, after which time it is possible to add other routes to your (Expansion worker) licence.


UK Expansion Worker Visa Applicant Requirements 

UK Expansion Worker visa applicants have to:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be currently employed by an organisation that shares common ownership or control with their UK sponsor, or by a joint venture on which you are sponsored to work.
  • Have worked for the overseas linked organisation for at least 12 months outside the UK, unless they are a high earner earning £73,900 per year, or are a Japanese national seeking to establish a UK branch or subsidiary of the linked business or organisation under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, or are an Australian national or permanent resident with an Australian employer.
  • Have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from their sponsor for the work they intend to perform.
  • Have a genuine role that will expand the overseas entity into the UK.
  • Have a role requiring at least RQF Level 6 (graduate equivalent) skills.
  • Be paid £45,800 or more, and meet the ‘going rate’ for the position.
  • Have sufficient income to support themselves without relying on government assistance.
  • Have a valid tuberculosis certificate, if necessary.


Note that UK Expansion Worker Visa applicants do not need to satisfy an English language requirement.


Salary requirements

Employers who want to deploy personnel through the UK Expansion Worker route must pay them a wage that meets or exceeds both the minimum salary threshold and the “going rate” for the occupation, as stated in the relevant Home Office occupation code.

Expansion worker visa applicants must be paid the minimum salary threshold of at least £45,800 per year, or 100% of the pro-rata going rate for the occupation, whichever is higher.

Salary is calculated using guaranteed basic gross pay (up to 48 hours per week) plus allowances that are guaranteed to be paid for the duration of work in the UK. Allowances could include payment to cover relocation costs.

Applicants with a salary of under £73,900 – based on a maximum working week of 48 hours – and you are not a Japanese national relying on the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, you must be currently employed by a business or organisation that is connected to your UK sponsor by common ownership.

The 12 months of work outside the UK can be accumulated over a historic period if you worked continuously for the linked business or organisation, in the UK or abroad, for at least 12 months prior to the date of application. Permissible breaks during this period are only allowable in relation to statutory maternity, paternity, parental or shared parental leave, statutory adoption leave, sick leave, or assisting with a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis with the agreement.

If the applicant earns £73,900 per year or more, they must be currently employed by an organisation that is linked to the UK sponsor by common ownership or control, or by a joint venture through which they are sponsored to work. Alternatively, Japanese nationals may be able to rely on the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement to be exempt from the minimum employment service requirement.


Genuine job

Applicants must evidence that the role they are being sponsored for constitutes legitimate employment. If the Home Office establishes reasonable grounds that the role is either not genuine, or has been fabricated for the purposes of securing a visa, or does not exist, the application will be refused.

In addition to providing details about the sponsored role, the visa applicant also has to declare if they have agreed to carry out any additional work outside of the sponsored role, such temporary or permanent positions with a third party that is not the sponsor, or contract work to perform ongoing services to a third party that is not their visa sponsor.


Skill level

The work in question must require a minimum skill level to qualify for a UK Expansion Worker Visa. This level is at least RQF Level 6 skilled (graduate equivalent).
While this level does need not necessarily require a degree, the position must be equivalent to a graduate level position.

The Home Office has published a list of eligible roles, including details such as the occupation code, job category, and related job titles to help with sponsorship research and visa applications. Roles featured on this list would generally meet the required skill level.

Employers must ensure they select the correct occupation or they risk the visa application being denied.


Financial requirement

Applicants must have cash funds of at least £1,270 accessible, subject to certain exceptions.

The money must have been held by the applicant for at least 28 consecutive days, and this period cannot have ended more than 31 days before the application was submitted.

Applicants that are applying to remain in the UK and have been in the country lawfully for 12 months or more at the date of application are exempt from the financial requirement.


Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris’ business immigration specialists can support with your organisation’s plans to expand into the UK. We provide guidance on the Home Office requirements to deploy personnel under the Expansion Worker visa, and other GBM routes, including advice on the sponsorship obligations for employers and the visa application process for your employees. Contact us for advice.


UK Expansion Worker Visa FAQs

What is the UK Expansion Worker Visa?

The UK Expansion Worker visa is for overseas companies to set up trading presence in the UK by deploying senior personnel to undertake the expansion work in the UK.

What are the UK Expansion Worker visa requirements?

To be eligible for the UK Expansion Worker visa, you have to show there is a genuine need for the job, that you have the appropriate skills, qualifications, and experience to do the job, that you meet the minimum salary requirement, and that you are sponsored by a qualifying employer with an appropriate UK sponsorship licence.


Last updated: 10 March 2023


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.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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