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UK Expansion Worker Visa and how to achieve Indefinite Leave to Remain

The Expansion Visa is specifically designed for overseas workers of an established non-UK company to establish work in the UK as part of that company’s expansion into the UK.

Written on 10 January 2023

The UK’s Expansion Worker Visa is one of five visa options which forms part of the UK Global Business Mobility visa scheme. The Expansion Visa is specifically designed for overseas workers of an established non-UK company to establish work in the UK as part of that company’s expansion into the UK.

It enables companies to set up a UK operation relatively simply and providing one of the workers is a UK based director, up to four additional expansion workers can join within the same company. However, if the UK company does not have a UK based director, only one expansion worker can join the UK company.

The Expansion Visa provides a very attractive proposition for non-UK companies in a post-Covid world where employees may seek to work from the UK. This is especially prevalent for EU based companies where the right to live and work in the UK was removed following the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Expansion Worker visa also enables the visa holder to include their partner and children on the visa if required.

Who is eligible for an Expansion Worker Visa?

The Expansion Worker visa is a points-based visa and requires each applicant to be awarded a total of 60 points which means that not every employee of a non-UK company will be eligible for the visa. The 60 points is earned through three key areas (sponsorship, skills, and salary), each is worth 20 points. As a guide, to be eligible the following conditions will need to be met by both the employer and the employee:

  • Sponsor: The applicant will be required to have a signed Certificate of Sponsorship, which will be sponsored by the overseas employer/company. The company has to have been in operation for three or more consecutive years before the employee arrives in the UK.
  • Skill: The applicant will have to be a skilled/specialist worker for the company – or occupying a senior position within the company. This means that the applicant must be employed as one of the eligible occupations as determined by the UK Home Office as determined by the UK Government Website.
  • Salary: If the applicant earns between £42,400 and £73,900, they will have to have been employed by the company for a minimum of 12 months before arriving in the UK.
  • Salary: If you earn over £73,900, the requirement to have been employed for over 12 months prior to relocating to the UK is removed.

Other requirements, common for most UK visa applications, include:

  • Provide a valid TB test certificate – or be applying from an excluded country
  • Be able to prove they have funds of £1,270 held in a bank account for a minimum of 28 days prior to the application date.

Unlike other UK visa applications, there is no requirement to prove proficiency of the English language.

Japanese company expansion

If the sponsor/employer looking to expand into the UK, the requirement for the employee to have previously worked for the company for a minimum of 12 months prior to application is waived.

Key benefits of the Expansion Worker Visa

As with many other Visas, the key benefits of the Expansion Visa are that the successful applicant will be able to:

  • Bring a spouse or partner with them, along with any children
  • Undertake volunteer work
  • Study in the UK
  • Freely enter and leave the UK
  • Work for your employer in the UK

The Expansion Visa will not enable:

  • Access to the UK State Pension or other benefits
  • Transfer to another company or job
  • Start working for a different company or job
  • Indefinite leave to remain in the UK beyond the Visa expiration date.

Expansion Visa costs

The Expansion Visa is one of the cheaper UK visa options available and has a £264 application fee as well as an annual healthcare surcharge fee of £624 per person to cover the cost of accessing the NHS.

How long does the Expansion Visa last?

Ther Expansion Visa lasts for a total of 12 months only and does not grant the applicant indefinite leave to remain upon Visa expiry.

The visa can be renewed and extended for additional periods of 12 months once it has expired, assuming that the eligibility criteria are still met.

The visa holder will be able to extend their Visa once meaning that they will not be able to stay in the UK on an Expansion Visa for more than two years in total.

If the applicant is looking to stay in the UK beyond 2 years, other visa options might be available, including any of the other 4 available through the Global Business Mobility schemes.

How the Expansion Visa can lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK

While the Expansion Visa is limited to a maximum of 2 years and does not enable the holder to qualify for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, there is a potential established path to gaining eligibility for settlement in the UK. The typical pathway to achieving settlement is as follows:

  1. Employer/sponsor attains Expansion Worker Sponsor Global Business Mobility License.
  2. Application for Expansion Visa which lasts for a maximum of 2 years.
  3. At least 3 months before the expiration of the Expansion Visa, sponsor needs to add the Skilled Worker Tier to their Global Business Mobility License.
  4. The application for Skilled Worker Visa should begin which would also require the applicant to pass the English language proficiency requirement, previously not required under the Expansion Visa. The Skilled Worker Visa enables the holder to remain inside the UK for up to 5 years.
  5. After a total of 5 or more years in the UK, the visa holder will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

This is by no means the only path to settling in the UK using the Expansion Visa, but it is one of the more straightforward approaches.

How our trusted partner can help the application process

It is possible for a company and employee to successfully apply for an Expansion Visa and go on to achieve settled status in the UK, due to the complexity of ensuring all requirements of the sponsor (employer) and applicant are met, it is recommended to seek specialist help.

We work with trusted UK Visa specialist lawyers who follow a four-stage process using the UK Expansion Worker visa to help individuals achieve settled status in the UK.

The first step is to establish whether the sponsor/employer is potentially eligible. This will incorporate an initial free consultation to discuss the situation in full. If a suitable Visa application can be established, a fully costed proposal will be created which will also outline the process and responsibilities in full. This process can begin as soon as we have confirmed your free introduction.

The second step will establish a UK business and apply for a license to enable the application for an Expansion Worker Visa. Once successful, the applicant will be required to set up their life in the UK and begin working for the UK branch of the company. This stage can take around 12 weeks in total, including preparation and processing time.

The third step will see our partner upgrade the company license to allow for more employees to enter the UK and sponsor/apply for Skilled Worker Visas. They will then make the necessary application once the applicants have completed their English Language test, if required. This process can begin as soon as three months after arrival and must be completed within two years.

Finally, when the time comes, our partner will apply on your behalf to make your residency permanent – also known as applying for your indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Our partner will explain your requirements and maximise your chances of achieving settled status and then make an application for a passport once eligible. Assuming all else is completed, this will occur after five years.