Visa scheme to target in-demand skills for scale-ups

Constraints on specialist skill sets can present a serious drag on growth for life science organisations. UK businesses compete internationally for talented people and need an immigration system that supports them effectively.

Adding to the range of visa routes available to those in fast/high-growth fields, the UK Home Office has recently published details of a new Scale-up visa. This system will allow a qualifying business to employ highly-skilled individuals from anywhere in the world, provided they are prepared to pay a minimum of £33,000 or the UKVI approved ‘going-rate’ for the role, and the individual meets the skills and English language criteria. People moving into the country under this programme will be able to work in the UK for two years (with the option to extend) without requiring further sponsorship or permission beyond the first six months. After this initial period, the immigration status of a Scale-up visa holder is not tied to their sponsoring employer, meaning that a Scale-up worker can undertake additional or alternative work without requiring a sponsor. While this aspect may not be attractive to the Scale-up sponsor, the flexibility is likely to appeal to a highly skilled individual considering whether or not to work in the UK.

To benefit from the scheme a business when applying to join the UKVI’s Sponsors Register, or add the scheme to their existing Sponsor licence, will need to show that they have achieved growth of 20% or more in either employment or turnover year-on-year for at least 3 years and employed a minimum of 10 people at the start of the 3 years. Scale-up sponsors are not required to pay the Immigration Skills Charge, but Scale-up visa fees and the IHS fee are payable by migrants.

This new programme is an interesting addition to the current range of visa schemes for businesses on a trajectory of growth, and for individuals looking to relocate to work in the UK, but the Skilled Worker route may well remain the route of choice.

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