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Global Business Mobility visa – A guide for business owners

The Home Office has introduced the Global Business Mobility visa with five individual visa subcategories. Some are new and others are more of a renaming exercise. Our business immigration solicitors have created this practical guide for employers looking to bring workers into their business using the Global Business Mobility visa. 

Jump to:

  1. What is the Global Business Mobility visa?
  2. What are the different Global Business Mobility visa routes?
  3. What are the eligibility criteria for the senior or specialist worker route?
  4. What are the eligibility criteria for the graduate trainee route?
  5. What are the eligibility criteria for the UK expansion worker route?
  6. What are the eligibility criteria for the service supplier route?
  7. What are the eligibility criteria for the secondment worker route?
  8. Sponsoring a global business mobility visa applicant
  9. How our business immigration team can help

What is the Global Business Mobility visa?

The Global Business Mobility visa is an umbrella visa for five UK entry clearance routes enabling overseas companies to transfer staff to the UK or to establish a UK branch, or for specific business purposes.

The introduction of the new visa has been a source of confusion for many UK business owners and HR directors as it is a bit of a mish mash of new and old, with new names and tweaks, as well as one new work visa.

The key Global Business Mobility visa points that business owners need to be aware of are:

  • Employees on existing visas, such as workers on the intra company transfer visa, have valid leave to remain but they won't be able to extend their visa. Business immigration solicitors can advise on switch options, depending on the visa holder’s circumstances
  • All the routes under the Global Business Mobility visa require sponsorship with businesses needing a Home Office sponsor licence for sponsorship in the relevant visa route. This includes the UK Expansion Worker route, replacing the unsponsored sole representative visa
  • None of the Global Business Mobility visa routes lead to settlement in the UK. Immigration lawyers can advise on how to secure indefinite leave to remain for entrepreneurs setting up business in the UK or senior employees
  • Applicants for Global Business Mobility visas can be accompanied by family members provided the family member meets the dependant visa eligibility criteria

What are the different Global Business Mobility visa routes?

The five routes under the Global Business Mobility visa include:

  1. Senior or Specialist Worker route – replacing the intra company transfer visa
  2. Graduate Trainee route – replacing the intra-company graduate trainee route
  3. UK Expansion Worker route – replacing the sole representative visa
  4. Service Supplier route - replacing the contractual service supplier and independent professional provisions under the temporary work international agreement route
  5. Secondment Worker route – a new immigration route

There are individual eligibility criteria for each of the five Global Business Mobility visa routes but all visa applicants must meet the financial requirement and, depending on where they are from, provide a TB certificate

What are the eligibility criteria for the Senior or Specialist worker visa route?

The Senior or Specialist worker route is for overseas based employees who are being temporarily transferred to a UK branch of a company linked to their overseas employer company. The job roles that can be undertaken are far wider in scope than allowed business activities under a UK business visitor visa.

The eligibility criteria for the senior or specialist worker route are that the applicant:

  • Must have been working for the overseas linked company for a cumulative period of at least 12 months before submitting their application. The 12 months employment rule doesn’t apply if an employee is classed as a high earner being paid a gross salary of at least £73,900 per year whilst employed in the UK
  • Needs to be sponsored in an eligible job meeting the minimum skill level and salary threshold. The salary threshold is a salary of at least £42,400 gross per year or the ‘going rate’ for the particular job, whichever is higher
  • Needs a certificate of sponsorship from the UK branch of the overseas parent company. To allocate a certificate of sponsorship the employer needs a sponsor licence from the Home Office. We can help you prepare and file sponsorship licence applications on your behalf, contact our Business Immigration team for more details

The Senior or Specialist worker visa can last for either:

  • Five years after the start date of the job
  • 14 days after the end date of the job specified in the certificate of sponsorship
  • Whichever is the shortest period of when the applicant will have spent the maximum cumulative time on the intra company transfer and the senior or specialist worker visa, namely five years in a six year period (nine years in any ten year period if the applicant is applying as a high earner)

What are the eligibility criteria for the Graduate Trainee visa route?

The Graduate Trainee visa route caters for overseas workers on graduate training courses leading to a senior management position or specialist employment and the trainee requires a UK work placement as part of their training programme.

The eligibility criteria for the Graduate Trainee visa include that the applicant:

  • Must have been working outside the UK for the overseas linked company for a cumulative period of at least three months before submitting their visa application
  • Has an eligible sponsored job that meets the minimum skill level and salary threshold. The salary threshold is set at £23,100 gross per year or the ‘going rate’ for that job, whichever is higher
  • The job will progress toward a managerial or specialist role with the employer as part of a structured graduate training programme

The Graduate Trainee route lasts for whichever is the shortest of:

  • One year after the start date of the job detailed in the certificate of sponsorship
  • 14 days after the end date of the job
  • The date when the applicant will have had cumulative permission on the intra company transfer and the Global Business Mobility visa routes totalling five years in any six year period

What are the eligibility criteria for the UK Expansion Worker visa route?

The UK Expansion Worker visa route replaces the Representative of an Overseas Business route or sole representative visa but with significant changes.

The new route allows senior managers or specialist employees to get UK entry clearance to set up the UK branch office or UK subsidiary of an overseas parent company. The visa is only available where the new UK element of the overseas business is not already trading. If it is trading, the company may be able to transfer employees using the senior or specialist worker route or recruit new overseas hires on the skilled worker visa, provided the UK business has the appropriate sponsor licence.

The eligibility criteria for the UK Expansion Worker visa route include that the applicant:

  • Must have been working for the sponsor group outside the UK for at least 12 months. An applicant is exempt from the 12 months rule if they are classed as a high earner or they are a Japanese national who is establishing a UK branch or subsidiary under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement
  • Has a sponsored job from an employer with a sponsor licence and the job meets the skill level and minimum salary threshold. The threshold is a gross salary of at least £42,400 per year or the ‘going rate’ for the job, whichever is the higher figure

The UK Expansion Worker route provides leave to remain for:

  • One year after the start date of the job specified in the certificate of sponsorship
  • 14 days after the end date of the job in the certificate of sponsorship; or
  • The date when the applicant will have had continuous permission on the expansion worker visa for two years or when the applicant will have had cumulative permissions on the Global Business Mobility visa routes totalling five years in any six year period, whichever is the shortest

What are the eligibility criteria for the Service Supplier visa route?

Contractual service suppliers employed by overseas service providers, or self-employed independent professionals based overseas, who want to carry out temporary assignments in the UK providing services covered by a UK international trade agreement, can apply under the Service Supplier route.

An applicant for the Service Supplier visa route must:

  • Be currently working as or for an overseas service provider that provides services to their UK sponsor and the applicant must have worked in that capacity outside the UK for a cumulative period of 12 months
  • Have an eligible job at the minimum skill level or a university degree or equivalent level technical qualification and experience
  • Have a certificate of sponsorship issued by an employer with the appropriate sponsor licence and who has a Home Office registered contract with an overseas service provider on which the applicant will work whilst in the UK
  • Meet the nationality requirement

Leave to remain on the service supplier route lasts for:

  • 14 days after the end date of the job specified in the certificate of sponsorship or
  • The date when the applicant will have had cumulative permission on the intra company transfer and Global Business Mobility routes totalling five years in any six year period or
  • The maximum single assignment period of either six or 12 months

What are the eligibility criteria for the Secondment Worker route?

Overseas workers undertaking temporary assignments in the UK through secondment to the UK as part of a high value contract or investment by their overseas employer can apply for a visa under the Secondment Worker visa route.

An applicant for the Secondment Worker visa route must:

  • Be working for an overseas business with a Home Office registered contract with their UK sponsor. The applicant must have worked for the business outside the UK for a cumulative period of at least 12 months
  • Be sponsored for an eligible job at the required minimum skill level
  • Have a certificate of sponsorship issued by an employer with Home Office authority to sponsor a secondment worker and who has a Home Office registered contract with an overseas business and the applicant will work on that contract

Leave to remain on the service supplier route lasts for:

  • One year after the start date of the job
  • 14 days after the end date of the job specified in the certificate of sponsorship
  • The date when the applicant will have had continuous permission as a secondment worker for two years or the date they’ll have had cumulative permission on the intra company transfer and Global Business Mobility visas for a total of five years in any six year period, whichever is the shortest period

Sponsoring a Global Business Mobility visa applicant

Any worker wanting to secure a Global Business Mobility visa needs a sponsor. That means more UK businesses are applying for their first Home Office sponsor licence or ensuring their existing sponsor licence covers the new Global Business Mobility visa category.

The eligibility criteria for a Global Business Mobility visa sponsor licence depend on the route specific requirements, but include requirements for the business:

  • To be a genuine organisation operating lawfully in the UK. However, the business can't have an existing active trading presence in the UK if the business is applying for a sponsor licence to sponsor UK expansion workers
  • To have the correct policies and procedures in place to meet its sponsor licence duties and the nominated key personnel who will carry out the sponsor licence reporting and recording are suitable
  • To be offering genuine employment in the UK that meets the relevant skill and minimum salary threshold for the Global Business Mobility visa route
  • To have a qualifying overseas business link. The nature of the link depends on the Global Business Mobility visa route. For example, different rules apply to the Senior or Specialist Worker visa and the Secondment Worker licence. If applying for a sponsor licence to sponsor UK Expansion Workers, there are additional requirements, such as showing that the overseas parent company has a credible plan to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK within two years, and has an established overseas trading presence, which has been active and trading for at least three years

How our Business Immigration team can help

The sponsor licence application process can be complex. Our business immigration team can help with:

  • Pre-sponsor licence advice on sponsor licence options and preparatory audits
  • Sponsor licence applications and renewals
  • Allocation of certificates of sponsorship
  • Sponsor licence compliance with reporting and recording duties
  • Sponsor licence management services
  • Worker Global Business Mobility visa applications

If you would like to apply for a Global Business Mobility visa or need help with a sponsor licence application contact us today using the form below. Our business immigration solicitor will support you throughout the application process, helping you avoid common pitfalls, giving you the best chance of success.


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