11 April 2022 saw the introduction of the new Global Business Mobility routes (GBM) into the UK's immigration system. GBM is a new set of sponsored routes to assist overseas businesses with establishing a presence in, or transferring workers to, the UK.
The GBM routes replace previous business mobility provisions such as the Intra-Company Transfer route, representative of an overseas business and aspects of the Temporary Work – International Agreement route. It sees the introduction of five new immigration routes, summarised below.
Senior or Specialist Worker
This route replaces the Intra-Company Transfer Long-term Staff provision, which multinationals relied on to transfer existing workers to the UK for a temporary period of time. It is defined as follows:
The Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker route is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is a senior manager or specialist employee and is being assigned to a UK business linked to their employer overseas. This type of assignment is often called an intra-company transfer or ICT.
The inclusion of this category under the GBM has resulted in a few changes which employers should be aware of. The general salary threshold has increased to £42,400 gross per annum (or the going rate under the role, if higher). Another change is that those granted permission to enter or remain from 11 April 2022 will no longer be able to undertake supplementary employment.
The requirement that workers must have been with the same sponsor group overseas for 12 months (unless they are a high earner earning at least £73,900 gross per annum) continues to apply, as do the limitations in relation to how long workers can stay in the UK (Senior or Specialist Workers can spend up to 5 years in any 6-year period in the UK, unless they are a high earner, in which case they can spend up to 9 years in any 10-year period in the UK). Note that this cap on UK residence includes time spent in the UK holding permission to enter or remain under the previous Intra-Company Transfer category.
This replaces the Graduate Trainee provision of the former Intra-Company Transfer category of the Immigration Rules. It is defined as follows:
The Global Business Mobility – Graduate Trainee route is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is on a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position and is required to do a work placement in the UK. This type of assignment is often called an intra-company transfer- graduate trainee or ICT.
The inclusion of this category under the GBM sees a slight increase to the general salary threshold to £23,100 gross per annum (or 70% of the going rate, if higher), and like Senior or Specialist Workers, Graduate Trainees are no longer permitted to undertake supplementary work. For organisations who use the Graduate Trainee category frequently, you'll be pleased to know that UKVI have removed the limit of only being able to assign 20 Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) each year; there is no longer a limit on the number of CoS that can be assigned to those being transferred to the UK as Graduate Trainees. Apart from a little rebrand, there are no other significant changes to this aspect of the UK's business mobility routes.
UK Expansion Worker
A shiny new category? Well, kind of. This route replaces the Representative of an Overseas Business route. The new Appendix Global Business Mobility Routes provides the following definition:
The Global Business Mobility – UK Expansion Worker route is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is a senior manager or specialist employee and is being assigned to the UK to undertake work related to a business's expansion to the UK.
Unlike its predecessor, workers seeking permission to enter as UK Expansion Workers will need a Certificate of Sponsorship, so will need a licensed sponsor. The sponsor will need to be a branch or wholly owned subsidiary of an established overseas business, and to succeed with a UK Expansion Worker application, the business must not be trading in the UK.
A company holding a UK Expansion Worker sponsor licence will be able to sponsor up to 5 UK Expansion Workers at any one time, and each worker will need to be paid at least £42,400 (or the going rate under Appendix Skilled Occupations). Similar to the Senior or Specialist Worker route, UK Expansion Workers must have worked for the sponsor group for at least 12 months, unless they are high earners or are Japanese nationals relying on the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
UK Expansion Workers will be granted permission to enter for up to one year initially, and can extend their permission to remain for one further year, but two years is the maximum period of time a UK Expansion Worker can stay in the UK. This is because UKVI expects businesses to have established a trading presence in the UK within two years. After a maximum period of two years in the UK, those sponsored as UK Expansion Workers will be expected to leave the UK or could consider a switch into the Senior or Specialist Worker category of the GBM, or the Skilled Worker category of the Immigration Rules (a route that leads to settlement), although the organisation will need to add the relevant tier(s) to their sponsor licence first.
UKVI has already updated their sponsor guidance to confirm what documents organisations hoping to sponsor a UK Expansion Worker must provide to support a sponsor licence application. As the organisation won't have a trading presence in the UK, evidence would need to include proof of a UK footprint; evidence of overseas trading presence; evidence of planned UK expansion; and one other document from those specified in guidance.
The Service Supplier is a rebrand for those previously sponsored as Contractual Service Suppliers or Self-employed Independent Professionals under the Temporary Work – International Agreement category. It is defined as follows:
The Global Business Mobility – Service Supplier route is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is either a contractual service supplier employed by an overseas service provider or a self-employed independent professional based overseas, and they need to undertake an assignment in the UK to provide services covered by one of the UK's international trade agreements.
We have previously written an article about the International Agreement category which can be accessed here. There are two noticeable changes; firstly, there are two ways of scoring points:
- Option A: unlike its predecessor, a Service Supplier can be sponsored if they're undertaking a job listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations that is identified as eligible for the GBM routes.
- Option B: this was the only way of scoring sufficient points under the Temporary Worker – International Agreement category; the worker must hold a relevant qualification, and must have at least 3 years' experience (note some contracts require 6 years' experience).
Regardless of which option is relied upon, as was the case under the International Agreement category, the worker must have worked for the organisation overseas for 12 months, the UK organisation must sponsor the worker, and the UK and overseas organisations must have a genuine contract which must be covered by a UK international trade agreement and which must have been approved by the Home Office.
The second significant change is that the inclusion of this category under the GBM has resulted in a new requirement about the maximum period of time a Service Supplier can spend in the UK; whilst workers can only ever be sponsored for upto 6 or 12 months (depending on the trade agreement relied upon), the GBM Rules confirm that Service Suppliers can only spend 5 years in any 6 year period in the UK holding permission under the GBM or ICT routes.
Home Office guidance also recognises that sub-contracting is permitted, which could be useful for organisations. Guidance further confirms that, under this GBM route, contracts must be registered with the Home Office. They did in fact have to be registered under the former route too.
I must admit, this is the one category I was intrigued about – having read the Statement of Changes and commentary on proposed Rule changes, I had no idea why this category was being introduced. Now, I understand a little bit more, but I'm not confident it'll be used frequently and I feel that the UK government really should have considered the needs of UK employers before creating a route that, in my opinion, will be used very little (happy to be proven wrong!).
A Secondment Worker is defined as follows:
The Global Business Mobility – Secondment Worker route is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is being seconded to the UK as part of a high value contract or investment by their employer overseas.
Secondment Workers will need to be sponsored by an organisation in the UK, and Immigration Rules confirm that the UK sponsor must have a contract with an overseas business which must have been registered with UKVI and under which the Secondment Worker will work. The worker must also be undertaking a job listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations which is identified as eligible for GBM sponsorship. A Secondment Worker must have been working for the overseas business for 12 months, and must comply with a financial requirement to prove they won't be a burden in the UK. Permission to enter will be granted for 12 months, and 24 months is the maximum period of time a Secondment Worker can spend in the UK continuously.
I assumed this provision was a new Service Supplier (previously International Agreement) category without the need to have a contract that falls under a trade agreement and with a requirement that the role must fall within a recognised Skilled Occupation. Well, I was wrong!
GBM guidance confirms:
For the Secondment Worker route, there must exist an investment or contract for goods or services between you and an overseas business worth at least £10 million per year and no less than £50 million overall. This means that if the duration of the contract is less than 5 years, it must be valued at least £50 million. If the contract is 5 years or more, it must be worth at least £10 million per year. If the contract has no specified end date, it must be worth at least £50 million over the first five years.
The above is also confirmed in the sponsor licence guidance which outlines the supporting documents needed to secure a Secondment Worker sponsor licence, although I cannot see the above within the new Appendix Global Business Mobility Routes of the Immigration Rules or in the interpretation section. You'd have thought the Home Office learnt about the problems that arise from including requirements in guidance and not the Rules, but obviously not!
Do Sponsors need to do anything?
Organisations that held a sponsor licence under the former provisions should have received correspondence from UKVI which confirms that, for the routes that are replacing former categories, the new route will be added to their existing licence from 11 April 2022. The Register of Worker and Temporary Worker licensed sponsors has already been updated; ICT licence holders now hold a Global Business Mobility: Senior or Specialist Worker / Graduate Trainee licence. However, at the time of writing this article, not all of the updates have been undertaken (not all International Agreement licence holders hold a Global Business Mobility: Service Supplier licence, for example). Presumably, UKVI hasn't undertaken all necessary updates yet.
My thoughts about the changes
Overall, the changes aren't significant, although we'll all need to get to grips with the new terminology! We still have the issue that not all 'specialist' occupations can be sponsored under the GBM categories. For example, unless a Welder – a role that many of my clients struggle to recruit for in the UK and rely on specialist workforces from within the EU – qualifies as a Service Supplier or meets the strict definition of a Secondment Worker, there is no change to the pre-11 April hurdles we faced. In my opinion, the new provisions don't create any useful categories that can actually assist businesses in the UK who rely on temporary workers, and who cannot turn to UK companies who offer the same service. Labour issues that arose following Brexit shall, unfortunately, continue for now.