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What you need to know about the new Global Business Mobility routes

Written by
Helena Sheizon, Kadmos Consultants
Date of Publication:
01 June 2022

Global Business Mobility is a combined category of five discrete routes offering opportunities for overseas businesses to send workers to the UK for a temporary assignment or to establish commercial presence in the UK.

Global Business Mobility opened on 11 April 2022 and replaced the Intra-Company Transfer route (ICT), Temporary Worker under International Agreements route and Representative of an Overseas Business route. It also opened a new visa option for secondment workers from overseas service providers in high value contracts.

None of the Global Business Mobility categories lead to settlement in the UK. There is a time limit on the maximum permitted stay under these routes. However, workers may switch in-country into the Skilled Worker route or another immigration category leading to indefinite leave to remain.

Five categories within the Global Business Mobility route

All five Global Business Mobility categories require sponsorship from a licenced sponsor. Except for the UK expansion worker route, licenced sponsor is a UK-based entity with a link to an overseas business. The nature of the link depends on the specific Global Business Mobility route. It may be common ownership or control of the business for the Senior or Specialist Worker and Graduate Trainee routes, or it may be an eligible contract between the sponsor and the service provider in the Service Suppliers or Secondment Worker routes.

The routes have a minimum skill-level requirement with an associated minimum pay. The maximum permitted stay in any combination of the global business mobility routes is five years cumulatively in any six-year period, with the exception of high earners (with an annual salary of £73,900 or above) in a Senior or Specialist Worker route who can stay up to nine years in any 10-year period.

All Global Business Mobility routes are designed for temporary assignments in the UK. The worker must be working for the overseas business at the date of their application for entry clearance for a specified minimum period which varies depending on the route.

Senior or Specialist Worker Route

The Senior or Specialist Worker route allows the UK branch of the business to sponsor a senior or specialist employee of the overseas branch to undertake a temporary assignment in the UK.

The sponsored worker must have worked for the sponsor or affiliated overseas business for at least 12 months prior to the date of application unless they are high earners with annual salary of at least £73,900.

The general salary threshold for this route is £42,000 per year. This applies to the UK-based job but not to the salary paid to this worker overseas. The work has to be at RQF level 6 and listed in the Immigration Rules, Appendix Skilled Occupations. The worker is not allowed to undertake any supplementary employment in addition to the sponsored work.

The UK sponsor of the Senior or Specialist worker pays £199 for assigning a certificate of sponsorship to the worker plus the Immigration Skills charge which is £364 per year for a small and medium-sized business or £1000 per year for a large business.

The visa under this route can be granted for up to five years. For high earners it can be extended to a total period of nine years.

Graduate Trainee route

Where the worker is on a structured graduate training programme leading to a senior management or specialist position within an affiliated overseas business, the UK business may offer sponsorship to the worker in the Graduate Trainee category.

The minimum salary threshold is £23,100 per year and there is an applicable going rate for the occupation code which applies at 70% of the standard rate where it is above the general threshold.

Graduate Trainee visa is issued for up to one year. The time spent as a Graduate Trainee in the UK counts toward the cumulative maximum period permitted under the Global Business Mobility routes. Graduate Trainee may switch in the UK to the skilled worker route if they wish to continue working for the same sponsor in the UK.

The employer, i.e. the sponsor, pays the fee for assigning a certificate of sponsorship to the Graduate Trainee but there is no Immigration Skills charge under this route.

To qualify for the Graduate Trainee visa, the applicant has to have worked for the overseas business continuously for at least three months immediately before the date of the application. Work carried out for the employer in the UK does not count.

UK Expansion Worker route

This route offers an opportunity for overseas businesses to establish trading presence in the UK.

Expansion Worker is the only route which requires the overseas business to act as the sponsor of the seconded employee. The seconded employee may also be appointed the Authorising Officer and Level 1 user of the Sponsor Management system and assign their own certificate of sponsorship as well as certificates of sponsorship for up to four colleagues on the same route.

Requirements for the overseas business:

• the overseas business has to have been trading outside the UK for at least three years or be registered on the stock exchange. An exception applies to Japanese businesses establishing presence in the UK under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

• The business must register a branch or subsidiary in the UK or secure business premises in the UK and apply to become a registered sponsor under the UK Expansion Worker route before they can send their expansion workers to the UK.

• The business has to show genuine intention and capacity to expand to the UK. The requirements include a business plan and financial assessment, as well as evidence of previous activity of the business.

• The expansion worker must have worked for the business for at least 12 months (with the exception of high earners who do not have to meet this requirement, and businesses relying on the UK-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement).

• The job title of the Expansion Worker has to match an appropriate skill level eligible for Global Business Mobility routes as defined in Appendix Skilled Occupations. Minimum pay threshold is £42,400, same as for a Senior and Specialist Worker in another Global Business Mobility route. Salary should be paid at the right level as defined by the appropriate occupation code.

The maximum permitted number of expansion workers at any one time is five. Their visa is granted for an initial period of 12 months and can be extended to a maximum of 24 months.

The overseas business can replace an Expansion Worker with another candidate within the first two years of activating the Expansion Worker sponsor licence. After two years, no additional personnel can be sponsored under this route.

Once the company has established presence in the UK, they can apply for a Skilled Worker sponsor licence and transfer their Expansion Workers to this route as well as sponsor other workers from overseas. In order to apply for the Skilled Worker sponsor licence they will need a member of staff who is either a British citizen or is settled in the UK to act as the Authorising Officer for the sponsor licence. Without a Skilled Worker licence the business will be unable to retain their Expansion Workers in the UK beyond the initial two year period. It is, therefore, an implied requirement for the business to hire a settled employee for a senior position who will be qualified to maintain the sponsor licence after the company is duly formed and trading in the UK.

Global Mobility: UK Service Supplier route

This route is for overseas workers providing a service under contract to a UK business as a contractual service supplier or an independent professional under an eligible trade agreement.

The UK-based company contracting the service has to act as the sponsor and needs a sponsor licence in Global Mobility – Service Supplier route. The licence is related to a specific contract and specific service provider under this contract.

Eligible trade agreements are listed in the Home Office guidance Global and Temporary Workers: Guidance for sponsors – Sponsor a Global Mobility Worker, p.57. Each eligible trade agreement covers specific sectors of economy. Detailed information on the sectors covered by the agreements in relation to corporate and self employed service providers is in Tables A and B of the same document.

Service Supplier Visa contract requirement

The contract with the service provider has to be for a period not exceeding 12 months and must have been awarded through an open tender or other adequate procedures which would evidence that it is a genuine contract. The UK-based sponsor has to be the end-user of the service, in other words cannot subcontract service provider as labour for another organisation.

The Home Office confirms that the contract meets the requirements of the route by approving the sponsor licence application. Each additional contract requires an additional approval. There is no limit on the number of workers that can be sponsored under any specific contract. However, assigning a certificate of sponsorship for a worker under a contract not covered by the relevant licence is not allowed and may lead to revocation of the licence.

Nationality requirement

Workers sponsored under the UK Service Supplier route have to meet nationality or residence requirements. For most eligible trade agreements, the worker has to be a national of the country where the service provider is based. In respect of some agreements, it may be a person with a permanent right of residence in the country where the employer's organisation is established.

Job skill level requirement

There is a skill level requirement for service providers which is met if the job is listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations for the Global Business Mobility routes. If the job is not listed as eligible for GBM, the skills requirement can be met if the service supplier has a university degree or a technical qualification acceptable for the sector as set out in the Immigration Rules. They would also be required to have professional experience in the sector for at least three years or six years in some circumstances.

Salary requirement

There is no minimum pay threshold for service providers but their pay has to be compliant with the general minimum pay regulations.

Service Supplier Visa duration

Service supplier visa is normally issued for the duration of the assignment with the maximum period of six months for most contracts or 12 months if the contract is covered by the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement or the Swiss Agreement. In country extension is permitted only within these limits.

Secondment Worker to UK firms in high value contracts or investments

Secondment Worker route is another option for provision of services from overseas. Contracts not covered by the international trade agreements fall under this category if they meet the financial scale requirements: the contract must be worth at least £10 million per year and not less than £50 million in total.

Same as in Service Supplier route, each contract requires approval of the Home Office.

There is no nationality or residence requirement for the workers under the Secondment Worker route.

Skills level requirement applies in the same way as for Secondment Workers. Either the job has to be listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations or the worker has to have a university degree or a technical qualification approved for the proposed occupation.

Secondment worker visa can be granted for up to 1 year and can be extended to a maximum continuous period of two years.