Start up business

The Scale Up Visa

The Scale Up visa allows individuals who have been recruited by an eligible UK business (a ‘scale up sponsor’) to work in the UK for their employer in order to help them ‘scale’ their business.

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What is the Scale Up visa?

The Scale Up visa is a route which helps businesses to ‘scale-up’ by enabling them to recruit talent from overseas. The scale up visa has been introduced by the UKVI with the intended purpose to cut out some of the red tape and cost for high growth businesses. Individuals with a scale up visa will be able to stay in the UK for up to 2 years, after this time they may be able to extend their visa.

If an applicant is successful in their scale up visa application, then for the first 6-month period of being in the UK they must be employed by their sponsor in the role for which they received the sponsorship. After this period, individuals are free to undertake any type of work, for whichever employer they like (except from being a professional sportsperson or coach). This makes the scale-up visa unique as unlike many other sponsored routes, individuals are not bound to their employer or occupation to remain in the UK.


What are Scale Up visa companies in the UK?

A scale up company is a business which is eligible to sponsor scale up workers. To be eligible to register as a Scale Up visa company in the UK, a business must meet the following requirements: 

  • Have had an annualised growth of at least 20% for the last three-period prior to applying for a licence in either staff count or turnover (income); and

  • Have a minimum of ten employees at the beginning of the three-year period.

The UKVI will assess the above through PAYE information for staff count and VAT returns for turnover.


How do I become a Scale Up visa sponsor?

An organisation which meets the Scale Up business requirements is required to hold a temporary worker licence before they sponsor someone under the scale up visa. This temporary worker licence can be added as a sub-category to an existing sponsor licence.

If your business meets the eligibility criteria and you recognise the advantages that the Scale Up visa can bring to your workforce planning, it's crucial to weigh the benefits of reduced sponsorship costs against the fact that Scale Up visa holders can switch employers after just six months. Our expert team can provide guidance on navigating these considerations and help you make informed decisions about your business immigration strategy.


Who is eligible for a Scale Up visa?

To be eligible to apply for a Scale Up visa, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You are at least 18 years old.
  • You have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from their employer.
  • You have a job offer for a role which is at least skilled to RQF level 6 and is for a role which is listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations.
  • Will be paid at least £36,300 per year (based on a 39-hour week) or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation code (whichever is higher).
  • Can speak and understand English to at least B1 level on the CEFR scale.
  • You either have funds of at least £1,270, or show that the sponsor is able to fund and accommodate the applicant for the first month of being in the UK.
  • You ‘score’ 70 points on the UK’s point-based system.

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If you would like to know more about the Scale Up visa or would like assistance with another matter relating to UK immigration law then please get in touch today and one of our immigration advisors will get in contact with you shortly.

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How long does a Scale-Up visa last?

A Scale-Up visa lasts for 2 years, however, individuals may be eligible to extend their visa for another 3 years.


Can I extend my Scale-Up visa?

Yes, if you have stayed in the UK for 2 years with a Scale-Up visa then you will be able to apply to extend your visa for an additional 3 years (you must apply to extend your visa before your current leave expires).

Unlike other visa routes and applications, when applying to extend your visa you will not be required to meet the same eligibility criteria as you did when you first applied. When it comes to extending the Scale-Up visa, individuals are not required to meet the sponsorship requirement (e.g. you no longer need to be sponsored in the UK). However, applicants wishing to extend their visa will be required to  show PAYE earnings of at least £33,000 per year for at least half of their time in the UK as a scale-up worker.


How can I apply for a UK Scale-Up visa?

To apply for a Scale Up visa applications must be made online and can be made from both inside the UK and outside of the UK.

As part of the application process you will be required to provide supporting documentation which shows that you meet the eligibility criteria, and in addition to the application fees you will be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge which gives you access to a variety of NHS services whilst in the UK.

In some circumstances, you will also need to attend a biometrics appointment to provide various biometrics to confirm your identity.


How much is a Scale-Up visa UK?

It costs £822 to apply for a Scale-Up visa. However, as part of the application process, individuals are required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge which costs £1035 per year to access a range of NHS services while in the UK.

Correct at the time of writing - 26th April 2024


Switching to the Scale-Up visa

If you are in the UK on another visa, you may be eligible to switch to the Scale-Up Worker Visa. To be eligible to switch to this visa you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Your job meets the eligibility requirements; and

  • You can speak, read, write and understand English.

If you are currently in the UK on a Student Visa, in addition to the eligibility requirements you must meet one of the following:

  • Completed the course you were sponsored to study; or

  • The start date of your job is after your course has finished; or

  • Studied for a PhD for at least 24 months. 

However, if you are in the UK on one of the following you cannot apply to switch to this visa. 

  • A Visit Visa;

  • A short-term Student Visa;

  • A Parent of a Child Student Visa;

  • A Seasonal Worker Visa;

  • A Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa;

  • On immigration bail; or

  • You were given permission to stay outside the immigration rules.

Instead, you must make an application for a Scale-Up Worker Visa from abroad.

Scale-Up Visa: FAQs

Does the Scale-Up Visa need sponsorship?

Yes, if applying for a Scale-Up Visa for the first time you will require sponsorship from an approved Scale-Up business.

How do I register to become a scale-up sponsor?

Businesses which wish to register as a Scale-Up sponsor must be able to prove that for the past 3 years they have had an annual growth of at least 20% (this can be measured either through your turnover or headcount). Prior to this 3 year period businesses must be able to prove that they had at least 10 employees.

The Home Office will use this information to assess your application and you must wait until you have been approved and registered by the Home Office before you can recruit a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job which an individual needs the Scale-Up visa for.

Is the Scale-Up Visa a route to settlement?

Yes, with the new Scale-Up Visa can lead to permanent residence in the UK.

When applying for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) in most circumstances an applicant will need to prove that they have lived in the UK for 5 continuous years. For instance, in the case of this visa, an applicant would have continuously lived in the UK for 2 years under the sponsored route and then applied to live in the UK for another 3 years under the unsponsored route. In total this would add up to 5 years of continuous residence in the UK and providing that the individual meets the other criteria for indefinite leave to remain in the UK then they may be able to apply for permanent residence.

Can I work in the UK with a Scale-Up Visa?

Yes, you can work in the UK with a Scale-Up Visa. After 6-months of being in the UK with a Scale-Up Visa it is not a requirement for you to continue to be employed in the same role with the same employer in which they received your sponsorship. However, you cannot be employed as a professional sportsperson or coach.

Can I study in the UK with a Scale-Up Visa?

Yes, after the 6-month period of being ‘tied’ to your sponsor, you will be able to study in the UK.

Can dependents apply for a Scale-Up Visa?

Yes, applicants are able to bring a dependent partner and children with them to the UK. A dependent partner must be at least 18 years old, whereas, dependent children must be under 18 years old and not be living an independent life (e.g. be married or have children of their own).

How does the Scale-Up Visa differ from the Skilled Worker Visa?

The Skilled Worker visa is a primary route for foreign nationals seeking employment in the UK and requires sponsorship from a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) licenced employer. The Scale-Up Visa enables businesses to recruit top talent from overseas, and it allows talented individuals with a job offer from an approved 'Scale-Up business' to work in the UK for up to two years. The Scale-Up Visa has lower costs than the Skilled Worker Visa and requires a higher skill level and a higher minimum salary. The Skilled Worker Visa has more stringent sponsorship requirements, and workers must remain sponsored by their employer until they have been in the UK for five years, after which they can apply for settlement. In contrast, Scale-Up workers are free to work without sponsorship after the initial six months, can switch employers or become self-employed, and can extend their visas without sponsorship if they continue to meet the requirements.

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