Scale-up Sponsor Licence

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Scale-up Sponsor Licence

The Scale-up sponsor licence offers another route for hiring overseas workers for short-term and long-term assignments in the UK. This route offers the employee considerable advantages over the more common sponsored routes such as Skilled Worker, previously Tier 2 General, or Intra-Company transfer route within the Global Business Mobility scheme.

The advantage of the Scale-up Worker route for the employee is that the employee is only tied to the sponsored employment for the first six months of sponsorship. After this, they are free to change to employment without sponsorship or start as self-employed.

The main advantage of the Scale-up sponsor licence for the employer is the exemption from the Immigration Skills charge, which could save medium or large companies up to £5000 per sponsored worker over a five-year period, or up to £1820 for small companies. It also allows the employer more flexibility after the initial six months period, such as seconding the employee to a third party, or using the employee for ad hoc short-term assignments.


Who can apply for a Scale-up Sponsor licence

To qualify for a Scale-up sponsor licence the employer organisation has to meet the following criteria:

  • The company must have been established for at least three years before the date of the application;
  • The employer must have had at least 10 employees at the beginning of the three-year period before the date of the application;
  • The company must show at least 72.8% of growth either in the staff count or in turnover as compared to the beginning of the three-year period before the date of the application.

Documents required in support of the Scale-up sponsor licence application

When applying for the licence you will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Companies House reference number or UTP reference number;
  • VAT registration number;
  • At least one of your PAYE reference numbers which can help demonstrate the number of employees at the beginning of the three-year period and at the date of the application;
  • If you are relying on turnover growth of 72.8% over the past three years, the information about your turnover will be taken from Box 6 of your VAT returns. In this case, the VAT returns must have been submitted on a monthly or quarterly basis throughout the 3-year period. Annual returns are not accepted;
  • If your business is regulated, you will need evidence of registration with the regulatory body.

How Scale-up sponsorship works

Similar to the Skilled Worker sponsored route, the employee needs a job offer supported by a certificate of sponsorship. The job has to be at the required skills level (RQF level 6) and has to be paid in accordance with the prescribed threshold which varies depending on the occupation but has to be not less than £33,000 per year for up to 48-hour working week.

Unlike the Skilled Worker route, a Scale-up worker has to be sponsored for only six months. After that the sponsor has fulfilled their obligations, and the worker is free to continue for the same employer in the same or in a different role, change employment, supplement their employment, work as self-employed or start their own business. In other words, after six months of sponsorship the Scale-up visa holder is free to work or study in the UK without restrictions.

The initial Scale-up visa application is called a “sponsored” application, because the first six months on this route have to be in the sponsored job. The first stretch of the visa is nevertheless granted for two years. The visa holder does not have to change the visa if they change the job after the initial six-month period. The visa remains valid for two years and can be extended for further three years without sponsorship. On completion of the five-year period the Scale-up visa holder can apply for indefinite leave to remain.

This visa is subject to standard English language and maintenance requirements. Dependants are allowed.

Skills requirement for the Scale-up route

The job must be level 6 or above on the RQF. This is a higher level than required for the Skilled Worker route where the requirement is RQF level 3. Skills level of a specific occupation and its eligibility for the Scale-up visa can be checked against the SOC code in Appendix Skilled Occupations of the Immigration Rules.

Skills level requirement does not mean that the employee has to have a degree or a graduate level qualification. The requirement is for the work they can be sponsored to do.

Salary requirement

The salary of a scale-up worker must meet or exceed each of the following requirements:

  • The general minimum threshold of £34,600 per year (for up to 48-hour week) – as amended on 12 April 2023
  • Full “going rate” for the job as specified in Appendix Skilled Occupations (no deductions for new entrants, shortage occupation jobs, or PhD level jobs)

Assigning a certificate of sponsorship

When the employer assigns a certificate of sponsorship to the prospective spondee, they have to indicate the appropriate occupation code for the job and the salary, as well as the number of hours on which the salary is based. The Home Office may check the job description against the proposed SOC code and where necessary you may be asked to justify the SOC code, demonstrate genuine need to fill the position and the prospective employee’s qualifications and experience needed for the job.

The role of legal representatives

The role of your immigration lawyer spans from the initial licence application to legal advice on eligibility of your employee for a particular type of visa and the best and quickest route to achieve your aims.

Once we have successfully assisted your business with the sponsor licence application, our role is to advise you on the available immigration options for your vacancies, ensure the right choice of the occupation code and compliance with the salary requirements. Where we act as the Key Contact for the organisation, we normally liaise with the Home Office on behalf the employer. We can also be appointed as Level 1 users of the SMS (Sponsor Management System).

If you consider applying for a Scale-up sponsor licence or wish to check if this licence will help you meet your objectives, we will be delighted to have a short zoom meeting with you to discuss your needs.


Last updated on 11 May 2023

Last updated on 8 May 2023

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