Scale-up Worker Route

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Scale-up Worker visa, introduced in August 2022, is one of the most attractive Sponsored worker routes leading to settlement after five years. It offers the worker maximum flexibility in the choice of employment and self-employment, does not tie the worker to the sponsor for the entire visa duration and leads to indefinite leave to remain after five years of continuous residence.

To qualify, the worker must have a job offer from a Scale-up Sponsor licence holder. The licence can be granted by the Home Office to qualifying businesses which have been established for at least three years and meet the specific requirements.

The Scale-up Worker visa holder has to work in the sponsored employment for a period of six months. After this the worker is free to take up any unsponsored work, employed or self-employed, or start their own business.

The initial visa is granted for two years, the first six months of which must be sponsored by the Scale-up sponsor. The visa can be extended for a further three years and no sponsorship is required for the extension if income requirements are met. This second stretch of the visa is called the unsponsored application under the Scale-up Worker route. On completion of five years in this route, or in a combination of permitted routes, a Scale-up visa holder is eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain. There are UK earnings requirements both for the extension and ILR applications as explained below.


Skills level and minimum pay requirement for a Scale-up worker

The job sponsored under the Scale-up Worker route has to be at least RQF level 6 as listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations of the Immigration Rules.

The minimum annual salary threshold under this route is £36,300 per year together with the hourly “going rate” for the job as prescribed for the specific occupation in the Immigration Rules. The going rates for the jobs correspond to a 37,5-hour week. There is a minimum hourly pay if the sponsored employee is to work longer hours. Work beyond a 48-hour week is not taken into consideration.

The position does not have to be full time or meet any minimum hours requirements, but monthly pay has to be proportionate to the annual salary of at least £36,300 and the hourly pay has to match or exceed the “going rate” for the occupation asper SOC 2020 code, as indicated in the Immigration Rules, Appendix Skilled Occupations, Table 1, option F.

Both the minimum salary threshold and the going rate for the occupation code for the Scale Up route are lower than corresponding salary requirements under the Skilled Worker route.

Requirement to stay in the sponsored position for six months

The Scale-up worker may have to change the visa if sponsored employment changes within the first six months. Some changes may not require a new visa application, more important changes – like a significant change to the job or change of employer – will require a new visa.

The sponsor remains responsible for the sponsored employee for the first six months after the initial grant of the Scale-up visa and the visa may be curtailed if sponsorship is terminated or changes have not been properly reported to the Home Office.

Scale-up visa timeline

Scale-up visa is initially granted for two years. 

You have the option of extending it for a further three-year period if you meet the income requirement on completion of the two years. This extension is called unsponsored as you will not need a sponsor for this stretch of leave.

After the second stretch of three years you are entitled to apply for ILR if you meet the income and continuous residence requirements, or extend it for a further three years – again without the need for sponsorship. There is no limit on how many times you can extend this visa.

Income requirement for the unsponsored Scale-up visa extension

To extend the Scale-up visa for an unsponsored three-year period, the worker has to meet the UK earnings requirement during at least 12 months of their previous 24 months’ leave, or 18 months if they are applying for a second extension and their previous leave was for 3 years.

The earnings have to be via the PAYE scheme and cannot be freelance earnings or dividends. The required level of earnings depends on when their certificate of sponsorship was assigned.

  • For certificates of sponsorship assigned after 4 April 2024, £36,300 which is equivalent to gross salary of £3025 a month. Monthly figure is important as the salary requirement has to be met during a period of 12 months, which do not have to be continuous.
  • Certificates of sponsorship assigned between 12 April 2023 and 3 April 2024 – £34,600;
  • Certificates of sponsorship assigned before 11 April 2023 – £33,000.

Period of absence from work due to sick leave, statutory maternity or parental leave count towards the earnings requirement as long as the job from which leave is taken has basic pay above the required threshold.

There is no limit on permissible number of the visa extensions in this category. If the worker is applying to extend the visa after a three-year stretch, the UK earnings requirements have to be met during 18 months of their last leave, in other words during 50% if the last visa period.

Earnings requirements are assessed on a monthly basis. This means that higher earnings over some months cannot compensate for the months with lower earnings.

The qualifying income has to come through the PAYE scheme. Income may come from one or multiple jobs. Earnings from outside the UK do not count.

When and where to apply for unsponsored Scale-up worker visa extension

The unsponsored application for the Scale-up visa is available for applicants who have completed their stay on the sponsored application and meet the UK earnings requirement. The application for the next stretch of the visa can be made within six months of expiry of the first two-year stretch. The application can be made from the UK before expiry of the two-year visa or from abroad.  

If you are applying from abroad, you must meet the maintenance requirement.

English language requirement

All Scale-up Worker applicants have to meet the English language requirement in reading, writing, speaking and listening to at least B1 standard. The language requirement is met if you are a national of a majority English-speaking country or if you have graduated from a UK University. You may be able to meet the English language requirement if you graduated from a university outside the UK where tuition was in English.

Maintenance requirement

The maintenance requirement applies to applicants switching into the Scale-up Worker route if they have been in the UK for less than 12 months or to those applying for entry clearance from outside the UK. The requirement is to show funds equivalent to at least £1270 held in a bank account for 28 days prior to the date of the application.

The Scale-up sponsor may certify maintenance on the Certificate of Sponsorship and this requirement will be considered as met.

Requirements for indefinite leave to remain

The applicant has to show PAYE earnings of at least £2750 per month during 24 months of the three years immediately before the date of the application.

Earnings only include guaranteed basic pay before tax and do not include bonuses.

As with extension applications, the time taken off work on sick leave or statutory maternity or parental leave counts towards meeting the requirement as long as the basic salary for the job meets the threshold of £34,600 per year.


Last updated on 5 April 2024

Last updated on 5 April 2024

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