The Global Business Mobility Senior or Specialist Worker visa was previously known as the Intra-Company Transfer visa. In 2022, the route was rebranded and grouped together with four other temporary work visas now known as the Global Business Mobility routes. You can find them in the immigration rules under Appendix Global Business Mobility.
The Senior or Specialist Worker visa allows multinational companies to send skilled employees to work for a linked business in the UK, doing graduate-level employment or training.
The Senior or Specialist Worker visa is for established workers who are being transferred by the business they work for to do a skilled role in the UK.
This is different from the Global Business Mobility Graduate Trainee visa, which is for overseas workers who are completing temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is on a graduate training course abroad, leading to a senior management or specialist position and is required to do a work placement in the UK.
Dependent family members can apply to come to the UK in this route, but it does not lead to settlement.
Why is this route useful?
The best thing about the Senior or Specialist Worker visa is there is no proof of English language ability required. It is useful for businesses that have identified someone who they want to sponsor to work for them in the UK, but that person cannot meet the English language requirement under the Skilled Worker route. As we shall see, though, the person must have been working for a linked company overseas for a minimum length of time before they become eligible, unless they are a “high earner” who will be paid £73,900 or more.
Other key requirements are harder to meet compared to Skilled Worker. It has a higher minimum salary requirement, and a shorter list of jobs that can be sponsored.
Requirements for sponsors
Having a licence
It goes without saying, at least for immigration lawyers, that the UK sponsor must have a Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker sponsor licence. Applying for a sponsor licence is beyond the scope of this article but there is detailed guidance on the Home Office website.
Same sponsor group
What does require a very important shout-out is that, whenever a worker plans on coming to the UK in this route, the UK sponsor must ensure that the entity overseas is part of the same “sponsor group”. The Global Business Mobility sponsor guidance defines a sponsor group as follows:
This means you (the sponsor) and any business or organisation that is linked to you by common ownership or control, or by a joint venture on which the worker is sponsored to work.
Drill the words “linked by common ownership and control” into your mind. As a lawyer advising sponsoring businesses, you will need to ask your client how they intend to demonstrate that the two entities — the overseas sending entity and the UK receiving entity — satisfy this rule.
The ways in which entities can be linked by common ownership and control are listed in paragraph GBM2.11 of the same guidance. The most common in practice are the first three listed:
- one entity controls the composition of the other entity’s board
- one entity holds enough shares in the other entity to have more than half of the voting rights in that other entity
- both entities have a common parent entity, and that parent entity (either by itself or through other entities) meets one of the above requirements
You will then need to submit a report on the Sponsor Management System to “add a linked entity”. Instructions on how to do this are available in SMS manual 2 of 12, guide 4. This will generate a submission sheet for completion and list the type of evidence you need to send off: an annual report, an affidavit or a letter from a practising solicitor confirming the full details demonstrating common ownership or control.
If you’re doing this for your client for the first time, it’s a good opportunity to cut down on admin and submit one SMS report to capture all the possible linked entities that may be sending workers to the UK in the foreseeable future.
You can view details of overseas lined entities reported from April 2022, but not prior to this date. Instructions on how to do this are available in SMS manual 2 of 12, guide 11 (linked above). You could decide to re-report those that have been reported prior to April 2022 so that these become visible on the SMS, but this could be quite a laborious task. It’s still really important to keep a record of what you’ve sent. It’s good practice to check your record of reported linked entities each time your client approaches you to take forward a Senior or Specialist Worker application. It’s a simple but embarrassing mistake to assume an entity is linked when it’s not, and see the visa application refused.
Requirements for workers
The worker must meet the requirements set out in Appendix Global Business Mobility – Senior or Specialist Worker under the headings of “validity”, “suitability” and “eligibility”. We’ll do a quick tour through the validity and suitability requirements first, then focus on eligibility in more detail, as this is really the meat of the route.
The validity requirements are the same as for most work and student visa routes under the Points Based Immigration System. Applications declared invalid are rejected without being properly considered.
The person must apply using the UK Immigration app or online application form; pay the application fee / Immigration Health Surcharge; enrol their biometrics (photograph and fingerprints); provide a passport or other ID; and have an Certificate of Sponsorship issued no more than three months before the date of application. If applicable, anyone who was previously sponsored by their government or an international scholarship agency in the 12 months before the date of application, must provide written consent to the application from that government/agency.
A point to note here is that people who can apply using the app — at time of writing, European Economic Area nationals with a chipped passport — can skip the requirement to enrol biometrics, since the app takes care of that. This saves a trip to a visa application centre.
The applicant must not fall for refusal under Part 9 of the Immigration Rules, which relates to criminal offences and other misconduct. If applying for permission to stay, they mustn’t be here in breach of immigration laws (i.e. overstaying), except for the usual paragraph 39E grace period, nor on immigration bail.
The eligibility requirements are phrased in terms of “points”. The worker must score 60 points by meeting three requirements. Since meeting the three requirements is the only way to score the 60 points, the scoring system adds nothing.
Sponsorship – 20 points
The first eligibility requirement is to have a Certificate of Sponsorship (sometimes referred to as CoS) issued by a company with an A-rated sponsor licence. The Certificate of Sponsorship will include things like job title, role summary, Standard Occupational Code (more on this later) and salary.
The sponsorship requirement also includes the rule barring new hires from being transferred to the UK via the Senior or Specialist Worker route, unless they earn £73,900 or more per year. This is known as the overseas work requirement. The sponsor must confirm on the Certificate of Sponsorship that the applicant has the required overseas work experience even if they are a high earner.
Senior or Specialist Workers applying for entry clearance must have worked for the sponsor and/or any linked businesses outside the UK for a period of at least 12 months. The 12 months do not need to be immediately prior to the application and they do not need to be consecutive, provided that the applicant was continuously working for the sponsor group from the start of the 12 months to the date of their application.
SNR 5.7 An applicant as a Senior or Specialist Worker must:
(a) be currently working for the sponsor group; and
(b) unless they are applying as a high earner must have worked outside the UK for the sponsor group for a cumulative period of at least 12 months.
GTR 5.6. An applicant as a Graduate Trainee must have worked outside the UK for the sponsor group for a continuous period of at least 3 months immediately before the date of application.
Further information and examples on how the overseas work requirement is met, is located in the sponsor guidance under ‘Overseas work requirement for GBM workers’.
The definition of a “high earner” is not stated in Appendix Global Business Mobility at all, but instead appears under “interpretation” in a different section of the Rules.
Salaries can be paid by the UK sponsor or the overseas entity. If they are being paid by the overseas entity, there is no need to include a PAYE reference number on the Certificate of Sponsorship.
“Job at appropriate skill level” – 20 points
Whether someone can be sent to the UK as a Senior or Specialist Worker also depends on the exact job they are going to do or be trained for. The jobs that are — and aren’t — eligible are listed in Appendix Skilled Occupations. Table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupations contains a long list of roles grouped by Standard Occupational Code, with the final column labelled “eligible for GBM?”. If it says yes, the role is eligible; if it says no, or the role is instead listed in Table 5, the role is ineligible.
By way of background, jobs are only listed as eligible for Senior or Specialist Worker if they require a degree (more precisely, a qualification graded Level 6 or above on the Regulated Qualifications Framework). This is just a way of deciding which jobs to list as eligible and which not to. It doesn’t mean that the worker necessarily has to have a degree themselves.
There is an obvious incentive for sponsors to try to shoehorn workers into an eligible Standard Occupational Code if the obvious code is ineligible. The rules cover this off in two paragraphs designed to stop that:
SNR 6.2. The sponsor must have chosen an appropriate code, and the decision maker must not have reasonable grounds to believe that the sponsor has chosen a less appropriate occupation code for any of the following reasons:
(a) the most appropriate occupation code is not eligible under the Global Business Mobility routes; or
(b) the most appropriate occupation code has a higher going rate than the proposed salary.
SNR 6.3. To support the assessment in SNR 6.2., the decision maker may, in particular, cosider:
(a) whether the sponsor has shown a genuine need for the job as described; and
(b) whether the applicant has the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described; and
(c) the sponsor’s history of compliance with the immigration system including, but not limited to, paying its sponsored workers appropriately; and
(d) any additional information from the sponsor.
The rules are strict, but they form a handy checklist to ensure compliance. Further information about this is set out in the sponsor guidance under ‘General skill-level requirement: eligible occupation codes’.
It’s important to note that Graduate Trainee jobs must additionally be “part of a structured graduate training programme, with clearly defined progression towards a managerial or specialist role within the sponsor organisation”. There was previously a limit restricting sponsors to sponsoring no more than 20 Graduate Trainees in a calendar year. This limit was removed with the creation of the Global Business Mobility routes in April 2022.
Minimum salary – 20 points
The table below, summarises the minimum salary requirements:
|Senior or Specialist Worker||The worker’s salary must equal or exceed both:|
• the general salary threshold of £45,800 per year; and
• the going rate for the job as stated in Appendix Skilled Occupations of the Immigration Rules
|Graduate Trainee||The worker’s salary must equal or exceed both:|
• the general salary threshold of £24,220 per year; and
– if the applicant is being sponsored for a job listed in Table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupations, 70% of the going rate for the job as stated in Table 1; or
– if the applicant is being sponsored for a job in Table 2 of Appendix Skilled Occupations, 100% of the going rate for the job as stated in Table 2
Salaries must also comply with the National Minimum Wage Regulations and the Working Time Regulations.
Salary levels are based on gross annual salary packages. This means we can include more than just the person’s headline pay. The value can include gross annual salary plus any allowances and guaranteed bonuses, such as an accommodation allowance or a mobility premium. The guidance goes into more detail about what can and cannot be included in the salary package for the purposes of the minimum salary calculation. For more information on this see the section in the sponsor guidance on ‘Permitted allowances for GBM workers’.
On the other hand, the general thresholds of £45,800 / £24,220 represent the absolute minimum salary package the worker can be paid. The salary package could be above the general threshold but still fall short of the “going rate” threshold. This is calculated by taking the going rate listed for the occupation code in question in Appendix Skilled Occupations and adjusting for the person’s working hours. The going rate is based on a 37.5 hour working week.
Annex GBM2 of the guidance provides the formulas to use, one for Senior or Specialist Workers:
1 x (the going rate for the occupation code stated in Table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupations) x (the number of weekly working hours stated by the sponsor ÷ 37.5).
And it also provides another for Graduate Trainee:
0.7 x (the going rate for the occupation code stated in Table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupations) x (the number of weekly working hours stated by the sponsor ÷ 37.5).
To prevent any abuse by employers from doing precisely this (paying a nominal salary and topping this up with a large accommodation allowance), the Home Office has capped the amount of accommodation allowance that can be considered part of the salary package. Where allowances are solely for the purpose of accommodation, they will only be taken into account up to a value of either:
- 30% of the total salary package, where the applicant is applying on the Senior or Specialist Worker route; or
- 40% of the total salary package, where the applicant is applying on the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route
The Home Office’s guidance gives a formula for working out whether a salary package including an accommodation allowance is affected by this cap:
- salary and other (non-accommodation) permitted allowances: £42,000
- accommodation allowances: £14,000
Add these two figures together to get the total salary package offered = £56,000.
We work out the maximum package we can take into account by dividing the salary and other (non-accommodation) permitted allowances by 70% (0.7): £42,000 ÷ 0.7 = £60,000.
The total offered is less than the maximum package we can take into account. We will therefore take the entire package of £56,000 into account.
How much does it cost?
For entry clearance applications, i.e. where people are applying from outside the UK, the fees at time of writing are as follows:
- Certificate of Sponsorship: £199
- Application fee for a visa valid for up to three years: £625
- Immigration Health Surcharge: £624 per year
- Immigration Skills Charge: £1,000 per year (reduced for small organisations)
This varies slightly for applications made in-country. Fees are revised (often upward) every April; see the Home Office website for the up-to-date list.
From 1 January 2023 and further to the Immigration Skills Charge (Amendment) Regulations 2022, EU national workers transferred from an EU-based business to the UK for up to 36 months are exempt from paying the Immigration Skills Charge. The caseworker guidance confirms that the exemption applies if the worker is covered by the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement and all of the following apply:
- the Certificate of Sponsorship was assigned on or after 1 January 2023;
- the worker is a national of an EU country (does not include Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway) or is a Latvian non-citizen;
- the worker has been assigned to the UK by a business established in the EU, and which forms part of the same sponsor group; and
- the end date of the assignment, as specified on the Certificate of Sponsorship, is no more than 36 months after the start date.
The sponsor must use an ‘ISC exempt’ Certificate of Sponsorship and provide details of the exemption on the certificate itself. Further information on exemptions is available in Part 2: Sponsor a Worker guidance.
What do successful applicants get?
An approval letter and a visa sticker valid for a given period, typically 90 days. The worker must travel to the UK before that period is up.
After arriving, if the length of stay is more than six months, the worker will be issued with a Biometric Residence Permit. Anyone applying using the UK Immigration app will receive digital immigration status instead of a physical permit.
The UK sponsor should complete a right to work check before the worker’s first day of employment as stated on their Certificate of Sponsorship.
How long can people stay?
Senior or Specialist Workers can stay for up to five years at a time. If they have permission for a shorter period, they can extend it.
Graduate Trainees can stay for up to 12 months at a time. There is an overseas work requirement that they have to have worked for at least three months for the sponsor group overseas immediately before the date of the application. These three months cannot include time spent working in the UK. This makes it pretty much impossible to switch into or extend permission in this route. An applicant can apply again after three months to meet the overseas work requirement.
In both cases, there is an overall cap on the amount of time someone can be in the UK:
SNR 11.1. If the applicant is applying as a high earner, the grant of permission must not lead to the applicant being granted cumulative periods of permission on the Global Business Mobility routes and Intra-Company routes totalling more than 9 years in any 10-year period.
SNR 11.2. If the applicant is not applying as a high earner, the grant of permission must not lead to the applicant being granted cumulative periods of permission on the Global Business Mobility routes and Intra-Company routes totalling more than 5 years in any 6-year period.
It’s important to check whether the worker has had previous permission on any of the Global Business Mobility routes, as this will determine how long they can be granted for.
It is not possible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) after five years, as it would be on other work routes. It’s important for workers on Global Business Mobility routes to know that they will only ever have temporary permission to be in the UK, unless they switch into a route that does permit settlement.