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How to apply for an Intra-Company Transfer to the UK
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How to apply for an Intra-Company Transfer to the UK

The Intra-Company route allows multinational companies to send skilled employees to work for a linked business in the UK, doing graduate-level employment or training. There are two sub-categories: the main Intra-Company Transfer visa, and the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee visa.

Intra-Company Transfer is for established workers who are being transferred by the business they work for to do a skilled role in the UK.

Intra-Company Graduate Trainee is for workers who are being transferred by the business they work for as part of a structured graduate training programme.

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 Intra-Company 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 an Intra-Company 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 Intra-Company worker 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 ICW 2.4 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

Reporting the link

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. Keep a record of what you’ve sent — lord knows, in a few years’ time you won’t remember which entities have been reported and which haven’t (and neither will your client). It’s good practice to check your record of reported linked entities each time your client approaches you to take forward an Intra-Company 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 requirements set out in Appendix Intra-Company Routes 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.

Validity

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.

Suitability

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.

Eligibility

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 (CoS) issued by a company with an A-rated sponsor licence. The CoS 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 Intra-Company route, unless they earn £73,900 or more per year:

IC 5.7. An applicant on the Intra-Company Transfer route 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.

IC 5.9. An applicant on the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee route 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.

The definition of a “high earner” as someone earning £73,900+ is not in Appendix Intra-Company Routes 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 CoS.

Examples

Bob is offered a job with India Engineering Pvt Ltd, a company based in Mumbai, on a gross annual salary of £100,000. India Engineering Pvt want to send Bob to work in London for its British subsidiary, Indian Engineering UK Ltd. He is eligible for Intra-Company Transfer immediately upon signing his employment contract, because he earns more than £73,900.

Becky has worked with India Engineering Pvt Ltd for 20 years and earns £60,000. She is eligible for Intra-Company Transfer to the UK subsidiary because she has worked for the overseas entity for at least 12 months. Becky will need to submit her last 12 months’ payslips as evidence of this (more on supporting documents later).

“Job at appropriate skill level” – 20 points

Whether someone can be sent to the UK under the Intra-Company route 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 ICT and ICGT?”. 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.

Example

Jobs in Standard Occupational Classification 2421, “chartered and certified accountants”, are listed in table 1 of Appendix Skilled Occupations with a “yes” in the “eligible for ICT and ICGT” column. Accountants meet the skill level requirement.

By way of background, jobs are only listed as eligible for Intra-Company if they require a degree (more precisely, a qualification graded Level 6 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. Paragraph IC 6.2 is designed to stop that:

The applicant will not meet the job skill level requirement if the decision maker has reasonable grounds to believe the sponsor has chosen a less appropriate occupation code for any of the following reasons:

1. the most appropriate occupation code is not eligible under the Intra-Company routes…

The guidance adds:

When assessing if you have chosen an inappropriate occupation code, we may consider a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  • whether you have shown a genuine need for the job as described
  • whether the worker has the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience needed to do the job as described – we may request evidence
  • your history of compliance with the immigration system including, but not limited to, paying sponsored workers appropriately
  • any additional information you may provide

This is quite an onerous checklist — particularly the part about showing a genuine need for the role.

Intra-Company 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”.  To prevent abuse of this route, businesses cannot sponsor more than 20 Graduate Trainees in a calendar year.

Minimum salary – 20 points

The table below, taken from the guidance, summarises the minimum salary requirements. Chapter and verse are in paragraphs IC 7.1 to 9.5 of Appendix Intra-Company Routes.

Route Minimum salary
Intra-Company Transfer The worker’s salary must equal or exceed both:
• the general salary threshold of £41,500 per year; and
• the going rate for the job as stated in Appendix Skilled Occupations of the Immigration Rules
Intra-Company Graduate Trainee The worker’s salary must equal or exceed both:
• the general salary threshold of £23,000 per year; and
• either:
– 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

The amounts 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.

On the other hand, the general thresholds of £41,500 / £23,000 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.

Paragraph IC 9.1 provides the formulas to use, one for Intra-Company Transfer proper:

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 ÷ 39).

And 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 ÷ 39).

Example

Jodie works in IT for Computers Pty Ltd in Brisbane, Australia. She earns the equivalent of £58,000 a year. Her bosses want to send her to the UK on an Intra-Company Transfer.

The most suitable fit for the role she will perform in the UK is SOC 1136, “Information technology and telecommunications directors”. Her salary while in the UK must equal or exceed both the general minimum of £41,500 per year and the going rate for SOC 1136, which is £56,100 for a 39-hour week.

Jodie will work a 45-hour week. We need to work out how much she needs to be paid to meet the going rate element of the minimum salary requirement. To do this, we multiply the going rate by the number of hours and then divide this by 39. So: £56,100 x 45 ÷ 39 = £64,731. Jodie must be paid at least that much while working in the UK in order to be sponsored.

Jodie’s bosses are not prepared to increase her base salary just so that she can meet the requirement for the visa. They start to think about other ways that they can “top up” her salary, and decide to pay her an accommodation allowance.

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 Intra-Company Transfer 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.

Example

Jodie’s bosses settle on a £10,000 accommodation allowance, taking her total salary package to £68,000.

To work out whether this much accommodation allowance is within the rules, we divide her salary package without the accommodation allowance, £58,000, by 0.7. This gives £82,857.

Since the £68,000 salary package including accommodation allowance is less than this amount, it is unaffected by the cap. Jodie now meets the going rate requirement and can be sponsored for Intra-Company Transfer.

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:

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.

What do successful applicants get?

An approval letter and a visa sticker valid for a given period, typically 30 days. (Due to coronavirus, visa stickers are currently being issued for up to 90 days, but it is not clear how long this will continue.) 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?

Intra-Company Transfer 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 time. They cannot extend, but can apply again after three months.

In both cases, there is an overall cap on the amount of time someone can be in the UK:

IC 11.1. If the applicant is a high earner, the grant of permission must not lead to the applicant being granted cumulative periods of permission in the Intra-Company routes totalling more than 9 years in any 10-year period.

IC 11.2. If the applicant is not a high earner, the grant of permission must not lead to the applicant being granted cumulative periods of permission in the 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 the Intra-Company routes, as this will determine how long they can be granted for.

Example

Sandra, an American engineer, was in London on an Intra-Company Transfer for two years between February 2020 and February 2022. She then returns to Pittsburgh for six months. In August 2022, Sandra’s boss decides to send her back to the London office.

Sandra earns £60,000 so does not qualify as a high earner. The maximum period she can now be sponsored for is three years, taking her to August 2025.

It is not possible to apply for indefinite leave to remain (settlement) after five years, as it would be on other work routes. This may change in future if the government follows a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee. As things stand, it is important for Intra-Company workers to know that they will only ever have temporary permission to be in the UK, unless they can switch into a route that does permit settlement.

Pip Hague is a solicitor specialising in immigration law at Squire Patton Boggs.

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