The expansion worker route allows overseas companies looking to expand into the UK the ability to send one (or in certain circumstances a team of up to five) senior or technical specialist workers to help with the set up of the UK business. As a first step, the overseas employer must first apply for a Global Business Mobility (Expansion Worker) Sponsor Licence. The overseas business will also need to appoint an individual who will take up the position of Authorising Officer under the Home Office Sponsor Licence and that individual will maintain the licence once granted by the UK Home Office.

If it is the case that the Authorising Officer is based overseas, then they must assign an electronic document called a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to themselves and in this instance, the Home Office will issue a provisional Sponsor Licence until their visa application is successful. Once the Authorising Officer (AO) has successfully applied for a Expansion Worker Visa, then they will make a notification via the Home Office Sponsor Management System (SMS) in order to change the provisional licence to an A rated licence. This will then be valid for a period of four years.

Application Procedure:

Once the Expansion Worker Licence has been granted by the Home Office, then the employer can sponsor the senior or technical specialist.

Eligibility Criteria for the Expansion Worker

The worker must be skilled to at least national qualification framework (NQF) level 6 which is basically graduate level, and they must be paid a salary of at least £42,400 gross per annum or the going rate for the job as indicated in the Home Office Occupation Codes, whichever is higher. The expansion worker will also need to have been employed with the overseas company for at least one year before they are moved to the UK but this work requirement will not apply for individual who will have a salary in the UK of at least £73,900.

It is important to bear in mind that the expansion worker permission to remain in the UK will be granted for the shorter of either:

(i) One year from the start date of the job or (ii) Fourteen days after the end of the job

(iii) dates on which the worker has continuous permission as a UK expansion worker totalling two years or (iv) the date on which the worker has cumulative permission in the Global Mobility Business routes totalling a period of five years in a six year period.

If the visa is granted for one year, then it is extendable up to one further year.  It is worth bearing in mind that dependants can accompany the worker, and this would include their spouse, unmarried partner, and children under the age of 18, subject to meeting all the relevant criteria. It is however important to bear in mind that this route does not lead to settlement in the UK and therefore the worker will need to switch into another category if they wanted to ultimately settle in the UK.

Benefits of the UK Expansion Worker Visa:

It is possible to sponsor up to five migrants and the visa costs are generally lower. Employers are not required to pay the immigration skills charge which can be up to £1,000 per year for the length of the visa granted and furthermore, there is no specific English language requirement which needs to be met unlike the T2 Skilled Worker Route which has a B1 English requirement.

Evidential Criteria:

1. UK Trading Presence

The overseas entity must have a UK trading presence, and this practically means that an individual would need to be hired in the UK first or the overseas applicant would need to make trips to the UK in order to sign a lease or licence on business premises, establish a UK bank account. As an alternative, a limited company can be set up in the UK which will need to be wholly owned by the overseas entity.

2. Overseas trading presence for at least the last three years

The overseas company applying for an Expansion Worker Licence will need to provide corporate bank statements, audited accounts (if it is required to provide audited accounts in the country where the business is situated) including other company documentation for the three-year period leading up to submission of the Home Office Sponsor Licence Application. A letter from the overseas entities’ accountants can also be provided providing a summary of the overseas business including its operating structure and revenues. The accounts provided by the overseas entity should include profit and loss accounts and balance sheets for the last three tax years, prior to the Home Office application. Any other documentation including from the equivalent of HM Revenue and Customs confirming that the business is fully compliant with its reporting tax and other statutory obligations should also be included with the application.

3. Evidence of Planned Expansion to the UK

The overseas company will need to provide credible evidence of plans to expand into the UK market. In this regard, it would be helpful for a business plan to be prepared to also provide evidence of a genuine planned expansion. The business plan can include a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats) along with information as to why the overseas entity feels that it needs to expand into the UK markets and the benefits it will derive in doing so.


The expansion worker route is document heavy and as a rough estimate, businesses will probably need between 2-4 months lead-in time in applying for the licence to sponsor Expansion Workers to the UK.

The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is provided for general information purposes only.  You should not act upon the information provided without obtaining specific professional advice and Ellisons Solicitors accepts no responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of acting on information contained in this article.


For advice, contact Sohan Sidhu at Ellisons Solicitors at sohan.sidhu@ellisonssolicitors.com or +44 (0)1284 763333

Further reading:

Employing EU Nationals in a Changed Landscape

The New UK Global Mobility Visa - Good News or Bad?

(Read more here about AGA's Global Mobility team)

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