UK Scale-up Visa: A Complete Guide

It’s no news that the application for each category of visa usually comes with its own share of conditions, requirements, permissible acts, benefits and so on. As such, it is near impossible to come across a visa type that almost allows you to kill several birds with a single stone. What then is the UK Scale-up Visa that seems to defy all odds to provide migrants with the safe haven they have been seeking for? We are just about to find out!

What is the UK Scale-up Visa?

The UK scale-up visa is a category of work visa in the UK which grants you entry into the UK to work for a fast-growing business, also called a Scale-up business. People working in the UK on this category of visa are called Scale-up workers. Before applying for the UK Scale-up visa, ensure that you have secured a job for a scale-up business in the UK. Also, your employer meets the eligibility criteria to sponsor scale-up workers.

UK Scale-up Visa

Eligibility Criteria for the UK Scale-up Visa

Before you can qualify for the UK Scale-up, you must: 

  • have landed a job offer to work as a Scale-up worker for an approved scale-up business for a minimum duration of 6 months;
  • have been issued a certificate of sponsorship from your employer. The document must contain all necessary information about the job offer.
  • Ensure that the job you have been offered is on the list of eligible occupations in the UK.

Confirm your job eligibility.

How Long Does a UK Scale-up Visa Last For?

A UK Scale-up visa lasts for 2 years after which you can decide to apply for a visa extension. Extending your Scale-up visa can be done as many times as possible, provided you meet the eligibility criteria.

After staying in the UK as a Scale-up worker for 5 years, there is a great possibility of being able to apply for an indefinite leave to remain. This will allow you to settle in the UK permanently. By implication, you get to live, work or study without hindrances.

How can I Apply for a UK Scale-up Visa?

Application is done online!!!

The method of applying for a Scale-up visa depends on your location. You could apply from within the UK or outside the UK. You could also decide to extend your current visa or switch from a different visa while you are inside the UK.

If you wish to change your employer while working at your sponsored job during the first 6 months, you must put in an application to update your visa. The UK Scale-up Visa allows you to bring your dependants, that is, your partner and children with you to the UK, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. 

Application for the Scale-up visa is done 3 months before the day you are meant to assume the new job position in the UK. 

After applying, you may be required to prove your identity and provide certain documents. Feedback on the status of your application is usually received within 3 weeks (if you are outside the UK) or 8 weeks (if you are inside the UK).

What is the Cost of Applying for a UK Scale-up Visa?

Each applicant would be required to:

  • pay an application fee of £715;
  • pay the healthcare surcharge fee on a yearly basis throughout the entire duration of your stay. This usually costs £624 per year;
  • ensure that you have enough to sustain yourself and provide proof of your financial status. The required amount of £1270 must be available in your account for 28 consecutive days.
UK Scale-up Visa

What You Can and Can’t do with a UK Scale-up Visa.

Holders of a UK Scale-up Visa can:

  • work in a sponsored job for a minimum of 6 months; 
  • choose to leave their sponsored jobs after 6 months;
  • choose to study in the UK;
  • bring their dependants, provided they are also eligible; 
  • start their own businesses or take on additional work;
  • participate in voluntary activities;
  • decide to travel abroad, even with the intention of returning to the UK;
  • apply for permanent residency, provided they have lived in the UK for 5 years.

Holders of the UK Scale-up visa cannot:

  • apply for certain benefits such as public funds or the State Pension;
  • work in a professional capacity as a sportsperson;
  • change employers during the first 6 months of their stay;
  • change employers without updating their visas, even after the first 6 months.

Please note:

  • Updating your visa is not required even if you start a different, eligible job as long as it is with the same employer.

Jobs that Meet the Eligibility Criteria for a Scale-up Visa in the UK

Jobs that are eligible for this category of visa in the UK must:

  • be a scale-up business that has been approved by the Home Office;
  • ensure that you meet the salary requirements
  • be ready to accommodate scale-up workers for at least 6 months.
  • have the 4-digit occupation code. This can be obtained from your employer or your certificate of sponsorship.

Check your job’s eligibility

What are the Salary Requirements for a UK Scale-up Visa?

The salary requirements for the Scale-up visa stipulate that you will need to be paid the highest of the 3 options below:

  • £33,000 per year;
  • £10.10 per hour or
  • the job’s going rate  

The occupation code attached to each job has its own annual going rate, and this can be seen in the table of eligible occupations.

Scale-up Businesses in the UK

A Scale-up business in the UK simply means that:

  • it must be an eligible fast-growing business;
  • it must have been approved by the Home Office;
  • it must have grown by an average of 20% each year for 3 years before approval by the Home Office. The growth could be in terms of employment or turnover;
  • it must have had at least 10 employees at the beginning of the 3-year period before approval;
  • it must be willing and capable of sponsoring scale-up workers. This is usually backed up by the issuance of a Certificate of Sponsorship and has a reference number to be used by applicants for application.

What are the Language Requirements for a UK Scale-up?

English proficiency is of the essence. Therefore, you must be able to prove that you can read, write and speak fluently in the English Language. You must also show a vast understanding of the language to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

The proof can be in the form of:

  • obtaining a pass mark in a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider;
  • providing a study certificate obtained at a UK school for a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English when you were under 18;
  • obtaining a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English. For those that studied abroad, additional confirmation would be needed to prove that the academic qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree.

Nationals of the following countries do not need to prove their language proficiency:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand

What are the Documents Needed for the Application for a UK Scale-up Visa?

The documents needed for the application for a UK Scale-up Visa include:

  • a certificate of sponsorship;
  • reference number is given by your employer;
  • proof of meeting the language requirements;
  • a proof of your identity and nationality, such as a valid passport;
  • the title of your job as well as your annual salary;
  • the occupation code for your job;
  • your employer’s name and the employer’s sponsor license number. Both pieces of information can be obtained from your certificate of sponsorship;

Depending on the circumstances of your application, you might need to submit other documents such as:

  • proof of financial stability and self-sustainability. This could be in form of bank statements. You can be exempted from this provided that your employer is willing and able to sponsor you. In this case, it has to be indicated on your certificate of sponsorship.
  • proof of the existing relationship between you and your partner or children if you intend to bring your dependants to the UK with you;
  • your tuberculosis test results provided you are a national of a listed country;
  • a valid ATAS certificate if your proposed job involves doing research on sensitive subjects, especially at PhD level or higher than that.
UK Scale-up Visa

Please note that people applying from outside the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein would need a blank page in their passports for the visa. This is also applicable to those applying from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein but whose biometric passports do not have a chip in them.

In addition to these, if the required documents are not written in English or Welsh, a certified translation has to be provided.

Have you seen this article on the Sweden Job Seeker’s Visa?

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