What is the UK Scale-up Worker visa?

The scale-up visa route is intended for talented individuals whose skills are considered to be helpful for the expansion of a qualifying scale-up business in the UK. 

Scale-up businesses in the UK are those which have grown by 20% on average within the 3-year period before they were approved by the Home Office to sponsor scale-up workers. They should also have at least 10 employees at the start of that period.

These fast-growing companies can recruit and sponsor professionals from abroad to do an eligible, high-skilled job in the UK. Professionals can then live and work in the UK for 2 years before they need to renew their visas. 

UK Scale-up Worker visa requirements

To apply for the scale-up worker visa route, foreign talented individuals must have a confirmed job offer from an approved UK scale-up business. 

The job offer must extend to a minimum of 6 months. It must be for an eligible occupation with a valid, 4-digit occupation code, which a sponsor —an authority of the UK scale-up business interested in the foreign professional—  should include in a Certificate of Sponsorship, a document that confirms the recruitment and provides specific information about the job. 

There is also a salary requirement. In his or her new job, the scale-up worker from abroad can’t earn less than £33,000 per year, £10.10 per hour, or the going rate for their occupation code.

Conditions of the scale-up visa route

Applicants for the scale-up worker visa must do the job that they’ve been sponsored to do within 6 months after being granted permission to stay in the UK. 

They can also do other jobs, such as voluntary work or resort to self-employment, except for work as a professional sportsperson (including sports coach). Study is also permitted.

However, the applicant can’t have access to public funds in any case.

English language requirement for the scale-up worker visa

Applicants must have a level of English equivalent to B1 in the areas of reading, listening, writing, and speaking. They can prove this knowledge by taking a Secure English Language Test at a Secure English Language Test center approved by the Secretary of State. 

Applicants can be exempt from taking this test if they have a degree taught in English or if they come from a majority English speaking country: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, or the USA.

Scale-up Worker visa fees

Applicants for the scale-up worker visa must pay:

  • An application fee of £715.
  • An annual healthcare surcharge (which is usually £624 per year).

Moreover, they must show that they have enough personal savings to support themselves while in the UK. The minimum is £1,270. These funds must have been available in the applicants’ bank accounts for at least 28 days in a row before their application.

This is not necessary if the scale-up worker’s sponsor is willing to cover his or her costs for the first month that they will be in the UK. However, sponsors can only cover up to £1,270, according to the UK’s immigration rules.

Scale-up Worker visa application

Application for the scale-up visa route must be done online up to 3 months before the day on which applicants should be starting work in the UK. This date is stated in the Certificate of Sponsorship. 

Applicants must prove their identity in different ways according to what type of passport they have. Usually, applicants will have to either attend a visa application center to provide biometric information (such as fingerprints and photographs) or scan their identity documents in the “UK Immigration: ID Check” app. A UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account is required for this.

Required documents

Applicants for the scale-up worker visa route will need:

  • Documents that prove their identity and nationality, such as identity documents and/or passports.
  • Certificate of sponsorship reference number.
  • Sponsor license number.
  • Job title and annual salary.
  • Job’s occupation code.
  • Bank statements or other documents that show that the applicant has the personal savings that are required for a successful scale-up worker visa application. 

Dependents of the scale-up worker

Applicants can bring their family members to the UK as long as they submit their own applications and pay their own application fees. They should also have their own personal savings:

  • £285 for the applicant’s partner.
  • £315 for one child.
  • £200 for each additional child.

Another option is to have the applicant’s sponsor cover the family’s costs for one month. They must clarify this in the Certificate of Sponsorship.  

All family members will be linked to the main applicant through his or her Global Web Form (GWF) or Unique Application Number (UAN), an application number that can be found in the main applicant’s emails or letters from the Home Office.

Proof of relationship may be required. 

Who can apply as a Scale-up Worker’s Dependent?

  • Husbands, wives, civil partners, or unmarried partners who have been living with the main applicant for at least 2 years (applicants may need to submit proof of this).
  • Children under 18 years old, whether they were born during the main applicant’s stay in the UK or not.
  • Children over 18 years old if they are still unmarried, with no children of their own or civil partnerships, living with the main applicant and depending financially on them. 

How to extend the Scale-up Worker visa

Scale-up workers can apply online to extend their visa before its expiration, provided that:

  • They have worked for at least half a year for their sponsor.
  • They have earned a monthly salary equivalent to £33,000 per year. This is for at least 12 months if they’ve spent 2 years in their position, and for at least 2.5 years if they’ve spent 5 years in their position (under the scale-up worker visa scheme).
  • They have earned a monthly salary equivalent to £33,000 per year in a side job (self-employment doesn’t count).

Scale-up workers who want to extend their scale-up worker visa do not need to submit a new Certificate of Sponsorship, but they must pay the application fees and prove their identity in order to renew their visa. 

How to switch to the Scale-up Worker visa route

Individuals who meet the requirements to obtain a scale-up worker visa can apply for it from the UK, provided that they are not there:

  • As a short-term student, or as a parent of a child student.
  • As a seasonal worker.
  • As a visitor or tourist.
  • On a domestic worker in a private household visa.
  • On immigration bail.
  • On compassionate grounds, or other conditions outside normal immigration rules.

If that’s the case, they must leave the UK and try to apply for the scale-up worker visa from abroad. 

Receiving decision on your Scale-up Worker visa application

Anyone who has applied for the scale-up worker visa online and proved their identity and nationality can expect to receive a decision in 3 weeks if they’re outside the UK, or 8 weeks, if they’re inside the UK.

Frequently asked questions about UK Scale-up Worker visa

  1. Can I pay for priority service or super priority service for my application to be reviewed earlier?
  • Priority service and super priority service are only available for applications for the Skilled Worker visa, the Health and Care Worker visa, the Student visa, and the Child student visa.
  1. Can the scale-up worker visa route lead to settlement in the UK?
  • You can apply to settle in the UK permanently after you’ve spent 5 years there with the scale-up worker visa.
  1. Can I change jobs with the scale-up worker visa scheme?
  • The scale-up worker visa requires that you spend at least 6 months doing the job that you’ve been sponsored to do. You can’t change jobs before that time, but you can have side jobs and do voluntary work, or update your visa accordingly.
  1. Do the specified salary requirements include taxes?
  • No, it’s £33,000 per year, £10.10 per hour, or the going rate for your occupation code before income tax. However, these numbers do include national insurance contributions and employee pensions.


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