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UK Expansion Worker Visa

The UK Expansion Worker visa is for overseas businesses wishing to set up a branch in the UK when the overseas company does not have an existing presence here.

In order to expand into the UK the company must first apply for a sponsorship licence under the UK Expansion Worker route. This route allows a senior manager or specialist employee from overseas to undertake temporary work assignments in the UK related to a business’ expansion to the UK.

The UK Expansion Worker route has replaced the sole representative provisions of the Representative of an Overseas Business route.

It is important to emphasise that the UK Expansion Worker route can only be used when the business has not yet begun trading in the UK. If the business is already trading in the UK, it will need to apply for a different category of licence, most likely a general sponsorship licence – see here for details.

An applicant must provide credible evidence that it intends, and is able, to establish a new UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an overseas business.

UK Expansion Workers must be paid at least the general salary threshold of £42,400 per year, or the specified going rate for the occupation (whichever is higher).

A UK Expansion Worker can come to the UK for up to one year initially, with the option to extend their stay by up to a further year. Two years is the maximum continuous period a person can stay in the UK on this route. However, once an expansion worker has entered the UK under this category, they can apply to add a further Skilled Worker tier to the business’ sponsorship licence. The expansion worker can then apply to switch into the Skilled Worker category which leads to settlement after 5 years.

You can only sponsor the number of workers you genuinely need to establish the UK business (up to a maximum of 5 workers at any one time). Once the business has established a UK trading presence, it can add other routes to its licence and sponsor workers on those routes.


First and foremost, the business will need to be registered with UKVI for the issuing of Certificates of Sponsorship. It is necessary to demonstrate that ability of the overseas company to expand into the UK, that it is a genuine trading entity and that there are cogent plans to support the expansion.

If the UK entity does not have any existing employees, the Authorising Officer must be appointed from the overseas parent company. This person will be the first representative of the business in the UK, what previously would have been referred to as the sole representative or the overseas business representative.

UKVI may attend your offices to audit your internal procedures prior to issuing a sponsorship licence.

The business must show that it has:

  • a UK ‘footprint’
  • an overseas trading presence
  • credible plans to expand to the UK and establish a trading presence within two years

You can demonstrate a UK ‘footprint’ by either:

  • providing evidence you have UK business premises – for example, a lease agreement or documents showing you have purchased the premises; or
  • providing evidence that the business is registered with Companies House as either an overseas company branch or a new company that is a subsidiary of the overseas linked business.

The overseas business that is expanding to the UK must be active and trading overseas and, unless an exception applies, demonstrate it has been active and trading for at least 3 years prior to the date of application.

It must provide evidence that the overseas business has been trading throughout the 12-month period immediately before the application for a sponsor licence (for example, corporate bank statements covering the entire period). It must also provide evidence that shows the business was trading at the start of the 3-year period before the date of application and was actively trading throughout that 3-year period (for example, audited accounts).

It must show that the business genuinely intends, and is able, to expand to the UK and establish a UK trading presence within two years. To determine this, the Home Office will consider evidence of your business planning and finances, including the size of your business, its previous activity and its potential.

The planned expansion must be in the same type of business that you conduct overseas, and cannot be a new business venture by the company. The business you are establishing in the UK must be either wholly owned by the overseas business or part of the same legal entity (such as a branch).

In common with other sponsored work routes, you must have an Authorising Officer, a Key Contact and at least one Level 1 User in place at the time you apply for your licence.

The Authorising Officer can be either:

  • a worker who is already based in the UK and will be overseeing your expansion to the UK; or
  • if there no suitable person based in the UK who can take this role, a senior employee of the overseas business who will be assigned to the UK to oversee the expansion

In either case, they must be a senior person in your organisation and take responsibility for ensuring that you meet all sponsorship duties as a licensed sponsor.

If the Authorising Officer named in the sponsorship licence application is an employee of the overseas business, they must also be the Level 1 User. If the licence application is approved, that person must assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to themselves in order to make an application for a UK Expansion Worker visa.

The Authorising Officer can appoint different people to these roles once they are legally resident in the UK and the company has obtained an A-rating for its licence.

Where a company’s Authorising Officer is outside the UK, the business will be given an initial CoS allocation of 1, together with a Provisional licence rating. The Authorising Officer (who must also be the Level 1 User) must assign that CoS to themselves in order to make a successful application for entry clearance to the UK.

They will need to take further actions to update the licence details and uprate your licence rating after they have been granted.

If the Authorising Officer is granted entry clearance, they must update their details on the sponsorship management system (SMS) as soon as possible to include the following details:

  • the type of permission they have (this will be UK Expansion Worker);
  • the expiry date of their permission;
  • their Home Office reference number (this can be their Visa Application Form number, their biometric residence permit number, or any other reference number provided by the Home Office to the applicant); and
  • their UK address (when they know this).

Before you can sponsor any other workers, the Authorising Officer must also make a request via your SMS account for your organisation’s licence rating to be changed from Provisional to an A-rating. The Authorising Officer can report these details (and make this request) as soon as they have been granted permission to come to the UK – they do not have to wait until they are in the UK. However, the Authorising Officer must actually come to the UK to start their sponsored role no more than 28 days after the start date recorded on their CoS or the date their entry clearance becomes effective (whichever is the later)

Once you have an A-rating for your sponsor licence, you can ask to increase your CoS allocation via your SMS account, up to a maximum of 4.

Once you have established a UK trading presence, you can apply to add other routes to your licence (for example, Skilled Worker or Senior or Specialist Worker). Your sponsored workers can then apply to switch to these routes if they meet the relevant requirements.

Licence application fee - £536/£1476 (depending on the size of the company)

Certificate of Sponsorship - £239

Immigration Skills Charge - £364/£1000 per year (depending on the size of the company)

Immigration Health Surcharge – presently £1035 per year

Application fee - £298

1) Proof of your UK ‘footprint’

All businesses applying under UK Expansion Worker must show they have a UK footprint. This must be one of the following documents—

  •          proof you have registered a UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of your overseas company with Companies House (you need only provide your Companies House reference number); or
  •          evidence you have bought or leased business premises in the UK (such as a lease agreement or proof of purchase)


2) Evidence of your overseas trading presence

You must submit the documents listed under (a) and (b) below.

(a) Evidence you have been trading overseas for at least 12 months before the date of your application

You must submit one document under sub-paragraph (i) below and one document under sub-paragraph (ii).

(i) One of the following—

  • corporate or business bank statements showing active transactions for services or goods received or provided covering a period of at least 12 months before the date of application; or
  • audited or unaudited accounts for the most recent financial year (as defined by laws applicable to the overseas business), together with an accountant’s certificate of confirmation – this certificate
  • should include confirmation of the accountant’s registration with any appropriate regulatory body in the country in which those accounts have been produced

(ii) One of the following—

  • copies of contracts for goods or services covering at least the 12-month period before the date of application; or
  • evidence of advertising for services or goods offered by your overseas business

(b) Evidence your business was trading overseas 3 years before the date of application – this should be at least one of the following:

  • business accounts for the relevant period (these must be audited if required by the applicable laws in the jurisdiction in which your business is based)
  • corporate or business bank statements for the relevant period
  • contracts for goods and services for the relevant period
  • annual reports and investor information for the relevant period
  • any other credible evidence to show you were actively trading during this period


3) Evidence of your planned expansion to the UK

You must send one document listed under (a) and two listed under (b) below.

(a) Evidence of your capability to fund your planned expansion, which must show that you have funds available to cover the initial costs for the first 12 months, as projected in your expansion plan – at least one of the following:

  • corporate or business bank statements showing transactions from the 12-month period before the date of application (if not already submitted under 2(a)(i) above)
  • a letter from your corporate banking provider, setting out the dealings it has had with you, including the nature and duration of those dealings

(b) Evidence of your expansion plans – at least 2 of the following:

a summary of your overseas business, including:

  • information about which sector, or sectors, you operate in
  • a current hierarchy chart for the overseas business detailing any owner, director and board members and the total number of employees information about any jobs you intend to fill in the UK, including the job title, occupation code, and salary
  • a business plan or other document summarising the last 12 months’ activity of the overseas company, its financial position, reasons for expansion, the proposed overall investment in the UK and projected operating costs or expenditure for at least the first 12 months of operating in the UK
  • evidence of market research conducted and detailed reasoning for choosing the UK as a viable market to expand to (if not included in the business plan)
  • where the expansion is subject to a shareholder vote process, as detailed in the company’s original articles of incorporation or equivalent, evidence that this process has been followed (this may form part of the company’s filed accounts)

Where the business plan or document summarising the expansion plans has been produced either wholly or in part by a third party (for example, where market research was outsourced to a specialist company) you must also include certified copies of the contract or agreement for that piece of work with the third party.


4) Other documents

You must also send at least one of the following:

  • annual reports and investor information
  • evidence of engagement with, or advice sought from, specialist advice companies, such as company formation businesses, relocation firms, UK corporate law services, tax services, or the British Chamber of Commerce
  • details of any recruitment campaigns you have run, or plan to run, in the UK for employees of the UK business once trading begins
  • Articles of Association for your overseas business or equivalent document
  • details of any tendering or other process where any activity relating to your business expansion plan, such as the commission of market research, has been conducted by an independent third party

If you have any of the following documents, these can also be supplied:

    • Registration with a Governing Body. If the company is required to be registered under UK legislation in order to operate legally, provide evidence of registration, e.g. solicitors must register with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, charities must register with the Charities Commission, etc. 
    • Employers Liability Insurance for at least £5 million from an authorised insurer. 
    • Evidence of registration with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) as an employer to pay PAYE and National Insurance.  Proof of PAYE reference number and accounts office reference number is required – this requirement is usually met by producing the initial letter from HMRC confirming registration.
    • Certificate of VAT registration and latest VAT return confirming VAT registration number.
    • A letter from the company's bank setting out the dealings it has had with the company, including the nature and duration of its dealings.
    • Proof of ownership of the business premises and other fixed assets or proof of lease of business premises.
    • Latest notice to file a company tax return (CT603) and Company Tax Return (CT600) or the latest acknowledgement of a Company Tax Return (CT620).

Evidence that you have the appropriate planning permission to operate your type/class of business at your trading address where this is a Local Authority requirement.

The UK Expansion Worker visa is for a maximum of 2 years. It is not possible to extend this category or to qualify for indefinite leave to remain (settlement). The expansion worker will need to apply to switch into the Skilled Worker category once the appropriate tier has been added to the company’s sponsorship licence.

The spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner that has lived with the main applicant for at least 2 years, and any unmarried children under 18 can apply to accompany the UK Expansion Worker to the UK.

They will be allowed to remain in the UK for the same period as the expansion worker and will also be granted any variations of leave to remain, for example, into the Skilled Worker category, in line. They may work in the UK if special restrictions have not been placed on their stay.

We will provide comprehensive legal advice throughout the application process, ensuring that your application meets the legal requirements.

We will review and assist you in compiling the evidence required for a successful application.

We will complete and submit all forms and evidence with detailed written legal representation. We will book your employee’s biometric appointment and undertake ongoing liaison with the authorities where possible.

To find out more about our UK Expansion Worker visa services, please contact us on +44 (0)20 7038 3980, email us at or use our online form.

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