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How Do I Become a Scale-up Visa Sponsor

The Scale-up Worker Visa allows employers to sponsor foreign workers in the UK. Not every British company will be eligible to become a Scale-up Visa Sponsor, as certain requirements need to be met before a sponsor licence is offered.

If visa sponsorship is not carried out in line with UK immigration law, employers may face legal action, and the international employee will not be allowed to remain in the UK.

To avoid this dangerous situation, get in touch with an IAS immigration lawyer on 0333 305 9375. We will help you to pursue the lawful approach to becoming a Scale-up Visa sponsor.


Understanding the Scale-up Visa

The Scale-up Visa allows UK businesses to bring over foreign workers to benefit their productivity, as well as providing international employees with the opportunity to live and work in the UK.

This visa opens up many opportunities for the migrant worker. Not only can they work for a fast-growing business without having to arrange immigration permission independently, but they can move onto a new UK business after just 6 months, so they are not limited in terms of career options in the UK.

Eligible applicants must have spoken English proficiency, high proficiency in their field of work, and a job offer for a high-skill role that pays at least £34,600.

Want to attract top global talent and expand your business? Become a Scale-up Visa sponsor and start scaling up today.

Sponsorship Under the Scale-up Route


If you are a UK employer recruiting a foreign employee to work for you, you must register as a Scale-up Visa sponsor. The only exceptions to this are settled or unsponsored workers. This includes:

  • When the foreign employee has existing immigration permission that states they may work for you
  • When the individual is classed as a ‘settled worker’ in the UK (e.g., a British or Irish citizen, a British overseas territories citizen, or someone with Indefinite Leave to Remain status).

What are the requirements for sponsoring a Scale-up Visa applicant?

To sponsor a Scale-up Visa applicant, a company must first apply for a sponsor licence online (if a valid sponsor licence has not already been obtained). The application involves providing evidence of genuine employment, such as pay scales and proof of ownership of business premises.

Businesses must also prove that, in the previous three year period leading up to the application, they have employed at least 10 employees at any one time, and their turnover has increased by at least 20% annually.

If a company does not meet the requirements of this standard pathway, it is possible to pursue the endorsing pathway. Rather than providing proof of HMRC history, the business would apply for support from an endorsing body that is approved by the Home Office.

The sponsor company must also provide evidence that they will be offering at least £34,600 per year to the international worker, or the ‘going rate’ for the occupation code (the higher figure must be selected). They must be prepared to take on the worker for at least 6 months.

A background check of the business will be performed by the Home Office. This involves investigating the history of the company, instances of non-compliance, and current HR systems. They must be satisfied that the business would be able to provide secure employment to the Scale-up Visa holder, and that the personnel would be in a position to monitor the new employee’s time at work (including attendance and progress).

What are the advantages of the Scale-up route for sponsors?

One advantage of the Scale-up Visa route for sponsors is that their company can benefit from employing talented foreign workers who bring a diverse range of skills to the workplace. This can help fast-growing businesses to become even more successful over a short period of time.

If a company requires a particularly niche skill, the Scale-up Visa is a great way to find individuals who are qualified to take on a specialist role within the company. As the search for candidates can be extended beyond the UK, there is more chance that the employer will be able to hire someone who is right for the role.

The Scale-up route tends to be quicker than the Skilled Worker Visa route, as the Certificate of Sponsorship can be assigned immediately. This means employers do not have to dedicate as much time to the process, so they have more time to work on their business.

Finally, there is no requirement for the company to pay the Immigration Skills Charge if they are sponsoring a migrant worker via the Scale-up Visa route. This can save the business up to £1000 in the first year, and up to £500 for each additional 6 months.

What are the disadvantages of the Scale-up route for sponsors?

Firstly, there is a financial requirement for being a recognised UK Scale-up company. The employer must pay a salary of £34,600 to the migrant worker. In some cases, this may be higher than the wage they were planning on offering for the role, so hiring a foreign worker could end up being more expensive.

Secondly, there must be plenty of monitoring of migrant workers, which is time-consuming. Key personnel are chosen to take on these sponsorship responsibilities, such as keeping track of absences, and this could take away from their other responsibilities within the business.

Scale-up workers are only required to work for their sponsor for 6 months. After this period, they are free to move to another company, to do the same, or different, employment type. If a worker chose to do this, the sponsor company could lose a valuable staff member that they have invested in (both in terms of training and the cost of the sponsor licence).

Finally, not every company in the UK qualifies for the Scale-up route. Some businesses cannot pursue this route for various reasons, so this scheme does not successfully pair all fast-growing companies with talented international workers.

Reach out to IAS to find out more about alternative routes to the Scale-up Visa that could be more suitable for your circumstances.

Want to attract top global talent and expand your business? Become a Scale-up Visa sponsor and start scaling up today.

What is the Process to Apply For a Scale-up Licence in the UK?

Companies can apply for a Scale-up licence by submitting an application form on the UK government website. There is usually no need to provide documentation at this stage, unless the business is regulated.

To determine whether the company is eligible for Scale-up status, the applicant must submit:

  • A Companies House reference number or a UTR number
  • One or more PAYE reference numbers
  • A VAT registration number

It costs a total of £1,476 to apply for a Scale-up licence as a large business, and £536 as a small business. There is an additional mandatory fee of £21 for the Certificate of Sponsorship.

Compliance Duties of Sponsor Licence Holders

To obtain a sponsor licence, companies must establish their reliability, strong organisation, and the ability to effectively manage it according to Home Office standards.

Many applications face rejection because companies fail to demonstrate their understanding of the responsibilities that accompany a licence and their strategies for fulfilling them. It’s essential to comprehend these obligations before initiating the application process. The Home Office can conduct compliance checks, whether announced or unannounced, during the application phase. Failure to exhibit proper systems for meeting these duties may result in application rejection.

Although Appendix A doesn’t strictly mandate providing evidence of how your business plans to meet these duties when applying for a sponsor licence, including a Scale-up sponsor licence, it is vital to include such evidence.

Which Documents Are Necessary for an Application for a Scale-up Sponsor Licence?

The documents required for sponsor licence applications vary based on the licence type and industry. These prerequisites are outlined in Appendix A on the official UK Government website.

Nevertheless, if you’re seeking a Scale-up sponsor licence, you generally won’t need to provide documents unless your business operates under regulatory oversight. In such instances, you must supply the documents specified for regulated organisations in table 2. Should you be applying for an additional type of licence alongside the Scale-up licence, you will need to provide documentation specific to that particular route.

Duration and Conditions Of Stay on the Scale-up Visa Route

People with a Scale-up Visa can stay in the UK for up to 2 years, provided that their first 6 months of employment is carried out with the Scale-up sponsor licence holder. Visas can be extended by 3 years if the applicant is still eligible for the Scale-up route. However, the Scale-up company can only employ migrant workers via this route for a maximum of four years at a time.

After a total of 5 years in the UK, the visa holder could apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, which would allow them to work in the UK without a Scale-up Visa.

However, there are rules that must be followed when an individual is in the UK on a Scale-up Visa. They do not have the same permission as a British citizen.

Scale-up Visa holders are permitted to work in the sponsored job for 6 months or more, find another job after 6 months, travel abroad, volunteer, study, and apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

They are not allowed to apply for most state benefits, including the state pension. They are also prohibited from working as a professional sportsperson.

People on this visa can bring their dependent partner and/or dependent children to the UK, provided that they have enough funds to support themselves. Partners are only permitted to join the visa holder if the relationship has lasted at least two years, or they are in a marriage or civil partnership that is recognised in the UK.

What are Common Reasons For a Rejected Scale-up Sponsor Licence Application?

Businesses are commonly rejected for not meeting the main criteria of having 10 or more employees over the past three years, and having an annual turnover increase of 20%. Companies with less than 37 months of HMRC records will also be refused a sponsor licence.

If there is not sufficient evidence that a company is capable of providing genuine employment to a migrant, the application will be rejected. Some examples of this are: not meeting the minimum salary requirement, hiring for an inappropriate skill level and not being prepared to employ the worker for 6 months.

Don’t let a rejection hold you back. Our expert team can help you get your Scale-up Sponsor Licence approved. Contact us today.

How Can IAS Help?

If you want to employ foreign workers to help boost your business in the UK, it is vital that you speak to an immigration lawyer about securing a Scale-up Visa sponsor licence. This will provide security for both your business and your migrant employee, ensuring your reputation remains solid.

Get in touch with IAS on 0333 305 9375 to learn how to apply for the Scale-up Visa sponsor licence. We also offer Scale-up Visa guidance to ensure your application is on the right track to being approved.

If your business is not eligible, we will recommend other visa routes that could be suitable for you, such as the Skilled Worker Visa.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

If you are interested in hiring someone who already has a UK visa, you may be able to help them to switch to the Scale-up route if they meet the Scale-up Visa UK eligibility. This involves being proficient in English, and having a job that is appropriate for the Scale-up route.

Individuals who cannot switch to the Scale-up Visa are:

  • People who have not been granted permission to live in the UK
  • People on immigration bail
  • Individuals granted immigration permission outside of the standard rules (e.g., on compassionate grounds)
  • Anyone with a Seasonal Worker Visa, a Visit Visa, a Parent of a Child Student Visa, a Short-term Student Visa, or a Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa

There is still an application fee for individuals who are already living in the UK on another visa. There will also be a biometrics appointment, which is free of charge.

Any qualifying Scale-up sponsor must have an established HR department. This is a requirement stated by the Home Office, as you need to be able to keep track of the employee’s time in the workplace.

The Scale-up Visa should not be pursued as a long-term solution for a business’ growth. Employees are only expected to stay with the company for 6 months, and many of them will choose to move on at the end of this period.

If you are hoping to employ foreign talent for many years, you will need to look into another route, such as the Skilled Worker route.

The Scale-up Visa is a great way to get into the UK job market in a well-paid role, without sacrificing one’s freedom. A total of 6 months must be spent in the role with the sponsor, but after this period, the Scale-up worker can pursue any other promising career in the UK.

This flexibility is not consistent across every immigration route in the UK. For example, people on the Skilled Worker Visa are not permitted to change jobs freely after 6 months, which includes becoming self-employed.

Switching to the Scale-up Visa would allow them to expand their horizons in the UK, which could prove to change the course of their career.

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