The UK recently announced a new Scale-up visa as part of its Innovation Strategy, aimed at “opening [the UK’s] borders to top talent”. The route will be open to people who have a job offer from a “scale-up” company – that is, a company that has experienced 20%+ annual growth in turnover or employee numbers over the past three years.

Further details about the new Scale-up visa are expected to be announced later in 2021, but here’s what we currently know.

What is the new UK Scale-up visa?

The new Scale-up visa is aimed at providing a fast-track visa service to people who have a highly skilled job offer from a “Scale-up” company in the UK.

What is a “Scale-up” company?

A Scale-up company is one that has experienced a 20%+ annual growth rate in turnover or employee numbers over the past three years. Companies must’ve employed at least 10 people at the beginning of the three-year period.

How many Scale-up companies are there in the UK?

In 2018 – the latest year for which statistics are available – there were 33,860 scale-up companies in the UK. This number was down 11% on the previous year, but up 25% since 2013. Support for scale-ups through the UK Government’s new Innovation Strategy is likely to see the number of qualifying companies rise going forward.

How can I find a Scale-up company?

How does the Scale-up visa differ from a Skilled Worker visa?

Both the Scale-up and Skilled Worker visa sit under the UK’s Points-based System for immigration, so to qualify UK visa applicants will need to meet a standardised range of criteria. However, where the Skilled Worker visa prioritises workers with the skills the UK economy needs – in subjects such as healthcare, engineering and computer science – the Scale-up visa is open to all sectors as long as the company sponsoring the application meets the growth criteria.

Why is the Scale-up visa being introduced now?

The British government aims to make the UK the “easiest country in the world for top Innovative Talent to enter” and to achieve that goal the Scale-up visa is being introduced to help support the UK’s fastest growing companies. 

What is the eligibility criteria for the Scale-up visa?

Little detail has so far been published on eligibility criteria, other than stating that Scale-up visa is a sponsored work visa under the Points-based System. Presumably this means you’ll need to be paid an appropriate salary (which may or may not be higher than the ‘going rates’ published by UK Visas and Immigration), prove your English language competence and have a minimum level of education.

Companies looking to sponsor Scale-up visas need to meet the scale-up qualifying criteria of 20%+ annual growth in either turnover or employee numbers over the past three years, with at least 10 people at the beginning of that three-year period.

Are there any quotas for the Scale-up visa?

There’s been no information announced on quotas at the moment but presumably there won’t be as the point of the visa is to help growing companies grow even faster.

Will I be able to extend a Scale-up visa?

Information published so far states that holders of the Scale-up visa will be able to extend it for a maximum duration of 5 years. As the UK typically issues immigration-style visas for 30-36 months at a time, it’s likely you’ll need to initially apply for the Scale-up visa and then extend it.

Does the Scale-up visa count towards settlement in the UK?

Yes it does, after 5 years you’ll be eligible to apply for settlement in the UK and also potentially British citizenship.

Can I switch employers while on a Scale-up visa?

Yes, you’ll be able to switch employers on a Scale-up visa, however, when you come to renew your UK visa you’ll need to qualify for an appropriate visa type. 

For example, if you change employers and your new employer isn’t a scale-up when you come to renew your UK visa, you’ll need to qualify for a different type of UK visa, such as a Skilled Worker visa, or if you’ve already had five years of qualifying stay in the UK, Indefinite Leave to Remain (also known as a ‘settlement visa’).

Can I bring my family to the UK with me on a Scale-up visa?

Similar visas, such as the Skilled Worker visa, do permit this, but there’s not been any firm confirmation from UK VIsas and Immigration so far.

When will the Scale-up visa launch?

The UK government hasn’t given a definitive timeline for the Scale-up visa launch but many commentators expect it to go-live towards the end of 2021.

How much will the Scale-up visa cost?

The cost is another big question mark, with no information provided so far. The UK government has also not confirmed whether the Scale-up visa will attract the Immigration Health Surcharge payment, although we suspect it will.

How can I find out more about the Scale-up visa?

The best way to keep updated on news about the UK Scale-up visa is to sign up to our mailing list. You’ll receive 2-4 emails per month on a range of visa, travel and  immigration subjects, including guidance on how to apply for the Scale-up visa when it launches. Fill out the form below to get started

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