On 15 March 2022, the Home Office published a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules. This includes a number of developments expected to be helpful for businesses seeking to facilitate knowledge transfer within an international group, to set up or expand a business in the UK, or to access a bigger pool of skilled talent from abroad.
The five Global Business Mobility (GBM) routes were introduced from 9 am on 11 April 2022. They re-package and reform existing routes.
Aside for some transitional arrangements for existing Intra-Company Transferees, GBM migrants will not be allowed to carry out supplementary employment. The policy logic of this appears to be that workers connected with international businesses should focus solely on the work tasks they have been brought to the UK to fulfil.
1. Senior or Specialist Worker
The Senior or Specialist Worker (SSW) strand of the GBM routes reforms and replaces the Intra-Company Transferee (ICT) route. It is designed for use by senior managers and specialist employees of an international group business who are being transferred to one of the group’s UK businesses.
Many of the elements of the ICT route are carried over from ICT, including that the minimum skill level is Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 6 (graduate level equivalent) and that there is no English language requirement. SSWs must be working for the sponsor group at the time of application, and have worked for the group abroad for at least 12 months unless they are a high earner.
Because the skill level and bar to settlement for SSWs is the same as it was for the ICT route, we anticipate a continuation of the trend for global businesses to apply for and hold Skilled Worker sponsor licences in addition to licences under the GBM routes. Doing this enables them to transfer certain employees whose occupation skill level is between RQF Level 3 and 5, or who wish to settle in the UK. Holding a Skilled Worker sponsor licence also leaves open the possibility of recruiting EEA/Swiss citizens who do not meet the requirements of the GBM routes.
2. Graduate Trainee
The new Graduate Trainee provisions reform and replace the Intra-Company Transfer Graduate Trainee route for work placements in the UK as part of a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position within an international business.
3. UK Expansion Worker
The UK Expansion Worker strand replaces and expands the Representative of an Overseas Business provisions for sole representatives. People who already have immigration permission as a sole representative will still be able to extend in this capacity and settle, and the overseas media representative provisions also remain in place.
The new Rules for UK Expansion Workers will allow a team of key senior management or specialist employees of an overseas business with no trading presence in the UK to staff the set-up phase of a UK branch or wholly owned subsidiary, whereas the current provisions only allow for the transfer of one senior executive.
In practice, individuals who come to the UK under this strand but ultimately aim to settle in the UK are likely to want to set up a Skilled Worker sponsor licence and switch into the Skilled Worker route as soon as possible. This is because time spent under the Expansion Worker strand cannot be counted towards the qualifying period for settlement in any other immigration category, including Skilled Worker.
4. Service Supplier
This strand reforms the Temporary Work – International Agreement provisions for service suppliers coming to the UK to provide services in line with one of the international trade agreements the UK is a party to.
5. Secondment Worker
The Secondment Worker strand covers individuals being seconded to the UK as part of a ‘high value contract or investment by their overseas employer.
Sponsorship must be provided by the UK business involved in the transaction, and the relevant contract must be registered with the Home Office. It is anticipated that the Home Office will assess the value of the contract at that stage.
Although the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommended the GBM should lead to settlement, however, the Home Office has rejected this. GBM migrants may only be granted immigration permission for up to five years in any six year period, with the exception of high earning senior or specialist workers (SSWs), who may be granted a maximum of nine years in any ten-year period.