How does a foreign company set up a branch in the UK?
You have one of a few choices, and they fall under the Global Business mobility routes. Following the UK Government announcements, the “Global Business Mobility” routes are being added to the UK Immigration framework. The Global Business Mobility routes opened to new applicants since 11th April 2022 and bring many changes to the complex immigration world in Britain.
One of the popular routes to setting up a British branch of your foreign company was known in the past as a “sole representative route”. The route has now been closed for new applicants, but left open for extension applicants only.
The new routes that were recently introduced on 11th April 2022 open up new categories of sponsored visas designed for overseas businesses and overseas workers. The routes are for businesses seeking to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK for specific business purposes.
In introducing the Global Business Mobility scheme, the Home Office is aiming at simplifying the business routes available for undertaking temporary assignments in the UK. They wish to be clearer and make the options available easier to identify.
There are five new routes that correspond to different assignment types, as follows (1) Senior or Specialist Worker (2) Graduate Trainee (3) Service Supplier (4) Secondment Worker and (5) UK Expansion Worker.
The definition of sponsored visas means that the UKVI or the United Kingdom Visas and Immigration authority will audit and review the “potential company” ahead of their arrival in the UK, and a permit will be granted to the potential new set up.
The UK Expansion Worker route replaces the Sole Representative provisions in the Representative of an Overseas Business route. It is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK, where the worker is a senior manager or specialist employee. It is specifically for workers being assigned to the UK to undertake work related to a business’s expansion to the UK. This means that your company is interested in opening a branch office and wishes to send over a representative to start this business. In the past, the visa was approved for one employee only aka “sole”, today the expansion can be for 5 potential employees at once – a team.
However, as opposed to the former category that permitted the foreign company to research and develop slowly, this new route can only be used when the business is at a very early stage – on the one hand, it must have a registered company, and a lease, but on the other hand – should yet have begun trading in the UK. If the business is already trading in the UK, workers should apply through the Global Business Mobility other routes such as Senior or Specialist Worker instead or under the skilled worker routes.
In addition to the standard requirements, age, status, etc, the employer must normally be classified as an A-rated Home Office authorised sponsor to sponsor a UK Expansion Worker (very limited exceptions). An applicant must be currently working for the sponsor group; and have worked outside the UK for the sponsor group for a cumulative period of at least 12 months. There are exceptions when the applicant is either: (i) applying as a high earner; or (ii) a Japanese national seeking to establish a UK branch or subsidiary of the sponsor group under the UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
It is a points-based system and the applicant must achieve 60 points. Appropriate sponsorship provides 20 points, a job at an appropriate skill level provides 20 points and a salary at the required level provides an additional 20 points.
Fees include the application fee, Immigration Health Charge, and other associated costs. A partner and dependent children can apply to come to the UK on this route.
The length of the visa granted depends on the length of the relevant job, up to 1 year, or it can be extended to 2 years. The maximum time you can stay in the UK on a UK Expansion Worker visa is 2 years. The idea is that after 2 years, you either return home, or you apply to switch under the Skilled worker visa.
It is important to remember that again, as opposed to the former category that led to settlement, this new category “UK Expansion Worker” route is not a route to settlement.
However, subject to satisfying the eligibility requirements, Global Business Mobility Visa holders may be able to apply from within the UK to switch into another immigration route which does lead to settlement. The main work and business routes for achieving settlement are likely to be: Skilled Worker Route, Scale-up Route, Start-up Route, and Innovator Route
If your foreign company is interested in opening a branch in the UK, and has any potential employees that they wish to relocate for the first 2 years to set up the branch – please feel free to contact [email protected] or [email protected].
Our UK solicitors and OISC registered advisers will be happy to schedule a call with you and advise you through the process.
© DRSI Law