Scale-up Licence

Scale Up Sponsorship Licence

The Scale Up Worker Visa route allows businesses that are going through an ongoing phase of high growth to recruit overseas nationals in more favourable terms than other sponsored routes. A migrant worker must first obtain an offer of a highly skilled job role from a qualified UK Scale Up Sponsor before they can apply for a Scale Up Worker Visa.

With only the first six months of employment subject to sponsorship, the Scale Up Route enables qualified businesses to recruit skilled workers outside the UK.

In comparison to the fully sponsored Skilled Worker Visa, the method thereby offers greater flexibility to both the business and the employee.

To hire employees from abroad through this route, the employer must have obtained a Scale Up Sponsor Licence.

Employers can only hire foreign nationals in the UK in highly skilled roles under the Scale-Up method if they can demonstrate ongoing high growth. Scale Up Sponsorship could be a useful and practical immigration solution to meet the foreign worker needs of UK businesses set to grow even further.

Evidence of business growth must be submitted as part of the sponsor licence application process. Sponsors are also subject to continuing compliance requirements.

After obtaining the Scale Up Licence, the business will be able to issue a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for the applicant. The migrant worker must have been employed for a minimum of six months in a position requiring the necessary skill and salary level.

Which Businesses Are Eligible for A Scale Up Licence? 

A scale-up sponsor is an organisation classed as being in a sustained period of high growth and approved by the UK Home Office to recruit overseas nationals to work in the UK in highly skilled job roles. When it comes to which organisations are eligible to apply for a scale-up sponsor licence to recruit skilled migrant workers under this route, all applicants must meet the definition of a qualifying scale-up sponsor. There are two ways that you can meet this definition: the standard pathway and the endorsing body pathway.

1- Scale Up Sponsor Licence: Standard Pathway 

Under the standard pathway, you must be able to show an annualised growth in your business of a minimum of 20% for the 3 years prior to your application based on either employment or turnover. You must also have employed a minimum of 10 staff at the beginning of this 3-year period. When considering your sponsor licence application, UKVI will securely access your PAYE information and/or VAT return information submitted to HMRC, using this data to automatically assess whether or not you meet these requirements.

2- Scale Up Sponsor Licence: Endorsing Body Pathway 

For prospective scale up licence applicants whose business do not meet the sponsor licence eligibility standards, such as when their HMRC records do not span a sufficient amount of time, there is an endorsing body pathway available.

A Home Office-approved endorsing body endorsement may also be obtained by potential sponsors, who must submit it with their licensing application no later than three months after the date of the endorsement.

Only organisations authorised to act as endorsing bodies can provide the required endorsement. These organisations, as listed on the Home Office website, are: 

  • Envestors Limited 
  • UK Endorsing Services 
  • Innovator International 
  • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP) 

To qualify for a scale up endorsement, you must: 

  • have an HMRC footprint of no more than 4 years 
  • be solvent and trading in the UK 
  • be registered for VAT 
  • have a UK-registered corporate bank account 
  • have a minimum of 10 employees who pay tax and National Insurance contributions via a PAYE scheme operated by you 
  • be able to demonstrate a potential growth rate that is consistent with the requirements of the scale up route ‘and’ be reasonably expected to meet the definition of a qualifying scale up sponsor under the standard pathway within 4 years 
  • have sufficient finance to offer appropriate salaries to employees working in roles that meet the skill level of the scale up route. 

You must also meet a minimum of three out of the following five criteria: 

  • Growth: be able to show more than 20% growth in either turnover or employment per year over a 2-year period 
  • Participation in a relevant government programme and/or receipt of relevant government funding: have participated in a recognised scale up programme, have received a recognised loan or grant ‘or’ have participated in the small business research initiative 
  • Finance: have raised at least £1 million in equity finance within a single round in the 12-month period immediately prior to the date of application to the endorsing body 
  • International: have global offices and/or operations ‘and’ be generating a threshold of at least 10% of turnover from exports 
  • Research and development expenditure: be spending 10% of your overall operating costs each year for 3 years on research and development ‘or’ 15% in one of the last 3 years.

Let’s look at the highlights

Scale Up Licence Validity

In common with other sponsored work routes, the Scale Up sponsor licence will be valid for a period of 4 years unless you surrender it or it is revoked before then. However, unlike most other sponsored work routes, you cannot renew your scale up licence beyond 4 years.

Scale Up Sponsor Costs

There is an affordable fee payment when submitting an application to obtain a sponsorship licence. A scale up sponsor will also pay the temporary worker fee when assigning a CoS on this route, with no Immigration Skills Charge to pay. The fees are subject to change. We inform you about the associated Home Office fees when sending a proposal.

Application waiting times

Most Scale Up Sponsor applications are dealt with in less than 8 weeks. UKVI may need to visit your business. You can pay an extra fee to get a decision within 10 working days. This service is limited to a small number of applications every working day. Faster decisions are allocated in the order that requests arrive (first come, first served).

Frequently Asked Questions

The scale up sponsor licence will be valid for a period of four years, just like other sponsored employment routes, unless you relinquish it or it is revoked by the Home Office earlier than that.

Unlike most sponsored work routes, you cannot renew your scale up licence beyond 4 years. After this time, you must apply to be licenced under a different route, such as the route for skilled workers, if you plan to continue sponsoring foreign workers.

An A-rated licence is issued to UK employers sponsoring workers from foreign countries, including EEA and Swiss nationals. It shows that the sponsoring organisation has the necessary systems and processes in place to meet their sponsor duties.

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