On 15 March the UK government confirmed changes to the immigration rules to implement their proposed ‘plan for growth’ measures. 

This includes new rules to improve and simplify UK work visas and provide UK businesses with access to a more flexible pool of highly skilled workers. The changes are being phased in over the next few months, starting from 6 April.

Highlights include:

High Potential Individual route

This visa route goes live to applicants on 30 May. The aim of this route is to make it as simple as possible for internationally mobile individuals who demonstrate high potential to come to live and work in the UK. 

The government’s plan is that this route will increase the pool of highly talented individuals available to UK businesses, perhaps going some way to alleviating the recruitment difficulties that many UK employers are currently facing.

One significant difference from other visa routes is that graduates will be able to come and work in the UK without a pre-existing job offer from a UK employer.  

However, they must have a degree from a ‘top global university’ outside of the UK, awarded within the last five years, which meets or exceeds the recognised standard of a Bachelors or UK postgraduate degree.

The university at which the applicant was awarded the degree must appear on the Global Universities List, which is published by the Home Office and compiled on an annual basis.

English language ability is required and anyone applying for an entry visa or permission to stay must also meet a financial maintenance requirement. 

However, despite being previously advertised as a route to settlement or permanent residence in the UK, this route will not now lead to settlement. It remains to be seen whether this will impact the uptake of this visa option.

Global Business Mobility (GBM) route

This route allows teams of workers to undertake assignments connected to a business’s expansion, thereby facilitating inward investment – the aim of these rules is to make business mobility as seamless as possible.

The new rules for this route will replace and simplify some existing routes, by bringing together, reforming and expanding current business immigration rules.

The route is split into five subcategories:

  • senior or specialist workers
  • graduate trainees
  • secondment workers
  • service suppliers
  • UK expansion workers

The rule changes under this route include:

  1. Replacing the intracompany transfer route with another system for senior executives and specialists undertaking temporary assignments at UK branches or subsidiaries of the business. The minimum salary requirement for this route is £42,400 per year or the going rate for the relevant occupation code.
  2. Graduate trainee route: for workers on a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position who are required to do a work placement in the UK. This replaces the intercompany graduate trainee route.  This route complements the existing graduate route which allows a period of post study work for international students graduating from UK universities.
  3. UK expansion worker route: this is for senior managers or specialist employees who are being assigned to the UK to undertake work related to a business’s expansion in the UK. This effectively replaces the sole representative route, with a helpful expansion of  the route to allow a team of workers (rather than just one worker) to come to the UK in this capacity.  

    However, unlike the sole representative route, this is a sponsored route, and the overseas business must not already be trading in the UK – if the business is already trading in the UK the worker must apply under the senior or specialist worker route. 
  4. There will be a new provision for secondments to the UK – workers will be able to be seconded to the UK as part of a high value contract or investment by their overseas employer.
  5. Service suppliers route – this is for contractual service suppliers and self-employed independent professionals based overseas who have undertaken an assignment in the UK by virtue of an international trade commitment. This replaces the service supply provisions in the Temporary Work International Agreement route.

Importantly, despite recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee, who advise the government on immigration, none of these routes will lead to settlement in the UK. That said, they do allow for dependent partners and children to accompany the main applicant.

Note that the maximum cumulative period of permission that can be granted in any of the GBM routes is five years in any six year period, and nine years in any 10 year period for senior high earners (which applies to those earning more than £73,900 per year).

In addition, as the GBM routes are temporary routes, there will be no English language requirement. Applicants will be able to bring family dependents with them to the UK, and will also be able to switch from this route to other more permanent routes if they qualify. 

Scale-up route

This new visa route goes live to applicants from 22 August and is another route aimed at attracting talented individuals to high growth businesses in the UK. 

Applicants on this route must have a sponsored job offer from an authorised UK scale-up company, which will have to specifically register for this route to be applicable. 

In order to register, a company will need to demonstrate that they have an annualised growth rate of at least 20% for the previous three years. Such companies will also need to have had a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the same three year period.    

The job being offered must be skilled to graduate level, with a minimum salary requirement of £33,000 per year, or the going rate for the particular occupation, whichever is higher.

Importantly, initial applications will require a sponsor, but extension applications will not. The main requirement of an extension is that the applicant has earned the appropriate salary during the time they have spent as a sponsored scale-up worker. In both cases, there is an English language requirement and a maintenance requirement, with successful applicants initially granted leave for two years.

A subsequent three year extension can be sought, after which an application for permanent residence can also be made.

Other changes

The final change to mention is that relating to the Global Talent route, and various changes to the 10-year settlement route for parents and partners that have also been introduced. In summary, the rules have been simplified, although some new requirements have also been added. In particular the following will now be eligible for settlement in the UK after five years:

  • children who have been resident in the UK for seven years (where it would not be reasonable to expect them to leave the UK); and
  • under 25s (who have spent at least half their life continuously resident in the UK)


The majority of these immigration developments will be welcomed by employers, given the additional options for attracting international talent to the UK. However, the particular requirements of each new route may be tricky to navigate, and it remains important to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.  We will publish further updates throughout this year, along with practical guidance for employers as the changes begin to take effect.


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