The new Global Business Mobility visa

At 9am on 11 April 2022, five new immigration routes went live as part of the new Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa.

The purpose of the new routes was to bring together, reform and expand the routes by which overseas businesses are able to temporarily send employees to the UK to undertake specific business purposes or to establish a presence in the UK for the first time.

There are five subcategories of the GBM Visa:

  • Senior or Specialist worker
  • Graduate Trainee
  • UK Expansion Worker
  • Service Suppliers
  • Secondment Worker

We’ll be looking at each in turn in this series of blogs, discussing the key features and when they are most likely to be useful to businesses. In this blog we focus on the Senior or Specialist Worker and Graduate trainee routes.

General Features of the GBM routes

But before we look at the detailed requirements, there are some features that apply to all the GBM routes:

  • All of the GBM routes are temporary and do not lead to settlement (although once in the UK workers can switch to routes which do lead to permanent settlement, such as the skilled worker route).
  • The UK business which is “receiving” workers under any of these routes will require a sponsor licence. This is a significant shift for some of the sub-tiers such as the UK Expansion Worker route.
  • There is no English language requirement.
  • For many of the routes, the worker will need to be an existing employee of the business with a minimum length of employment overseas.
  • Minimum salary and skill levels must usually need to be met, with the appropriate skill level typically being set at Level 6 on the National Qualifications Framework (which means the role has been judged to require a degree standard of education - although holding a degree is not usually a requirement).
  • In all cases applicants must be aged over 18.

Senior or Specialist Worker

The Senior or Specialist Worker GBM route is for overseas workers undertaking temporary assignments in the UK, where the worker is a senior manager or specialist employee and is being assigned to a UK business linked to their employer overseas to undertake a specific skilled role. It is designed to be used by international businesses to meet specific business needs in the UK.

This route replaces the old Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) route and, as such, will be fairly familiar to many businesses.  

Individuals must meet a general salary threshold of £42,400 per year or the “going rate” for the role (which may be higher). This is a slight increase on the threshold salary under the old ICT route of £41,500 per year.

Mirroring the requirements under the old ICT route, employees will only be eligible to apply if they have 12 months’ service overseas within the group before applying, unless they are classed as a high earner (earning a gross annual salary of £73,900 or more in the UK) in which case they can apply straight away.

The Immigration Skills Charge usually remains payable in respect of this route. This cost varies depending on the size of the employer. The cost for large businesses is £1000 per year of the visa, payable up front, and for smaller companies the cost is £364 per year of the visa, also payable upfront.

The time which can be spent in the UK as a Senior or Specialist worker is limited to five years in any six-year period, unless the worker is a high earner in which case a longer time period is permitted of up to nine years in any ten year period. (These maximum time limits are cumulative across all of the GBM routes, and also include time spent in any predecessor ICT route.)

Existing ICT sponsors did not need to take any action in respect of their sponsor licences as a result of these changes: any sponsor who was on the sponsor register with an ICT licence will have been automatically transitioned to a GBM Senior or Specialist Worker licence when the new routes went live.

Who might need to use this route?

This route is potentially useful for any international businesses who have specific needs in the UK.

As an example of how this has been used by one of our clients:

A construction business has offices in Portugal and London. The senior manager of the firm is a Portuguese national, who is normally resident in Portugal but regularly needs to work in the UK for extended periods of time. With the end of free movement post-Brexit, the manager can no longer come to the UK to work without a visa. As a result, the London office obtains a sponsor licence under the GBM Senior or Specialist Worker route and uses this to sponsor the manager for a period of five years. During this time, the manager can work between the UK and Portugal as business needs require.

Graduate Trainee

The Graduate Trainee route is for overseas workers who are undertaking temporary work assignments in the UK as part of a structured graduate training programme which involves a work placement in the UK. It is designed to be used by international businesses as part of their global training programmes.

Importantly, this is not a generic route applicable to all graduates, as it must be used as part of a structured graduate training programme with clearly defined progression towards a managerial or specialist role. Evidence of this structured programme will be required by the Home Office, which could be in the form of a course brochure, recruitment evidence or details on the corporate website.

A welcome change from the previous graduate trainee route is that sponsors are no longer limited to 20 graduate trainees per year using this route: numbers are now unlimited.

Graduates must meet a general salary threshold of £23,100 per year (which broadly mirrors the requirement of the old Graduate Trainee ICT route), or at least 70% of the “going rate” for the role (which may be higher). They also have to have at least three months’ service with the group outside of the UK in order to be eligible.

In a major change from the previous route, sponsors will only be able to use this option if they hold a specific sponsor licence in this particular category.

Importantly, existing ICT sponsors will not have been given a Graduate Trainee licence automatically. Only those who have already sponsored Graduate Trainees previously or who have previously requested an annual Graduate Trainee Certificate of Sponsorship allocation will have automatically been allocated a new GBM sponsor licence for the Graduate Trainee route. (If the business is an existing sponsor it is worth checking the position as we are aware of some businesses where this does not seem to have happened.) Otherwise, businesses will need to formally apply to add this sub-category to their licence before they are able to use the route.

Who might need to use this route?

This route is potentially useful for any international businesses who want to bring graduates to the UK as part of their global training programme.

As an example of how this has been used by one of our clients:

A multinational food manufacturer has a graduate trainee programme that enables new graduates to gain experience of their international business by undertaking placements around the globe. One of their offices is in the UK. The business holds a Senior or Specialist Worker GBM sponsor licence. The business successfully applies to add the Graduate Trainee sub-category to their existing licence. Once their graduates have worked outside the UK for the organisation for three months, applicants to the graduate programme can be sponsored under the GBM Graduate Trainee route to do work placements in senior or specialist positions in the UK for up to one year.

Look out for the next parts of our blog series in which we’ll cover the other GBM routes.

If you have any queries regarding the new visa routes or need help with applying for/managing a sponsor licence application or making specific visa applications, please contact Laura Darnley or any member of our team of expert business immigration solicitors.

Brabners in Lancashire is located at Sceptre Court, Walton Summit. If you would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please give us a ring on 01772 823921, quote “LBV” and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.  

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