Scale-up Worker visa | UK Scale-up Visa Requirements and Application

The UK Scale-up visa is a new category of visa introduced to encourage businesses to grow and employ more people. The purpose of the new scheme is to attract international investors to the UK, and it has been designed to make it easier for companies in the digital and tech sectors to employ highly skilled individuals from outside the EU.

What does the Scale-up visa do?

The Scale-Up visa allows businesses to employ high-skilled individuals who will receive 2 years’ leave to remain in the UK without requiring further sponsorship or permission beyond the first 6 months. This means that after 6 months in the UK, if you have been working for your employer for at least 30 hours per week for 3 out of 4 months, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). This ILR will allow you to stay in the UK indefinitely with unrestricted access to benefits such as healthcare and pensions.

A Scale-up Worker visa allows you to come to the UK to do an eligible job for a fast-growing UK business (sometimes called a ‘scale-up business’).

Your UK employer must meet specific eligibility criteria to sponsor scale-up workers.

Eligibility Requirements for UK Scale-up Visa

To qualify for a Scale-up Worker visa, you must:

  • have a confirmed job offer to work for an approved scale-up business for at least 6 months
  • have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
  • have a job offer to do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations
  • be paid a minimum salary in your new job

Check if your job is eligible.

Knowledge of English

You’ll usually need to prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply, unless you did this in a previous successful visa application.

Level of English

You must prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale.

You can prove your knowledge of English by:

  • passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
  • having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18
  • having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English – if you studied abroad, you’ll need to apply through Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC) for confirmation that your qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD

Who does not need to prove their knowledge of English

You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re a national of one of the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

If you’re not eligible for a Scale-up Worker visa

You may be eligible for another type of visa to work in the UK.

How long can you stay on a UK Scale-up Visa

You can stay in the UK with a Scale-up Worker visa for 2 years. You’ll need to apply to extend your visa when it expires.

If you want to stay longer in the UK

You can extend your visa as many times as you like by 3 years, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements.

After 5 years, you may be able to apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’). This gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like, and apply for benefits if you’re eligible.

Documents needed for UK Scale-up Visa

  • your certificate of sponsorship reference number – your employer will give you this
  • proof of your knowledge of English
  • a valid passport or other document that shows your identity and nationality
  • your job title and annual salary
  • your job’s occupation code
  • the name of your employer and their sponsor licence number – this will be on your certificate of sponsorship

Other documents you might need

Depending on your circumstances, you might be asked to provide:

You’ll need a blank page in your passport for your visa if you’re:

  • from outside the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
  • from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein but do not have a biometric passport with a chip in it

If your documents are not in English or Welsh you’ll also need to provide a certified translation.

How to apply for a UK Scale-up Visa

You must apply online.

How you apply depends on whether you’re:

If you want to change your employer during the first 6 months of working in your sponsored job, you must apply to update your visa.

You can include your partner and children in your application to stay in the UK if they are eligible.

When to apply for a UK Scale-up Visa

You can apply for a visa up to 3 months before the day you’re due to start work in the UK. This date is listed on your certificate of sponsorship.

As part of your application, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide your documents.

You may need to allow extra time if you need an appointment to do this. You’ll find out if you need one when you start your application.

Getting a decision

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within:

  • 3 weeks, if you’re outside the UK
  • 8 weeks, if you’re inside the UK

You may be able to pay to get a faster decision. How you do this depends on whether you’re outside the UK or inside the UK.

How much it costs

When you apply for a Scale-up Worker visa, you’ll need to have enough money to:

  • pay the £715 application fee
  • pay the healthcare surcharge – this is usually £624 per year
  • support yourself when you arrive in the UK – you’ll usually need to have at least £1,270 available (unless you’re exempt)

You’ll be told how much you need to pay when you apply.

Healthcare surcharge

You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge for each year of your stay – this is usually £624 per year. Check how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.

Money to support yourself

You must have at least £1,270 in your bank account to show you can support yourself in the UK.

You will need to have had the money available for at least 28 days in a row. Day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa.

You’ll usually need to show proof of this when you apply, unless either:

  • you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months
  • your employer can cover your costs during your first month in the UK, up to £1,270

Your partner and children will also need to prove they can support themselves while they’re in the UK. Check how much they’ll need.

Read the guidance on financial evidence for more information about the money you need and how to prove it.

If your employer can support you instead

Your certificate of sponsorship must confirm this. Your employer will need to complete the ‘sponsor certifies maintenance’ section on your certificate. This is under ‘Additional data’.

What you can and cannot do

With a Scale-up Worker visa you can:

  • work in your sponsored job for at least 6 months
  • leave your sponsored job after 6 months
  • study
  • bring your partner and children with you as your ‘dependants’, if they’re eligible
  • take on additional work, including becoming self-employed
  • do voluntary work
  • travel abroad and return to the UK
  • apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’) if you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years and meet the other eligibility requirements

You cannot:

  • apply for most benefits (public funds), or the State Pension
  • work as a professional sportsperson, for example a sports coach

If your application is successful, you’ll get a full list of what you can and cannot do with a Scale-up Worker visa.

During the first 6 months of your stay

You cannot change employer unless you apply to update your visa.

You do not need to update your visa if you start a different, eligible job with the same employer.

After 6 months

You can:

  • continue working in your job
  • change or stop doing your job without telling the Home Office
  • be self-employed

You do not need to update your visa.

You can extend your Scale-up Worker visa without a new sponsor when your current visa expires. You must meet the earnings requirements.


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