Earlier in the year the Government set out changes designed to aid business immigration and boost the UK economy. The Global Business Mobility visa is due to come into force in Spring 2022 and will provide new avenues for overseas firms transferring staff to the UK.
The Home Office has admitted that immigration routes that may have worked for businesses pre-Brexit no longer do, and policy has not evolved in tandem with businesses. The changes outlined will enable an overseas business to temporarily send an employee to the UK for a specific corporate purpose that cannot be done by a resident UK worker.
The Global Business Mobility visa will have five pathways for overseas firms to transfer staff to the UK or establish a UK footing;
- Senior or specialist worker to meet specific business needs
- Graduate trainee as part of a training programme
- Secondment worker to UK firms in high value contracts or investments
- Service supplier to the UK in line with UK trade agreements
- UK expansion worker to establish a UK presence
The first three above are applicable for firms currently with a UK presence, the latter three suit firms with no UK presence and secondments would be an option for both scenarios. The Home Office has suggested that the worker will require sponsorship in all cases.
In practice the proposed new route appears to consolidate the existing Intra-Company Transfer and Intra-Company Graduate Trainee visa along with other business mobility routes including Representative of an Overseas Business. Of the five pathways listed above, it is expected that only UK expansion workers and secondments are expected to see significant changes.
The secondment pathway is not yet fully defined. Under the visitor rules, employees of UK export companies can be seconded to the UK business by their overseas clients. The new pathway will expand on this to allow secondment to specific purposes associated with high value imports or exports.
A sponsor licence will be held by the UK business that receives the workers. It would be necessary for applicants to demonstrate that they have a receiving business, a sending business, and that they are in business together.
In the UK, for instance, an overseas parent company might send staff to a UK subsidiary; or an overseas service supplier might have a contract with a UK client; or an overseas company might send staff on secondment to a UK goods supplier or open a UK branch before trading begins.
It will be interesting to see if the new UK branch applies for a license once it is incorporated, or if an overseas business can apply from abroad. There are a number of challenges the Home Office must overcome in order to establish this route, including what footprint the subsidiary should establish before it can sponsor workers, and what activities it cannot perform as a business visitor.
No silver bullet
Global Business Mobility routes continue to pose some questions about their long-term viability. There are currently different limits on how long a person can stay in the UK on each of the existing routes under the GBM umbrella. It ranges from six months under the rules for business visitors to potential settlement under the rules for representatives of overseas businesses. Migration is not counted toward settlement until migrants switch to the Skilled Worker route, and even visitors aren't allowed to do that.
One possible uniform approach would be to categorize the Global Business Mobility category as "temporary", requiring individuals to transfer to the Skilled Worker category if they wish to settle. Therefore, it would make sense to allow them to count their time under Global Business Mobility route towards settlement, rather than having to start their five years from the beginning after switching.