What is the Global Business Mobility visa, and is it for contractors?

In a strategy statement for its New Plan for Immigration, the government unveiled plans for a Global Business Mobility route, with further information provided at Autumn Budget 2021.

So what does the Global Business Mobility visa mean for the UK, asks specialist immigration lawyer Arshia Hashmi of law firm Brabners, including its employers, and its contractors? And even more applicably, what might the ‘GBM’ route mean for the contractor sector internationally, including overseas businesses and non-UK contractors?

The GMB: an umbrella visa for five temp and supplier-types

Well, first and foremost the Global Business Mobility route is not due to launch until Spring 2022. When it does launch, the GBM will essentially form an umbrella visa for five types of temporary workers and suppliers:

1. Senior or Specialist Workers

Where workers with specialist skills are required in the UK branch of an overseas business, or where a senior executive is required to work in the UK office.

This looks to be a rebadging and a combination of the current ‘Sole Representative for Overseas Business’ visa and the ‘Intra Company Transfer’ visa route. But of course, the devil will be in the detail once further information is announced.

2. Graduate Trainees

Where a worker is on placement in the UK branch of the business as part of a structured training programme.

This also looks to be a rebadging of an existing route -- namely the ‘Intra Company Transfer Graduate Trainee’ route.

3. UK Expansion Workers

Where senior or specialist workers can be sent on assignment to allow the overseas business to expand in the UK.

While on the face of it, this is loosely based on the current Sole Representative for Overseas Business visa, some key differences are that this category will require sponsorship, but will allow for the transfer of a team of workers to the UK to establish the new branch -- as opposed to the lone individual permitted under the Sole Representative route. Note, it is yet to be seen as to what impact the size of the investment in the UK will have on the eligibility criteria for UK Expansion Workers.

4. Secondment Workers

Where workers will be on secondment to a UK business for specific purposes for example, to transfer knowledge related to a high-value import or export or to oversee a substantial investment.

5. Service Suppliers

To allow for workers who are service suppliers to travel to the UK, to deliver a service in line with a UK trade commitment.

Applicability to contractors

Significantly, there is currently no equivalent under the existing immigration system to allow for the easy transfer or movement of secondment workers or service suppliers.

For contractors, it these fourth and fifth categories – Secondment Workers and Service Suppliers, which will be of most significance, potentially more so than the first category (Senior/Specialist workers) which may apply to freelance and interm professionals too. Crucially, both the secondee and service supplier category can be used by any overseas business with no UK presence, so long as there is a contract for services (or goods) with a UK business, or a UK trade commitment with a UK business. While still reliant on sponsorship, these categories will see the UK client assume the position of sponsor.

Answers from the government are needed

However some questions remain, notably:

  • What evidence will be required of the business relationship/trade commitment?
  • Will UK companies be comfortable in taking on sponsorship, and its associated compliance duties?

Fortunately, it is anticipated that the government will make further announcements in the coming months to provide extra information regarding the details of the Global Business Mobility route – and it is these details which will be the key to gauging how widely adopted the new visas will be.

Wednesday 17th Nov 2021
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Written by Arshia Hashmi

Arshia is a specialist business immigration lawyer and has practiced in this field for over a decade. She regularly handles issues such as sponsor licences (including compliance), right to work issues, corporate support, the implications of Brexit and support for those entering the UK for work purposes. Arshia has specialist experience in dealing with technology and sports-related immigration issues. Her client base includes a range of businesses from SMEs to multinational corporations as well as individuals.

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