Britain launches new skilled worker visa in latest post-Brexit reform

Fast-growing companies can sponsor well-paid applicants under new immigration scheme

Britain has tightened immigration rules since it left the EU two years ago. Reuters
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Britain on Monday launched a new visa route for fast-growing businesses to hire skilled workers from abroad, in the latest post-Brexit revamp of UK immigration rules.

The so-called Scale-up visa is open to skilled workers in professions such as engineering, architecture and software development.

They must be sponsored by a rapidly growing company — defined by three years of 20 per cent growth in either employment or turnover — and will be allowed to bring a partner and children with them to the UK.

Kevin Foster, a Home Office minister, said the visa would give more freedom to businesses to bring in skilled workers, even as labour shortages lead to complaints about post-Brexit restrictions.

“By supporting our high growth tech, financial services and small businesses, we are ensuring the UK remains a global hub for emerging technologies and innovation,” Mr Foster said.

Irene Graham, the head of the ScaleUp Institute, a private sector, non-profit company that lobbied for the introduction of this visa, said it should help address Britain's demand for skills.

The new visa “should provide a much-needed fast track service to enable local growth companies to access the talent they need more quickly”, she said.

The new visa scheme is the latest immigration reform since Britain left the European Union. EPA

The scheme, promised by former chancellor Rishi Sunak in last year's Budget statement, grants two years of residency rights in Britain, which can be extended for a further three.

Applicants do not need a degree but must have a job offer with a salary of at least £33,000 ($39,000) a year — and higher for some occupations.

The threshold is at least £60,800 for airline pilots, £52,000 for senior police officers and £43,600 for investment bankers, as ministers seek to limit immigration to high-paying jobs after Britain left the EU.

There is no place in the scheme for airline ground staff, after the government said it would not address shortages at airports by “reaching for the lever marked more immigration”.

EU citizens who moved to Britain before Brexit were given until last summer to apply for permanent settlement, while new applicants have to go through a points system to obtain a visa.

Another immigration option, the so-called golden visa for wealthy investors, was closed in February, as the war in Ukraine put Russian oligarchs under renewed scrutiny.

Updated: August 22, 2022, 11:27 AM