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UK Expansion Worker - is it better than the Sole Representative Route?

Among the changes announced a few weeks ago, one distinctively talked about the route between practitioners and businesses was the Global Business Mobility (GBM): UK Expansion Worker Route.

The GBM: UK Expansion Worker route is a particularly talked about route as it replaces the former Representative of an Overseas Business route. The former route, similar to the new route allows a senior employer of an overseas business may, without a 'sponsor', to come to the UK to assist their employer in establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary or a branch of a company.

How does the new route compare with the old, after some guidance has finally been published?

UK Expansion Worker

Sole Representative

Sponsor Licence Required

Yes. A Non-Renewable 4 year licence can be granted for the purpose of this route

Not Required

Multiple Representatives to be sent to the UK

Yes. Initially one but following entry of the first, up to 4 more can join the main Expansion worker.

No. Only one Sole Representative allow. However, once the Sole Rep establishes the business, they can apply for a licence to sponsor unlimited workers

Business / Expansion Plan Required



Length of Trading Years

At least 3 years (limited exceptions to this rule)

At least 12 months

Employment Requirement by the Overseas Business

No less than 12 months (with the exception of higher earner status, i.e. £73,900)

Must be employed by the Overseas business

Minimum Salary

£42,400 (minimum) or SoC whichever is higher


English Language


Yes. A1 CEFR

Maintenance Requirement

£1,270 or certified by sponsor

None specified but must be able to maintain and accommodate

Length of Stay

12 months (max 2 year stay in the UK under this category)

3 years followed by 2 year extensions of stay (unlimited)

Route to Settlement

No Route

Yes, after 5 years

How does the new route compare with the old, after some guidance has finally been published?

At first glance, there seems to be quite a bit of difference (negative ones) between the two, not least:

  1. the introduction of the route being a sponsored route

  2. introduction of a minimum salary threshold

  3. the limit on the length of stay in the UK

  4. Removal of the ability to settle in the UK

However, it's not all bad news.

Businesses have been complaining that they cannot send in teams of workers to the UK to establish their business. With the change in rules, a company holding a UK Expansion Worker licence can sponsor up to 5 workers in the UK.

A business will now benefit from the skills and experience of their chosen Representative to come to the UK and team members with a different skill set to ensure that the expansion plan can go full swing ahead.

From our experience in working with hundreds of previous Sole Representatives in the UK, one of the pain points they have often faced is the not complexity of the visa process but the journey in quickly establishing and scaling up their business whilst in the UK.

Whilst most argue that the previous route is superior (and in many ways, we agree), the route doesn't cater for (or care for) what happens after the first arrival in the UK. The new rules somewhat help with this as the team element (of allowing four other individuals) could speed up the process for the Representative rather than needing to enable the business to be fully established before sponsoring individuals to the UK.

Also, whilst the route no longer offers a route to settlement, an Expansion Worker is not prevented from switching visa categories in the future, providing that they meet the criteria of the rules they intend to change to.

While we have yet to experience the entire workings of the route, our opinion is that this can be a workable route and still allows businesses to establish quickly and effectively in the UK.

No doubt there will be amendments and little surprises (hopefully pleasant ones) that we will anticipate over the coming months as the new Global Business Mobility route comes full swing ahead. We will be sure to update everyone along the way.

Shores & Legal are experienced and expert immigration partners for your business and personal immigration requirements. We have years of experience in helping companies and individuals to identify their immigration requirements and strategy to the UK. Our extended family at Partners Immigration can also help with non-UK movements. If you wish to discuss your immigration requirements, contact us at +44 (0) 207 097 6778 or

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