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How to bring Chinese staff to the UK

What visas can Chinese staff and executives enter the UK on? There are several options available – here's the lowdown

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3CS Corporate Solicitors offer a simple guide to the different types of UK work visas for businesses that need to bring Chinese staff to the UK

Chinese trade is a vital component of the UK economy. According to UK government data, China was the UK’s 4th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022, accounting for 6.5% of total UK trade. In 2021, the inward stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the UK from China was over £5 billion, and in 2022, 3,558 UK working visas were issued to Chinese citizens.

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What visas are frequently requested by businesses?

For businesses and entrepreneurs looking to work in the UK, the choice of UK immigration visas can appear daunting. In this article, we highlight some of the current visa options most often requested by Chinese business clients.

Innovator Founder visa

The new Innovator Founder visa enables entrepreneurs from outside the UK to set up an innovative business in the UK. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a clear business plan and have a business idea that has been approved by an approved endorsing body. English language and adequate savings requirements must also be met by the applicant.

In contrast to its predecessor (the Innovator visa), the Innovator Founder visa offers the following benefits:

  • No minimum investment requirement: This will make it easier for Chinese entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start their businesses.
  • More flexible eligibility criteria: Making it easier for a wider range of entrepreneurs to qualify.
  • Faster processing times: The new visa can be processed more quickly, which will make it easier for entrepreneurs from China to get started in the UK.
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Skilled Worker visa

The Skilled Worker visa (which replaced the Tier 2 General visa) is for foreign nationals who wish to come to the UK to work in a sponsored job. Only UK employers with a sponsor licence can employ overseas staff through the Skilled Worker visa scheme. The Skilled Worker visa uses a points-based system (PBS) which awards points based on meeting certain criteria.

Scale-up visa

The Scale-up visa was introduced in August 2022. It is designed to attract talented individuals from outside the UK to work for fast-growing UK businesses. To qualify for a Scale-up visa, you must have a job offer from a UK-based scale-up business that meets certain criteria. You must also meet the English language requirements and have a valid passport.

The Scale-up visa is valid for up to five years, and you can extend it for further periods of up to three years. After five years, you may be able to apply for settlement in the UK.

What is a UK Global Business Mobility Visa?

The UK Global Business Mobility visa routes are aimed at overseas businesses seeking to establish a presence or transfer staff to the UK and came into effect in April 2022. Some of the most requested visa types are as follows:

Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Replaced ICT)

The Senior or Specialist Worker visa is intended for overseas senior managers and employees with specialised skills and experience who wish to work in the UK on a temporary basis. Applicants must be employed by an overseas company or organisation that is affiliated with their UK business sponsor (via ownership or a Joint Venture). This replaces the Intra-Company Transfer Visa (ICT).

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UK Expansion Worker visa (Replaced Sole Representative)

The UK Expansion Worker visa replaced the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa and allows established and trading businesses outside the UK to send a senior manager to expand their presence in the UK. This route is designed for employees of foreign companies that do not already have a trading presence in the UK.

Secondment Worker visa

The Secondment Worker visa allows overseas employers to send workers to the UK to fulfil a high-value contract or investment with a UK-registered sponsoring business. Applicants must possess the necessary skills for the secondment and have worked for the overseas company for at least one year.

Service Supplier visa

The Service Supplier visa is intended to allow overseas workers who work for an overseas service supplier or who meet the self-employed requirements to come to the UK for a temporary work assignment.

Graduate Trainee visa (Replaced Intra-Company Transfer Graduate).

The Graduate Trainee visa is intended for overseas workers who wish to be transferred by their employer to the United Kingdom for the purpose of completing a work placement as part of a graduate training programme. The training programme must result in a senior management or specialist position. This replaces the Intra-Company Transfer Graduate visa.

Will a Global Business Mobility visa need the UK employer to have a sponsor licence?

Yes, for all pathways under the Global Business Mobility visa, applicants must have a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), therefore, the UK business must hold a sponsor licence.

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