The 2023 UK Work Visa Routes

17 March 2023 | Jonathan Martin

Work Visa Routes to the UK

Non-UK residents require a “UK work visa” to work in the UK. There are various “work visa” categories in the UK, many of which require sponsoring by a business with a relevant sponsor licence. Since the sponsor licence system was first introduced in 2008, these visa categories have evolved. Some have been renamed, eligibility requirements have changed, and some have been abolished completely. We have created an easy-to-understand comparison of the complex system of work visas currently operating in the UK and their relevant requirements.


Sponsored UK Work Visa Routes

Non-sponsored UK Work Visa Routes

Temporary Sponsored UK Work Visa Routes

Temporary Non-sponsored UK Work Visa Routes


2023 Sponsored UK Work Visa Routes


Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa has replaced the Tier 2 (General) Visa.

Visa changes 2023:

There is no longer a specific resident labour market test to undertake, though there is still a “genuineness” test. There must be a real business need for the hire of the individual and the individual must have been identified via an objective, sensible recruitment process. They must also have the skills and experience that are genuinely required for the role.


Health and Care Worker Visa

Replacing the Tier 2 Health and Care visa, the Health and Care Worker visa is a sub-category of the Skilled Worker Visa.

It is only for medical professionals and those in eligible health and care professions who have been offered a job by a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office. You must have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK. There is also a minimum salary requirement.


Scale Up Visa

The Scale-up route is a new category.

This category is aimed at talented individuals recruited by a UK business that meets the definition of a qualifying Scale-up sponsor.


Global Business Mobility Visa Routes

Introduced in April 2022, the global business mobility visa category replaced (for new applicants), the previous intra-company transfer (ICT) categories and the “sole representative of an overseas business” category.

The global business mobility routes are aimed at overseas businesses temporarily transferring staff to the UK to set up a business presence or facilitate a specific business purpose.

There is a general rule that individuals can spend no more than the “maximum cumulative period” in all of the GBM sub-categories which is 5 years in any 6 year period or 9 years in any 10 year period (if you are paid £73,00 or more per year). However, each of the GBM sub-categories has its own visa length as show in the comparison table.

The GBM routes do not lead to settlement i.e. indefinite leave to remain.

Global Business Mobility Senior/Specialist Worker

This replaced the intra-company transfer visa. The main difference is that the minimum salary for the role in the UK is now higher (having increased from £41,500 p.a to £42,400 p.a). Like its predecessor, the individual must have worked for a sponsor group company overseas for at least 12 months (unless they earn more than £73,900 p.a, in which case there is no minimum service requirement) prior to the application.

Global Business Mobility Graduate Trainee

This replaces the ICT Graduate Trainee route. The minimum salary threshold for graduate trainees is £23,100 per year (or the minimum rate under the relevant SOC code, whichever is higher) an increase from £23,000 under the previous “ICT – Graduate Trainee category). There is also no longer a limit on the number of Certificates of Sponsorship t that you can assign on this route (the limit was previously 20 per financial year).

Global Business Mobility UK Expansion Worker Visa

The GBM UK Expansion Worker Visa replaces the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business (though the previous category remains open for extensions).

Visa changes 2023:

Unlike the previous “sole representative” category, the UK Expansion Worker route requires the worker to have a sponsor and the sponsor must exist but not yet be trading in the UK. The sponsor will be a branch or wholly owned subsidiary of an established overseas business. It is important to note that the sponsor will be required to demonstrate their UK footprint (though they must not yet be trading), credible expansion plans and requisite overseas trading presence prior to being granted a sponsor licence in this category.

Global Business Mobility Service Supplier Visa

This has replaced the Temporary Work – International Agreement Visa Route for contractual service suppliers and independent professionals.

Visa changes 2023:

The main difference between the GBM Service Supplier route and the previous route is the requirement to register details of any eligible contracts, and the overseas service provider with whom you have that contract, when you apply for your licence.

Sub-contracting is expressly permitted, provided there is a clear contractual link between you, the sub-contractor and the overseas service provider. The role being performed must have a “SOC code” listed in Appendix ‘Skilled Occupations’ as eligible for the GBM route, or, in some cases, the applicant must have a university degree or equivalent technical qualification.

There is a minimum 12 month prior work requirement for the overseas service provider. There is no minimum salary requirement.

Global Business Mobility Secondment Worker Visa

This is a new category for overseas workers who are being seconded to the UK, under a temporary work assignment, as part of a high value contract or investment by their employer overseas.

2023 Non-sponsored UK Work Visa Routes


High Potential Individual Visa

This is a new category but it bears some similarity to a now, prehistoric Tier 1 (General) category from many years ago. The High Potential Individual route is a new route aimed at attracting “the brightest and best” to the UK.

Graduate Visa

This is a relatively new category but has some similarities with previous “post-study worker” categories. To allow foreign students time to find a job in the UK following their degree.

Global Talent Visa

The Global Talent Visa has replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa.

This visa is for leaders and potential leaders in academia, research, technology, arts and culture. Applicants must apply for an endorsement in their field or have won an eligible award to use this visa route.

Innovator Founder Visa

The Innovator Founder Visa has replaced the previous Innovator Visa and the Start-up visa has closed to new applicants from the 13th April 2023 (applicants who have an endorsement issued prior to this date may still apply for the Start-up visa until the 13th July 2023).

The UK Innovator Founder visa route replaces the Innovator visa and, with the closure of the Start-up visa, it is the single visa route for foreign entrepreneurs starting a business in the UK.

To be eligible for this visa, the applicant must be able to demonstrate to an approved endorsing body that their business idea is innovative, viable and scalable.

The UK Innovator Founder visa route is for overseas start-up entrepreneurs and experienced businesspersons looking to start an innovative business in the UK. The business will be a new business that does not already exist or, where it does, it will not yet be trading. If you are looking to work in the UK for a business that is already trading, the Skilled Worker visa may be more suitable.

Applicants of the Innovator Founder visa can work as a sole founder, or as part of a founding team. They must be an instrumental member of the founding team to qualify. If you are a senior manager or specialist employee looking to establish a commercial business presence in the UK for an overseas business, then the UK Expansion Worker visa may be more suitable.

To be eligible for this visa, the applicant must be able to demonstrate to an approved endorsing body that their business idea is innovative, viable and scalable.

Read our comprehensive article on the Innovator Founder visa route here.

2023 Temporary Sponsored UK Work Visa Routes


Temporary Sponsored UK Work Visas

There are six Temporary Sponsored Work Visa routes to the UK:

  • Creative Worker Visa
  • Charity Worker Visa
  • Religious Worker Visa
  • Government Authorised Exchange Worker Visa
  • International Agreement Worker Visa
  • Seasonal Worker Visa

The applicant must have a certificate of sponsorship from a UK licensed sponsor for all of these visa routes. There are various route-specific requirements, and they must also meet a financial maintenance requirement.


2023 Temporary Non-sponsored UK Work Visa Routes


Youth Mobility Scheme Visa

Applicants of this route are not required to have an offer of a job, but they must be aged 18 – 30 and have at least £2,530 in savings to demonstrate that they can support themselves in the UK. They must also be from a participating country to be eligible to take part in the Youth Mobility Scheme.


How we can help


You can download our comprehensive guide and comparison of the UK work visa routes, including:

  • In depth-comparison with predecessor categories
  • The purposes of the visas
  • Visa requirements
  • Eligibility requirements
  • Length of stay

Download the guide here.

Abbiss Cadres can provide expert advice and assistance with the application of UK work visas and global mobility into the UK including support for employers obtaining/renewing a sponsor licence. We can also support employers with the seamless relocation of employees and their families.

For advice on global mobility into the UK and the UK work visa routes, contact us.


Content is for general information purposes only. The information provided is not intended to be comprehensive and it does not constitute or contain legal or other advice. If you require assistance in relation to any issue please seek specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances. In particular, no responsibility shall be accepted by the authors or by Abbiss Cadres LLP for any losses occasioned by reliance on any content appearing on or accessible from this article. For further legal information click here.

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