The UK Service Provider Visa is part of the Global Business Mobility pathway which allows overseas service providers to send staff to work in the UK on a temporary basis.
What is the UK Service Provider Visa?
The UK Service Provider Visa allows overseas service providers to send staff to work in the UK on a temporary basis to fulfill a service supply contract as part of a UK international trade agreement. The UK Service Provider Visa is one of 5 categories of the new Global Business Mobility Visa Scheme, opening on 11 April 2022. The Global Business Mobility Visa Scheme has been introduced to make it easier for organizations and foreigners to do business in the UK. The new Service Provider Visa replaces the old International Agreement Visa used for contractual service providers and freelancers.
Some important points to keep in mind regarding the UK Service Provider Visa include:
- Applicants must be sponsored by a UK company before they can apply
- The overseas employer must have a contract with a UK company covered by a valid international trade agreement
- Those who have been granted a UK service provider visa can work (paid or voluntary), study and travel freely in and out of the UK
- The Service Provider Visa does not provide a route to Settlement/ILR in the UK. Holders of a service provider visa can, however, apply to change to a different type of visa leading to ILR
- Holders of a service provider visa can bring their dependents with them to the UK; this includes the spouse and children of the visa holder
- Service provider visa holders can stay in the UK initially for up to 6 or 12 months (depending on the commercial agreement under which the services are provided in the UK). This can be extended further
UK Service Provider Visa Requirements
According to the service provider visa rules, applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- be an employee of a foreign organization or an independent service provider based abroad
- perform a contract under a valid international trade agreement
- meet the nationality or residence requirements required by the international trade agreement
- hold a certificate of sponsorship from a UK sponsor
- Meet the 12 month employment requirement (see below for more details)
- be sponsored for a suitable role or have the relevant qualifications/skills for work in the UK
- have sufficient funds in your bank account to support yourself during your first month in the UK
Contractual requirements of international trade agreements
International trade agreements exist to facilitate trade between 2 or more nations. The UK has several international trade agreements with other countries, including EU and non-EU countries. A service provider visa will only be granted where an employee of an overseas service provider (or a self-employed person) is coming to the UK to provide services as part of a current UK international trade agreement.
Applicants must also meet the nationality requirements applicable to the specific trade agreement under which they will be coming to the UK. In many cases, they must be citizens of the country where the service provider is based. In some limited cases, it may be possible for a person to apply if they are permanently resident in the country where the service provider is based.
Service Provider Visa applicants are required to provide evidence of a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) issued by their sponsor in the UK. This is the company they provide services for in the UK. Sponsors must have a Class A Sponsorship License specific to the Global Enterprise Mobility Service Provider Program. The CoS must have been granted within 3 months of applying for the Service Provider Visa.
List of eligible occupations
Applicants for the Service Provider Visa must have a suitable job on the list of eligible occupations1 or relevant qualifications and experience. We recommend that you ask your employer for the Standard Occupation Code (SOC) for your sponsored role and check that it is on the official list of eligible occupations.
- If not, you may still be able to apply if you have a bachelor’s or higher degree, or a technical qualification equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. Those who do not have a job on the list of eligible occupations must have:
- 3 years of professional experience relating to the service they will provide in the UK (for employees)
- 6 years of professional experience for those who are self-employed
- Applicants should note that some occupations have different requirements; including those providing services relating to:
- advertising or translation
- entertainment services (excluding audiovisual services under the CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement)
- fashion and modeling
- management consultancy services
- technical tests and analyses
- Home Office guidance2 provides more detail for candidates in any of these roles.
Service provider candidates do not have to meet a minimum salary requirement. They must, however, have at least £1,270 in their bank account to support themselves during their first month in the UK (the funds must have been held by the applicant for 28 days or more before the date of application).
If a service provider visa applicant has been in the UK for 12 months or more, the support funds requirement may not apply. Alternatively, sponsors can cover these costs (this should be indicated on the CoS).
Documents required for UK Service Provider Visa
The Home Office will require a range of documents, including (please note this list is not exhaustive):
- Unique Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) reference number.
- Current valid passport
- job title and annual salary details
- standard professional code (SOC)
- employer data
- UK-based sponsor details (e.g. sponsor’s company name and license number)
- evidence of at least £1,270 in support funds held for at least 28 days (e.g. a bank statement). If the sponsor covers these costs, the CoS must declare this.
- proof of the family relationship with the applicant’s dependent cohabitant and/or with the children if they will be included in the main application (for example marriage or civil union certificate and birth certificate)
- tuberculosis test results (if from a tuberculosis-listed country)
How to apply for a service provider visa
- Make sure you have the Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your sponsor in the UK
- Complete the Service Provider Visa Application online
- Pay any required registration fees (see below for more details)
- Please provide valid proof of your identity by booking and attending a biometric appointment with a Visa Application Center (VAC) or by using the ‘UK Immigration: Identity Check’ mobile phone app.
- Upload any documents required by the Ministry of the Interior
- Attend an interview if asked – not all candidates are required to do so. If you are asked to attend an interview, please be assured that this is normal and is intended to allow the Home Office to check your suitability before a final decision is made.
- Service provider visa application fees
- The service provider visa application fee is £259 per person. Other costs include a biometric fee of £19.20 and the Immigration Health Surcharge: of £624 (this gives applicants access to the NHS whilst in the UK).
How long can you stay on a service provider visa?
A service provider visa is normally granted for a maximum of 6 or 12 months (depending on the international trade agreement). The maximum length of time you can stay in the UK on a service provider visa is 6 or 12 months. If you have reached this time limit, you can apply for a different type of visa or apply for a new service provider visa from outside the UK. If you are applying for a new service provider visa from outside the UK you will need to ensure you comply with the rule which states that you can stay for a maximum of 5 years in a 6 year period if you have spent time on any of the following visas :
- Visa for an intra-company graduate internship
- Intracompany Transfer Visa (ICT Visa)
- Graduate Trainee Visa (Global Business Mobility)
- Posted Worker Visa (Global Business Mobility)
- Senior or Skilled Worker Visa (Global Business Mobility)
- Service Provider Visa (Global Business Mobility)
- UK Expanding Worker Visa (Global Business Mobility)
- Service Provider Visa Extension
You can extend your UK Service Provider Visa (before the visa expires), but only within the maximum period of 6 or 12 months, as stated above. You must have the same job you did when you were granted the visa previously (i.e. the same occupation code and employer).
Changing jobs/employers with a service provider visa?
- It is possible to change employers as a service provider visa holder, but you will need to apply for a ‘change of employment’ and obtain Home Office approval.
- A job change is also required if you remain with your current employer but move to a different occupation code.
- If you move to a new job with the same employer and employment code, you do not need to request a job change.
- To change jobs, you will need to submit a new application, prove your identity, pay the applicable fees and provide details of your new CoS.
- While your application for a change of employment is being processed, you can remain in the UK and work for your current employer.
Visa dependent on service provider visa
As a service provider worker, your dependents can join you in the UK. Dependent family members include:
- husband, wife, civil partner or unmarried partner (if unmarried, you must have been in a relationship with your partner for at least 2 years)
- child(ren) under the age of 18
- child(ren) over the age of 18 if they are dependent on you and do not live a fully independent life.
- Your family members will need to apply, either as a partner or as a child, if they are applying from outside the UK. Furthermore, each dependent must prove their identity, pay the application fees and submit all required documents to the Ministry of the Interior.
UK Service Provider Visa for ILR
There is no direct route for UK Service Provider Visa holders to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). They can, however, choose to switch to a qualifying ILR visa such as:
- Skilled worker visa
- Visa for innovators
- Start-up visa in the UK
- Expanded visa
- Global Talent Visa
- Family visa (e.g. spouse visa)
Eligible visa holders must normally have lived in the UK for at least 5 years to apply for ILR. For some visas, including the Global Talent visa, this qualifying period is 3 years. You can then apply for British citizenship 1 year after obtaining ILR.