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Visas & Work Permits in the UK

The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements

There are many different UK visa types, such as the work permit visa and the permanent residence visa, and lots of different criteria depending on your work experience. The application process can, therefore, be a little confusing. Nonetheless, if you are what’s referred to as a ‘skilled worker’ and have a job offer, you will most likely obtain your visa with no problems.

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If you apply for a UK visa, you will usually be granted permission to live and work in the country for about two years (after which you will need to re-apply). European citizens do not currently need a working visa to live and work in the UK, but this may change after the UK leaves the European Union.

The UK runs a points-based immigration system, where points are given to applicants based on their prospects of being able to look after themselves and contribute to the economy.

The UK visa requirements also differ depending on what type of applicant you are. Tier 1 applicants have fewer requirements than tier 3 applicants. UK visa costs are not high, but the process of getting permanent residence can take more than five years.

Moreover, if you’re coming to live in the UK for more than six months and you’re from a certain country, you’ll need a medical examination for tuberculosis. If your test shows you don’t have TB, you’ll get a certificate which lasts for six months, and you must include this with your UK visa application.

The following article gives you an overview of UK residence permits, permanent residency, and other residence rights.

Work Permits and Employment-based Visas

Long-term visas, such as work permits and skilled worker visas, can allow you to stay in the UK for up to five years and 14 days, depending on your personal circumstances. After this time, you can apply for an extension or even settlement, which grants you the right to stay in the UK indefinitely.

The application for a non-visitor visa varies depending on the reason for moving to the UK. A points system applies for most. For example, points are awarded for specific academic degrees or financial arrangements.

What Type of Visa Do You Need to Work in the UK?

Nationals of EEA member states, or Switzerland, do not need a visa or work permit to work in the UK. Although the UK voted to leave the EU, it’s not clear if the current free movement policy for EU citizens will change. Moreover, there are different schemes for entrepreneurs, skilled workers, and temporary workers respectively, from non-European countries.

Skilled Workers

Unlike expats who qualify as high-value migrants, skilled workers require a job offer and have to pass a points-based assessment before they can apply for a visa.

A UK work visa for skilled professionals earning 25,000 GBP per year or more, costs 575 GBP and lasts three years, but can be extended.

Specific UK work visa requirements apply for the following skilled worker categories, and you should check them closely before you turn in your application.

  • General, skilled worker offered a job in the UK
  • Minister of religion
  • Sportsperson
  • Intra-company transfer

You can complete the UK work permit visa application form on the government’s website.

Temporary Workers

Temporary workers need a job offer from a UK company that is willing to act as their sponsor. In addition, it is necessary to pass a points-based assessment. The different categories of the temporary workers scheme include:

  • Creative and sporting
  • Charity workers
  • Religious workers
  • Government authorized exchange
  • International agreement

The Youth Mobility Scheme is also a part of the temporary workers scheme and is designed for young people from Australia, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Monaco, South Korea or Taiwan.

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Self-Employment Visas

Business Visa (Entrepreneur)

The Tier 1 work visa scheme for high-value migrants applies to highly-skilled professionals, investors or entrepreneurs, with an interest in taking up employment or opening a business in the UK.

If you fall into this category, you do not need a job offer to apply for a visa. However, the different categories might come with additional requirements.

Currently, the four categories of this scheme are:

  • Exceptional Talent
  • Entrepreneur, including those seeking a self-employed visa
  • Investor
  • Graduate Entrepreneur

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Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

Learning how to become a permanent resident in the UK can be simple if you follow the advice of reputable sources, such as InterNations GO! However, there are a few steps to take and you might need to be patient before you find that everything falls into place.

Applying for a Biometric Residence Permit

A biometric residence permit holds migrants’ biographic details and biometric information. Expats who want to extend their stay past six months will require a biometric UK residence permit. You can only apply if you want to:

  • Extend your temporary stay to six months or more
  • Apply for indefinite leave to remain
  • Transfer your visa from an old passport to a new document, using form NTL (No Time Limit) or TOC (transfer of conditions)
  • Apply for a Certificate of Travel or a Convention Travel document (1951 refugee or 1954 stateless person)

You can apply online or by post. Once the UK Border Agency has received your documents, they’ll send you a notification letter. You can then visit any post office in the UK to register your biometric information. Alternatively, you can visit a public enquiry office. Please remember, it may take up to 12 weeks for your residence permit application to be processed.

If you find that any of the information on your biometric residence card is incorrect, you should get in touch with the UK Border Agency within ten days. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay for a replacement.

European Economic Area Resident Visa Requirements

Expats from EEA member states can apply for a permanent UK residence permit after five years. Also, some non-EEA citizens may have derivative rights of residence, even if they don’t fall under the free movement directive.

EEA expats can complete their permanent resident application by filling in the required forms and paying 65 GBP for each individual on the application. This is what you need to submit for a successful application:

  • A valid passport or ID
  • Evidence that you’re eligible to apply
  • Two passport-sized photographs

Please remember that it can take the UK Border Agency six months to process your application. Once your application has been approved, you’ll receive a registration certificate that proves you have the legal right to reside in the UK. This is important if you want to act as a sponsor, or if you want to support a family member who is not an EEA national, to apply for a residence card.

UK Spouse Visa Process

Your partner can apply for a visa to stay with you in the UK for longer than six months, however, the type of visa they need to apply for depends on where each of you is from. Someone qualifies as a partner if they’re your husband or wife, civil partner, or another partner who you’ve lived with for at least two years. See below to match your situation with the correct visa.

Your partner needs a family visa if:

  • You’re a British citizen, or naturalized
  • You have indefinite leave to remain (you’re a ‘settled person’)
  • You’re marrying or entering a civil partnership in the UK and you both plan to remain living in the UK

Your partner needs an EEA family permit if:

  • You’re an EEA national and you live in the UK but your dependant is not from the EEA

Your partner can apply as a dependant of a General work visa (Tier 2) holder if you have a General work visa (Tier 2).

Your partner can apply as a dependant of a Tier 4 visa holder if you have a Tier 4 student visa.

Furthermore, if you need to, you are allowed to fill in the application form for your partner, using the sources provided above. You will need to find the ‘apply for someone else’ option on the appropriate form.

Moreover, another part of the process is that your partner must have their fingerprints and photograph taken in a biometric test at a visa application center.

Meeting the financial requirement: Before your partner can join you in the UK, you must prove you’re earning enough or have enough savings to bring them. You’ll need to be earning at least 18,600 GBP (before tax) per year.

Interview: Your partner may need to attend an interview to ask questions about your situation. Your partner can find out more information, like how long they might have to wait for a meeting, at their nearest visa application center. If you’re in the same country, you should attend the interview together.

Biometric residence permit (BRP): Once your partner arrives in the UK, they must collect their BRP within ten (10) days. You can email BRPCollection@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk to find out where to collect the BRP. In the email, you should include your full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number, telephone number, and reference number from any letter you’ve received from the Home Office.

You can find further information from Citizens Advice.

UK Family Visa

If you’re a parent of a child in the UK or a child of a parent in the UK, you can apply for a family visa.

As a child, you can usually make a successful application if you’re under 18 and you’re not married, in a civil partnership, or living an independent life. You must also have sufficient financial support and not be claiming public funds. In this instance, one of your parents must also be applying or have applied for a visa or to extend their stay as a partner or parent.

If you’re over 18 years old, your parent can include you as a dependant in their application. This is only possible if you were successful in applying for permission to live in the UK on a family visa before you were 18, and you aren’t self-sufficient.

Find out more about how to apply from Citizens Advice.

‘Derivative Rights of Residence’: Do You Qualify?

Although non-EEA citizens usually don’t qualify for a UK residence permit, you may still have ‘derivative rights of residence’. This might be the case even if you don’t fall under the free movement directive. You qualify for derivative rights of residence if:

  • You are the primary caretaker of a British child or a dependent adult
  • You are the primary caretaker of an EEA national child, exercising free movement rights in the UK
  • Your parents are EEA national workers and you receive your education in the UK
  • You are the primary caretaker of an EEA national worker and a child receiving an education in the UK
  • You are the child of a primary caretaker, mentioned in the categories above, and under 18 years of age

Please remember that you are only eligible to stay in the UK while you meet the above requirements. If your situation changes, you may lose your derivative right of residence.

You can apply for your “derivative residence card”, which grants you the right to work and live in the UK, by submitting the following:

  • A completed DRF1 form
  • The UK’s permanent resident fee is 65 GBP
  • Your passport
  • Evidence that you are eligible to apply for derivative rights
  • Two passport-sized photographs

You’ll need to provide an official translation for any documents not written in Welsh or English. You can submit your application documents by mail. If you’re unsure about your application or whether you qualify, please contact the UK Border Agency.

Nationality as a UK Permanent Visa Requirement

The type of UK visa you need depends on your nationality, country of residence, and your reason for coming to the UK. As a national of an EU member state, a country in the European Economic Area, or Switzerland, you have the right to reside in the UK without a visa. However, citizens of some countries always need a visa when visiting the UK.

You can see if this applies to you here. Even if you don’t need a visa to come to the UK as a tourist, for social visits, or studies up to six months, you might need one in other circumstances.

Moreover, you might also need a DATV (transit visa) to catch a connecting flight in the UK. In other cases — for example, if you intend to take up employment in the UK as part of your expat assignment, or if you’d like to join your expat partner — you will still require a valid visa. To find out which regulations apply to you, please get in touch with the Border Agency’s visa application center.

Entry Clearance for Visitors — Short-Term Visits

If you’re entering the UK for a short visit, you might require a general visitor’s visa. However, there are additional categories depending on your reasons for coming to the country.

You are considered a general visitor if:

  • You are not from an EEA country or a family member of an EEA national
  • You are at least 18 years of age
  • You want to stay in the UK for no more than six months
  • You have a clear intention to leave the country after that time period
  • You have enough money to finance your stay and return to your home country
  • You are not coming to the UK for employment, study, marriage, business visits (including artists, athletes, and entertainers), or medical treatment

To see what you need to include in your application for your UK visa, please ask a person in charge at your nearest visa application center overseas. If you’re planning to apply for a visitor visa because you’d like to get married in the UK, please have a look at our corresponding article on marriages and civil partnerships.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: October 24, 2019
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