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Visas & Work Permits in the UK

The Guide to Visa Types and Work Permit Requirements

There are many UK visa types, and they all have different requirements and processes. For this reason, navigating the ins and outs may be overwhelming and confusing. Before relocating, make sure you know the differences between temporary and permanent residence permits, work permit visas, skilled worker visas, and self-employment visas.

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Whether you need to apply for a UK visa or not will firstly depend on your home country. If you are from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you will not need a visa or work permit to work in the UK. Although the UK has left the EU, a transition period has been set until the end of 2020—for now, the rules will remain the same. It is advisable to apply to stay in the UK as soon as possible via the EU Settlement Scheme for pre-settled status.

If you are not from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, and you wish to spend six months or more in the UK for work, business, or as a family member of a long-term applicant, you will have to apply for a UK visa. Work visas and temporary residency will allow you to live and work in the UK legally. After this period, you may be eligible to become a permanent resident (this is also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain). The UK visa applications & processes have different requirements, lengths, and costs, depending on how long you plan on staying, what your job will be during this time, and your country of origin. This section will cover all the information you need on UK visa types and fees, the UK immigration point system, and more.

 

Work Permits and Employment-based Visas

To live and work in the UK, you will need a work permit and an employment visa. There are many types of work visas, depending on the length of your stay or the type of work you will do. You can find out your UK work permit eligibility and which visa applies to you by following the steps in this useful tool.

Work Permit and Employment Visa Overview

The UK visa system is complex, even more so if you are bring you family along. Our Visa Solutions Team can introduce you and your loved ones to the most suitable visa and work permit options, and help you with all the documentations required in the process.

A UK work permit takes two to three months to be approved and allows you to work at a specific location and do a specific job. Your new employer must file the work permit on your behalf. However, you will not be allowed to enter the country or work until the proper visa has been issued, and you have entry clearance for yourself and any dependents you may have. You will also need to pay a healthcare surcharge.

In general, entry clearances take one to two weeks after the work permit has been issued. Security clearances for people from Russia, North Korea, Libya, Iraq, and China (PRC) take much longer. The visa will be in your passport. Once in the UK, if you want to switch jobs, a new employer will have to apply for a new work permit for you.

Who doesn’t Need a Work Permit?

Anyone who falls into one of the following categories does not require one:

  • Citizens of the 25 EEA countries.
  • Spouses and partners (not legally married but with two years of co-habitation) of EEA nationals.
  • Permanent Residents*.
  • Spouses of holders of works permits, training permits, sole representatives, investors, students, and ancestry visas*.
  • Asylum seekers with pending applications.
  • Commonwealth citizens with Ancestry visas (with a grandparent born in the UK).
  • Application should take place at the British High Commission in their home country. They last four years, after which the candidate is eligible for permanent residence.

Family Visas

*For visa applications of spouses, partners, and families of work visa holders, check the Tier 2 family member visa. You will need a family visa to live with a family member in the UK for more than six months.

Once you have your work permit, you can apply for your visa. There are several tiers of points-based UK skilled worker and their corresponding types of work permits (Tier 2 and 5), and business visas (Tier 1).

Types of  Work Visas in the UK and Requirements

  • Tier 2 (General) visa is for people who have skilled jobs (earning at least 25,000 GBP or 32,000 USD). Sponsorship by a licensed organization in the field is required and is valid for up to six years.
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa is for people working for a UK employer who are based overseas and are offered work in the UK. It is valid for six months to nine years.
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa is for people who work for a sponsor faith community. It is valid for up to three years and can be extended.
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa is for elite athletes or coaches endorsed by their sport’s national governing body. It is valid for up to three years and can be extended another three years.
  • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) visa is for sponsored temporary workers (charity volunteer, athletes, artists, and religious workers), on official exchange or as part of an international agreement. It is valid for 1- 2 years.
  • Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa is for people aged 18-30, from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, South Korea or Taiwan and who have around 2,000 GBP (2,500 USD) in savings. It is valid for up to two years.
  • Domestic Workers in Private Household visa – for private domestic workers who have worked for their employer for at least a year. It is valid for a maximum of six months.
  • Permitted Paid Engagement visa is for short-term paid work in the UK without sponsorship. It is valid for one month.

Types of Business Visas in the UK and Requirements

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa – 1,000 of these visas are issued each year. It is valid for up to five years with a possibility of extension for another five years. This visa is issued to experts in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology, and the arts.
  • Tier 1 (Investor) visa- for those willing to invest at least 2 million GBP (2.6 million USD) in the UK. It is valid for three years and can be extended for a further two years.
  • Start-up visa- for citizens of countries outside of the EEA/Switzerland who want to start a business and have enough means to support themselves in the process. It is valid for two years.
  • Innovator visa- for people that have an “endorsement letter” to a business or idea, approved by an endorsing body from this list.

For Turkish nationals and Commonwealth citizens with a grandparent born in the UK, there are specific UK work visas available.

UK Visa Application Forms.

You will have to make an appointment to apply for a UK work visa in your home country. You can find locations of application centers in this list.

You can download work permit visa application forms prior to your appointment. The processing times for each visa type vary. You also may be notified to register your work visa after your arrival to the UK. If you need assistance with your applications forms or any other service related to your relocation, you can easily get in touch with our team of experts.

Basic Documents Required for Work Visas

  • Valid passport or travel ID.
  • Proof of financial means enough to support you during your stay (bank statements or sponsor confirmation).
  • Proof of English language fluency
  • Proof of payment of the healthcare surcharge.
  • TB test if you will stay longer than six months and are a citizen of a listed country.

UK Work Visa Costs

The UK visa fees will vary depending on the type of visa and the length of time you are staying in the UK. There is a useful tool to work out the specific cost of your UK visa application.

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Self-Employment Visas

If you want to work independently in the UK, then you will need a self-employment or business visa. There are different types. The UK self-employment visa requirements depend on the tier category, which is a point-based system.

UK Self-employment Visa Types

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa – 1,000 of these visas are issued each year. It is valid for up to five years with a possibility of extension for another five years. This visa is issued to experts in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, medicine, digital technology, and the arts.
  • Tier 1 (Investor) visa- for those willing to invest at least 2 million GBP (2.6 million USD) in the UK. It is valid for three years and can be extended for a further two years.
  • Start-up visa- for citizens of countries outside of the EEA/Switzerland who want to start a business and have enough means to support themselves in the process. It is valid for two years.
  • Innovator visa- for people that have an “endorsement letter” to a business or idea, approved by an endorsing body from this list.

You will be able to find the suitable application form per Tier category in the Work in the UK section of the government website.

Documents Required for UK Self-employment Visas

  • Valid passport or travel ID.
  • Proof of financial means enough to support your business venture (bank statements, evidence of investment funds).
  • Proof of payment of the healthcare surcharge.
  • TB test if you will stay longer than six months and are a citizen of a listed country.

UK Self-employment Visa Costs

The UK self-employment visa costs will depend on the type of visa and the length of time you are staying in the UK. There is a useful tool to work out the specific cost of your UK visa application.

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Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

If you are figuring out how to become a UK permanent resident or how to apply for a temporary residence permit, you are probably concerned about how the current political climate affects you after the UK left the EU on 31 January, 2020. If you are moving to the UK, Brexit will only affect you if you are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland. If you are not from any of these places, the immigration rules will remain the same as before Brexit. This said, a transition period has been set until the end of 2020, while negotiations are finalized. Until then, the current rules apply.

For now, you may find it useful to apply for a “UK permanent residence document”. This is not mandatory, butif you do, and your application is successful, you can use to:

  • apply for British citizenship; and
  • sponsor your partner’s visa application.

Be aware that your permanent residence document will become invalid after 31 December 2020.  After that date, you should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to be able to continue living in the UK. For all the specifics on the agreements made as of now with the EU, EEA or Switzerland see the Living in Europe Guidance documents.

If you are not an EU/EFTA citizen, and you want to be in the UK for longer than six months, you will need to become a permanent resident. For this, you will need to obtain a Biometric Residence Permit.

How to Apply for UK Biometric Residence Permit

The UK biometric residence permit has the biographical and biometric details of residence applicants. It is valid for  the duration of your stay in the UK and up to ten years.

You can apply for this permit within the UK (at post offices or visa premium service centers), or from outside the UK (at visa application centers) and it can take up to 12 weeks to be processed.

Why Should you Apply for UK Biometric Residence Permit?

You will want to obtain one, if:

  • you want to extend your temporary stay to six months or over;
  • you want to apply for permanent residency;
  • you need to transfer your visa from an old to a new passport (form NTL -No Time Limit- or TOC -transfer of conditions); or
  • you need to apply for a Certificate of Travel or a Convention Travel document (1951 refugee or 1954 stateless person).

How to Obtain Permanent Residency in the UK

Permanent resident status (or Indefinite Leave to Remain) has several benefits. It allows the recipient to live and work in the UK indefinitely without any immigration restrictions on working or business in the UK, with no time limits on their stay. It gives you access to free NHS healthcare, a state pension, and other social welfare benefits (e.g. unemployment pay) . If you are an EU or qualifying Commonwealth country citizen, you may also be able to vote.

Obtaining permanent residency is a straightforward but lengthy process. This right can lapse if a permanent resident spends more than two years continuously outside the country. In order to apply for permanent residency, you must first have spent a certain amount of time in the UK, which varies depending on your visa:

  • Spouse or unmarried partner to UK citizen: two years
  • Lawful stay on any basis: ten years
  • Unlawful stay: 14 years
  • Tier 1 and Tier 2 work permit: five years
  • Investor, sportsperson, business owner, arts: five years
  • Ancestry: five years

You can find out if you qualify for permanent residency here.

Permanent Residency for EEA members

EEA member citizens can apply for a permanent UK residence permit after five years of their temporary residence approval. The application process takes close to six months. Once approved, you’ll receive a registration certificate stating that you are a legal resident of the UK. The cost is 65 GBP (85 USD) and the

Documents required for Permanent Residency for EEA members
  • A valid passport or ID
  • Evidence that you’re eligible to apply
  • Two passport-sized photographs
Permanent Residency Applications Forms for EEA members

Forms for permanent residency applications for EEA members can be found here.

Permanent Residency for Non-EEA citizens

Citizens from non-EEA countries will need to check eligibility, collect relevant paperwork, and access their immigration history (if applicable) in order to apply for permanent residency.

Permanent Residency Applications Forms for Non-EEA members

Depending on your situation, there are two types of forms to choose from:

Set O: if you are the partner of a UK citizen or the parent of a child with permanent residency in the UK.

Set M: you have lived in the UK in any one of the immigration categories mentioned above: Spouse or unmarried partner to UK citizen, Lawful stay on any basis, Unlawful stay, Tier 1 and Tier 2 work permit, Investor, sportsperson, business owner, arts, or Ancestry.

You will need to provide documents, such as paystubs, bank statements, tax letters, and employment letters as proof of your legal stay in the UK as part of the application process.

Registering your Non-EU Family Members in the UK: Family Visas

If your family is relocating with you, the eligibility criteria above will apply to them as well. Each family member must submit an application form individually. Minors under the age of 18 will have their application filled on their behalf by their parents.

For holders of a Tier 1 or Tier 2 visa, family members may join you in the UK if you meet the criteria under each particular permit for sponsoring a spouse or dependent children.

Tables for fees for all types of temporary and permanent residency and family visas can be found in the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Fees page.

Summary of Key Aspects for Workers in the Context of the Transition Period

  • Any EU nationals who are already in the UK by the end of 2020 are eligible to apply for Settled Status.
  • From January 2021, a new immigration system will be in place. In simple words, this means that EU workers will be treated the same as migrant workers from non-EU countries.
  • The Government will be implementing an updated points-based system from January 2021.
  • Following the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommendations, the Government has decreased the thresholds for skilled workers’ required salaries to 17,920 GBP (22,970 USD) for “new entrants” and 25,600 GBP (32,816 USD) for “experienced workers”.

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: August 27, 2020
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