Great Britain

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Work Visas for the UK

This overview of UK visa regulations offers a clear introduction to UK visa requirements, along with details of the relevant authorities to contact for detailed information. It’ll help you kick off your expat life in the UK!
Most work visas are valid for at least two years.

Most types of long-term visas allow you to stay in the UK for about two years depending on your personal circumstances. After this time, you can apply for an extension or even settlement, which grants you the right to remain in the UK indefinitely.

The details of the application process for non-visitor visa depend on the applicant’s reason for moving to the UK. A system of credit points applies to most applicants, 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 a work permit to start working in the UK. Although the UK voted for Brexit, it is not clear whether or not this will change the current free movement policy for EU citizens currently living there.  For expats from other, non-European countries, there are different schemes for entrepreneurs, skilled workers, and temporary workers, all with different requirements.

High-Value (Qualified) Migrants

The 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 subcategories might come with additional requirements.

Currently, the five subcategories of this scheme are:

  • exceptional Talent
  • entrepreneur
  • investor
  • graduate entrepreneur

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. Specific requirements apply to the four subcategories, and you should check them closely before you turn in your application. The subcategories of this scheme are:

  • general, skilled worker offered a job in the UK
  • minister of religion
  • sportsperson
  • intra-company transfer

Temporary Workers

Just like skilled 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 subcategories 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.

Here to Stay: Settling in the United Kingdom  

A settlement officially allows you to stay in the UK for as long as you want. Settlement status only applies to people who need a visa in order to enter the country, as nationals of EU and EEA member states as well as Switzerland currently have the right to reside in the UK without a visa. You can usually file an application for indefinite settlement after living in the UK for at least five to ten years.

Applicants for indefinite leave to remain in the UK have to pass a standardized test and a language exam. However, there are certain exceptions for victims of domestic violence, elderly dependents, surviving partners of British citizens, refugees, and former members of the military, among others. From 28 October 2013 onwards all applicants — who are not exempt — have to pass the life in the UK test and show proof of an English language qualification of B1 CEFR or higher. 


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