Are you an ex-pat looking to step into the UK for work? This guide is everything you need to know so you can apply for the right worker visa category. UK worker visa categories are broadly divided into three main types:
- Long-term work visas
- Short-term work visas
- Work visas for high-value migrants such as investors, business development, and talent visas
Who needs to apply for UK work visas?
EU/EFTA nationals and non-British nationals will require a UK work visa to come for employment in the UK. The exemptions only apply to the following Categories who can work in the UK without a work permit:
- Diplomats, government ministers, soldiers, and heads of state
- Citizens of British Overseas Territories and Commonwealth countries with the UK right of abode (ROA) status
Getting a Work Permit through a Points-based Immigration – the basic requirements
As part of the UK immigration management system for overseas migrant workers, most UK work visas form part of the Points-based immigration system. Hence, it is crucial to know the basic eligibility requirements:
- Skill level of the job
- Offer letter of job confirmation, genuineness, and effectiveness from an approved sponsor
- Salary requirements
- Whether there is a shortage of workers for this occupation
- Educational qualifications
- English language skills per CEFR level
Some changes to UK business immigration: As a headline for businesses, 5 new work permit visas are due to open soon. For instance: as part of the new overseas recruitment process, the UK ICT visa and Sole Representative visa are now closing, and the Home Office announces the new Global Business Mobility Visas routes.
Long-term work visas and their requirements
The following visa categories allow a pathway to permanent residency following a minimum qualifying residency period between 2 and 5 years.
- Skilled Worker visa - For highly skilled workers who meet the minimum requirements of UK PBS.
- Health and Care Worker visa - a route for the healthcare professional looking to work in NHS or Adulty Social care hubs
- Senior or Specialist Worker visa (New Global Business Mobility) – for those looking for a managerial role in the UK-registered branch of the overseas company
- Minister of Religion visa (T2) - for pastors and religious scholars looking to work in the UK-based religious organization
- International Sportsperson visa – this route is for elite athletes/ professional coaches to work in the UK sports industry
All these visas fall under the UK PBS, so a minimum 70-point score must be met to qualify for long-term worker visas. All applicants for long-term work visas are required to meet a score of 50:
- Job in skilled shortage occupation (10 scores)
- Confirmation of offered job from UKVI approved Sponsor (20 scores)
- English Language skills at least B1 on a CEFR level ( 10 scores)
- Job satisfies the appropriate skill level (10 scores)
The remaining 20 points score can be satisfied in the following ways:
- Salary requirements- £25,600 or the 90% going rate, whichever is higher ( 20 scores), or between £23,040 and £25,599 (10 scores),
- PhD in a non-STEM field relevant to the job ( 10 scores) or
- PhD in STEM field relevant to the job ( 20 scores)
All long-term work visa categories can allow you to work up to 20 hours per week, take up an additional role, and bring your dependents (mainly partners and children). However, the financial requirements of at least £1,270 in savings must be satisfied to support your maintenance and accommodation in the UK.
The application process, visa costs, and period of stay
You should apply online (at least 3 months before the date of travelling to the UK) and submit the following key certified documents:
- Valid photo ID
- Sponsorship reference number
- Proof of knowledge of English, unless you are travelling from an English-speaking country
- Details of your employer
- Your job title, salary, and occupation code
- Evidence of savings, for example, bank statements
- Tuberculosis test results if you are from a country where you have to take the test
- Criminal record certificate for certain jobs
Additional requirements: Use the UK Immigration: ID Check app to get the biometric residence permit (BRP) by scanning your ID, and documents with photographs and fingerprints. Long-term Visa costs: The cost of different long-term visas varies from £464 to £1,418; some are way cheaper than others depending on the visa type; make sure you check the standard application cost the first you apply. Some fixed fee charges you may have to pay are £20 for the BRP and £624 a year for the healthcare surcharge. Period of stay: Most long-term visas will allow you to stay for up to 5 years. Others have a more extended validity period ranging from 6- 9 years, depending on how much you earn. For instance: A Minister of Religion visa allows a maximum of six years A Senior or Specialist Worker visa is valid for up to five years in any six years (or nine years in any ten years if your salary is higher than £73,900).
Short-term work visas
Short-term visas allow the applicants to take a temporary work placement in the UK. Some of the categories are extendable while other immigration routes only will enable you to stay for up to 6 months ( maximum period of stay allowed). Temporary Work – Charity Worker visa – for the social workers looking for charity work in NGOs/ charity organisations in UK Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa – allows dancers, artists, musicians and film celebrities to work in the UK creative industry Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange visa - allows to participate in temporary work experience or training placements Temporary Work – International Agreement visa – allows diplomats and servants to work under UK international law/ treaty Temporary Work – Religious Worker visa – for non-pastoral religious workers to work temporarily in the religious sectors Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker visa – allows working in farmhouses, fruit picking, driving heavy vehicles – HGV drivers Youth Mobility Scheme visa – for young people aged between 18-24 years with a minimum of £2,530 savings and other eligibility requirements Graduate visa – For graduates to take up temporary work in the UK after finishing Graduate studies in the UK High Potential Individual (HPI) visa – The UK High Potential Individual Visa is available to recent graduates of top global universities who wish to work or are looking for work in the UK. Graduate Trainee visa (Global Business Mobility) – allows overseas workers to take part in the graduate training program for the subsequent managerial or senior worker role UK Expansion Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) – allows non-British workers to expand overseas business subsidiary/ a branch that hasn’t actively started trading yet) in the UK. Under UKEW sponsored route, you can come for temporary work either as a specialist employee or a senior manager. Secondment Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) – allows Overseas businesses can send their skilled workers for a high-value contract or investment ( at least 50 million) in the UK. Service Supplier visa (Global Business Mobility – allows overseas businesses to deploy their employees for temporary qualifying service work in the UK company. Requirements for short-term visas depend on the type of work visa. Still, the standard eligibility criteria generally apply to all short-term work visa categories- having a job offer from the UK registered employer, satisfying the minimum income requirements, and paying the annual Healthcare surcharge. You can bring your dependents ( partner and children), and access basic NHS healthcare facilities.
The application process, short-term visas costs, and Period of stay
As described above, the application process for all UK work visas involves submitting all the supporting documents online and getting Biometric enrolment via UK Immigration: ID App. Short-term UK work visas cost: the 2022 rates are now £259 ( Graduate Visa costs £715), plus the Healthcare surcharge. These charges are subject to change, so keep checking the gov. UK site. Period of Stay: the maximum allowable period of stay under most short-term visas is up to 2 years, except the graduate visa has a 3-year validity after finishing the Ph.D./tertiary level qualification. A seasonal worker visa has a minimum stay of no more than 6 months.
Investor, business development, and talent visas
Innovator visa – allows experienced business people from outside EEA who are already running a business and have innovative ideas to run a business in the UK, which can lead to jobs creation and growth in the national and international markets Start-up visa – If you are a young professional with less experience but high potential to explore and expand the prospects of the UK economic market Global Talent visa – allows academic/researchers/leaders with exceptional talent or Professional leaders experts in their field, i.e Science, Engineering, Arts& Culture, Digital technology, etc to come for work in the UK Investor visa (Tier 1) – for investors who can make a substantial financial investment in the UK. To qualify for a UK Investor visa, you must have access to at least £2 million and be willing to invest your funds in actively trading UK companies.
All these visas require endorsement from the approved endorsing body except for the Global Talent visa, which allows you to apply without approval if you have earned a Global Award in your field. Other requirements for these business work visas are:
- Be at least 18 years old
- English proficiency of usually at least B2 on the CEFR scale).
- Proof of financial funds of at least £1,270 in savings for the Innovator or Start-up visa.
- An Innovator visa requires you to prove the investment funds, i.e. additional £50,000 of business investment
capital for setting up a new business in the UK.
- Application Process, visa costs, and Period of stay
- Applications for business immigration visas are made online in a similar way as the rest of the UK worker visas.
Standard application costs ( the current rate) for all talent/business visas are:
- Innovator visa – £1,021
- Start-up visa – £363
- Global Talent visa – £608
Moreover, you’ll need to pay a Healthcare surcharge of £624 per year to access the NHS facilities in the UK. Period of stay:
- Start-up visas- upto 2 years
- Innovator visas- 3 years
- Global talent visas- 5 years
Luckily, all three visas type allow you to extend and permanently settle in the UK if you satisfy all the eligibility requirements. Other work visas and exemptions UK Ancestry visa – allows commonwealth citizens to come for work in the UK if they can prove that their grandparents are British citizens/ were born in the UK Exempt vignette – for the diplomats, members of commonwealth/ overseas territories, and head of the states to work in the Uk without any immigration control Frontier Worker permit – allows qualifying EU citizens (residents living outside the UK) to come to the UK for employment/even self-employment British National (Overseas) visa (BNO) – For the citizens of Hong Kong and their family members to come to the UK for work Overseas Domestic Worker visa- allow domestic workers in a private household (cleaners, Chauffeur, Cooks, those providing personal care for the employer and their family, nannies, etc.) to UK for work You may be able to work in the UK up to certain hours on both Family and Student visas if you satisfy the conditions under each immigration route.
Work visas refusals, Appeals & Complaints
Given the stringent UKVI immigration regulations, the home office will likely refuse UK work visas. Don’t fret! You can request the administrative review by paying £80 and submitting your request online. If you don’t qualify for the full review, you may still be eligible for “a reconsideration request‘. Alternatively, you can file a complaint online if you wish to complain about the UKVI immigration services. The decision takes 20 working days to 12 weeks if your complaint is serious or complex. You can also reach out to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if you are still not satisfied with the feedback.
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