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UK: How do I apply for a work visa?

If you do not qualify for a Tier 4 visa or EEA Family permit, you must apply for a visa to work within the UK. Visas are assigned by a points assessment system designated into tiers. Each tier includes several categories of workers; each category within a tier has specific visa requirements, and supporting documentation you must submit along with your visa application varies. Depending on the category under which you apply, you may be required to apply for a visa before you enter the UK, or you may be allowed to apply if you are legally present in the UK.

Under most points-based visa categories, you must have a job offer or work assignment in hand to be eligible to apply for a visa. Your job offer must comply with government regulations, including minimum wages where applicable.

However, if you qualify as a Tier 1 High-Value Migrant or can claim UK Ancestry, you may apply for a visa without having a job offer in hand. The Highly-Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) has been closed to new residents. If you previously received a HSMP visa, you must re-apply for a points-based work permit if you wish to remain in the UK after your visa expires.

Once you have been granted Tier 1 visa status, you may remain in the UK for 3 years and 4 months after your first date of entry. You may apply for a two-year extension of your Tier 1 visa status before your initial visa expires. After you have spent 5 years in the UK under the Tier 1 visa category, you may apply to remain in the UK permanently.

UK Ancestory

To qualify to apply for a work visa under the UK Ancestry category, you must be:

  • Commonwealth citizen
  • At least 17 years old
  • Able to demonstrate financial independence while you seek work in the UK
In addition, one or more of your grandparents must have been born in the UK, the Channel Islands or on a ship or aircraft registered in Britain. If you are claiming UK ancestry through a grandparent born in the Republic of Ireland, your grandparent must have been born before March 31, 1922. You may be a legitimate or illegitimate descendent to qualify for a visa under the UK ancestry category.

High-Value Migrant

To be considered for Tier 1 High-Value Migrant status, you must qualify under one of the following categories:

  • Exceptional talent in science or the arts
  • Entrepreneur
  • Investor or post-study work for recent graduates of a university within the UK

Tier 2 Skilled Worker

If you do not qualify for Tier 1 visa status, you may also apply to work in the UK permanently as a Tier 2 Skilled Worker.

    Categories include:
  • General
  • Minister of religion
  • Athletes
  • Inter-company transfer workers

Tier 5 Temporary Worker

You may also apply to work in the UK for periods ranging from 12 to 24 months as a Tier 5 Temporary Workers.

    Categories include:
  • Creative and sporting
  • Charity workers
  • Religious workers
  • Authorized government exchange workers
  • Workers assigned under international agreement

Youth Mobility Scheme

Young people from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Monaco may apply to work temporarily in the UK under relaxed regulations established for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme. Each country has a fixed number of allotments assigned each year for workers to qualify under the scheme. Young people located outside the UK who are British nationals or citizens of British territories may also qualify in unlimited numbers under the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme. You may remain for up to 24 months under the Youth Mobility Scheme, but you may not renew your visa after the expiration date.

    Document Requirements for Points Assessment Visas
  • Relevant visa application form and applicable fee
  • Original passport
  • Recent passport photo
  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)(Tier 2 and Tier 5 applicants)
  • Printout of Unique Reference Number (Tier 1 Exceptional Talent applicants)
  • Police registration certificate
  • Written job offer (if applicable)
  • Evidence of English language competency
  • Evidence of financial support or assets (e.g. bank statements or pay slips)

Regulations for Business Visitors

If you are not a Visa National, and you qualify for Business Visitor status, you may be able to enter the UK without applying for a visa. To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old and able to support yourself without government assistance while you are in the UK. You must have established your base of operations outside the UK and receive no salary while you are in the UK. You may remain in the UK for up to 6 months as a general Business Visitor, or up to 12 months as a academic Business Visitor. You may not marry, register a civil partnership or receive private medical treatment while you are in the UK as a Business Visitor.

As a Business Visitor, you may attend board meetings, site visits, product demonstrations, speak at a conference or conduct similar business-related functions. The Business Visitor category also includes motion picture film crew members, representatives of foreign media, academics or physicians on leave or participating in exchange programs, clergy, consultants and related categories. Medical school graduates traveling to the UK to take the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) examination may also qualify as Business Visitors.


 [09-04-2012]
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