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A Complete Guide To UK Work Visas

If you’re a foreign national seeking employment in the UK, obtaining UK work visas or work permits is essential. Reach out to our immigration lawyers at +44 (0) 1293 522 275 for a complimentary telephone consultation, or fill out our contact form to initiate a discussion about UK Work Visa requirements.

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November 10, 2023

Table of Contents

Securing a work visa or work permit for the UK typically necessitates a job offer from an employer possessing a sponsor licence. However, exceptions exist, such as the High Potential Individual (HPI) Visa and the Graduate visa, both detailed below. Post-Brexit, EU nationals aspiring to work in the UK must also undergo the work visa or permit application process. Notably, EU nationals holding Pre-Settled or Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme are exempt from the need for a work visa or permit.

Diverse options are available for UK work visas and permits, each catering to specific circumstances. These encompass:

  • Skilled Worker Visa: Designed for individuals with a job offer from a UK employer and a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.
  • Scale Up Visa: Intended for individuals endorsed as a high-potential entrepreneur by an approved endorsing body.
  • Temporary Worker Visa: Suitable for individuals coming to the UK for a temporary role or to undertake short-term assignments.
  • Global Business Mobility Visa: Facilitates intra-company transfers for employees within multinational companies.
  • High Potential Individual Visa: Tailored for individuals with a proven track record of exceptional achievements in their field.
  • Graduate Visa: Available to international students who have successfully completed a degree in the UK.
  • Global Talent Visa: Open to highly skilled individuals or recognised leaders in fields such as science, arts, humanities, engineering, and digital technology.
  • UK Ancestry Visa: Granted to individuals with a grandparent born in the UK, allowing them to work and live in the country.

Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Worker Visa is a meticulously designed pathway for proficient foreign nationals seeking employment in the UK, offering an evolved framework that supersedes the erstwhile Tier 2 (general) visa. To embark on this journey, applicants must navigate the intricacies of the Home Office’s points-based system (PBS) by satisfying the following criteria:

  • Job Offer from a Licensed Sponsor: A crucial prerequisite, applicants must secure a job offer from an authorised sponsor in the UK.
  • Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS): Possession of a CoS is imperative, serving as an official endorsement from the sponsoring employer.
  • Occupation Eligibility: The prospective job must align with the list of eligible occupations, ensuring that the applicant’s skills are in demand.
  • Minimum Salary Requirements: Applicants need to meet the minimum salary threshold (£25,600 or the ‘going rate’ for the specific occupation). Certain circumstances, such as roles on the shortage occupation list, age below 26, or possession of a Ph.D., may warrant a lower salary requirement.
  • English Language Proficiency: A proficiency in the English language is a non-negotiable component, with applicants required to meet the stipulated language requirements.

Skilled Worker visa holders are typically granted a stay of up to 5 years, offering a significant period to contribute to the UK workforce. Following this initial period, applicants can pursue an extension of their stay. Notably, the prospect of attaining permanent settlement in the UK, known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), becomes achievable after completing 5 years under the Skilled Worker visa. This intricate yet rewarding process underscores the UK’s commitment to attracting and retaining skilled professionals on a long-term basis.

Health and Care Worker Visa

The Health and Care Worker Visa closely mirrors the structure of the Skilled Worker Visa. It is specifically designed for qualified medical practitioners, including doctors and nurses, as well as other health professionals and adult social care professionals. These individuals are sponsored to undertake employment with a licensed employer within the health and care sector in the UK. Successful applicants for the Health and Care Worker visa must hold an eligible job position and fulfil the salary requirements stipulated for this category.

Scale Up Visa

The Scale Up Visa introduces a novel immigration pathway. This visa is tailored for foreign nationals boasting significant skills or qualifications, securing employment sponsored by a UK company in the scale-up phase, characterised by substantial growth. Anticipated to have both sponsored and unsponsored options, Scale-Up visa 2022 applicants are likely to necessitate:

  • High Skill Levels or Consideration as “Academically Elite”: Applicants are expected to possess advanced skills or be deemed academically elite, underscoring the exceptional qualifications sought for this visa category.
  • Certificate of Sponsorship: Initial applications require a Certificate of Sponsorship. However, individuals previously granted permission to stay as Scale-Up workers won’t need sponsorship for subsequent applications.
  • Highly Skilled Job Offer: A prerequisite is a job offer from a Scale-Up company, demonstrating substantial growth with an annual increase in staff or turnover of at least 20% over the last three years.
  • Salary Threshold: Applicants should command a salary of £33,000 or more, aligning with the value placed on their high-level skills and contributions to the UK job market.
  • English Language Proficiency: Proficiency in the English language is a mandatory requirement, ensuring effective communication and integration into the UK work environment.

The Scale Up visa is expected to offer renewability, allowing for further extensions. Moreover, visa holders can pursue settlement in the UK (Indefinite Leave to Remain – ILR) after residing continuously for 5 years. This pioneering immigration route reflects the UK’s commitment to attracting and retaining top-tier talent, fostering innovation, and contributing to the nation’s economic growth.

Temporary Worker Visa

Temporary Worker visas serve as a gateway for foreign nationals seeking short-term employment in the UK for specified purposes. The array of available Temporary Work visas includes:

  • Charity Worker visa
  • Creative Worker visa
  • Government Authorised Exchange visa
  • International Agreement visa
  • Religious Worker visa
  • Seasonal Worker visa

These visas, spanning durations from 3 months to 2 years, necessitate applicants to be at least 18 years old, possess a job offer, and secure a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a licensed temporary worker sponsor. Financial sufficiency, with a minimum of £1,270 to support oneself, is also mandatory. A thorough understanding of specific eligibility criteria tailored to each visa category is paramount.

Temporary Worker visa holders have the option to extend their stay, subject to a maximum allowable duration. While direct entry into a permanent role in the UK is precluded on a temporary visa, individuals can explore transitioning to alternative visa types, such as the Skilled Worker Visa. Despite lacking a direct pathway to settlement, Temporary Worker visas provide the flexibility to switch to other visa categories that qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Global Business Mobility Visa

Launched in 2022, the Global Business Mobility Visa scheme introduced five distinct visas, streamlining operations for overseas businesses within the UK. These visas cater to existing employees of foreign businesses, facilitating work in the UK or, in the case of the Expansion visa, establishment of a new branch or subsidiary. The visa categories include:

  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa
  • Graduate Trainee visa
  • UK Expansion Worker visa
  • Secondment Worker visa
  • Service Supplier visa

Global Business Mobility visa applicants must obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship and fulfil specific criteria unique to their chosen visa category. The permitted length of stay varies, ranging from 6 months (Service Supplier visa) to 5 years (Senior or Specialist Worker visa). While extensions are possible in most cases, they are subject to the maximum allowable duration. None of the Global Business Mobility visas offer a direct route to settlement, but individuals may explore switching to alternative visa categories that qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).

Navigating a UK Work Permit Without a Job Offer

Securing a work permit in the UK sans a job offer opens avenues through unique visa options, including the High Potential Individual Visa, Graduate Visa, or Global Talent Visa. While these pathways don’t hinge on a specific job offer, successful applications demand a nuanced understanding of the criteria for an unsponsored work visa in the UK.

High Potential Individual Visa (HPI)

The High Potential Individual Visa (HPI) stands as a recent entrant into the immigration landscape, commencing on 30th May 2022. Tailored for foreign nationals armed with a recent ‘degree-level’ qualification from a distinguished university on the Home Office’s global universities list, the HPI visa liberates applicants from the need for a job offer. Aspiring individuals, aged 18 or above, should possess a qualifying overseas degree acquired within the last 5 years, meet specified English language standards, and demonstrate financial support (minimum £1,270).

HPI visa holders find a home for up to 2 years (extended to 3 years with a PhD), although the option for further extensions is not on the table. Those eyeing prolonged stays or settlement must plot a course towards transitioning to alternative visas, such as the Skilled Worker visa.

Graduate Visa

The UK Graduate Visa is a beacon for foreign graduates who’ve triumphed in a degree or post-graduate course within the UK, bestowing an additional 2 years (or 3 years with a PhD) within the kingdom.

Applicants for the Graduate Visa must make their play from within the UK, clutching an existing student visa or Tier 4 student visa, and brandishing the laurels of a completed bachelor’s or post-graduate degree. While extensions or settlements remain off-limits, this visa provides a launchpad for individuals to switch to other visa genres for an extended stay.

Global Talent Visa

The Global Talent Visa stands testament to the recognition of foreign luminaries in academia, research, arts and culture, or digital technology. Applicants, aged 18 or above, must secure an endorsement as leaders from an accredited endorsing body.

Triumphant Global Talent visa holders bask in a stay of up to 5 years, with provisions for renewals. This visa also opens the door to permanent settlement (ILR) after 3 or 5 years. Fast-track settlement after 3 years requires an endorsement from specific bodies such as the British Academy or Tech Nation.

UK Ancestry Visa

Tailored for Commonwealth and British Overseas citizens with a familial link to the UK, the UK Ancestry visa entitles holders to a stay of up to 5 years, with an option to apply for ILR.

Eligibility criteria demand applicants to be aged 17 or above, representing Commonwealth citizenship, British overseas citizenship, British overseas territories citizenship, British national (overseas), or citizenship of Zimbabwe. Applications must unfold from outside the UK, underpinned by evidence of the grandparent’s UK birth, a commitment to work in the UK, and a robust financial standing.

Other Work Permits in the UK

Beyond the spotlighted visas, a tapestry of immigration categories grants the right to work, including the Frontier Worker permit, Dependant Family permit, Overseas Domestic Worker visa, British National (Overseas) visa, and Youth Mobility Scheme Visa. For those with entrepreneurial aspirations, business visas such as the Innovator visa or Start-up visa offer a canvas for establishing and steering innovative ventures. Uncertain about the optimal work visa route? Consult with seasoned immigration experts at JPS Immigration for guidance tailored to your circumstances.

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