If you’re thinking of moving to the UK, applying for a valid visa is the first step you’ll need to take! There are a few options for visas if you’re looking to move to the UK for a short time in order to experience the culture and the opportunity for travel. All UK visas are granted on a points-based system, and there are annual quotas, so try to prepare for and apply for them early!
When I moved to the UK in 2007 (more than half a decade ago now!), I applied under the Highly Skilled Migrant Program visa (which then became the Tier 1 visa in 2008) on the strength of my post graduate qualifications. However, the Tier 1 visa has become highly restricted since, and unless you are an exceptionally talented artist, looking to start a company or invest large amounts of funds in the UK, you’ll most likely need to go down one of the two popular UK visa routes outlined below.
The Tier 2 visa used to be the UK work permit scheme and is designed for applicants who have a UK employer willing to provide sponsorship. Most of the principles of eligibility remain the same and you will need to demonstrate your skills, as well as evidence that your sponsor could not fill your position with a UK resident worker. This visa will allow you to add relevant work experience to your CV, advance your career, and pretty much stay as long as you want in the UK, as long as you continue to be employed by your sponsor. Should you want to change jobs, you will need to find another company willing to sponsor you.
To be eligible, you will need:
- A Certificate of Sponsorship from your employer, guaranteeing you a skilled labour job in the UK
- The promised role must have a salary of £20,300 or more (as at Aug 2013). There are allowable exceptions to the rule.
- Proven English language skills
- At least £900 in personal savings (as at Aug 2013) that has been in your bank account for 90 days continuously, or an A-rated sponsor who will guarantee your living expenses for the first month you are in the UK.
The Tier 2 visa is the best option for those currently employed with a multinational company and are looking to obtain international work experience in their current career and industry. A quota is applied for sponsored jobs with a salary less than £152,100 (as at Aug 2013) and the cut off is a maximum of 20,700 skilled workers before 5 April 2014. For sponsored jobs with salaries of more than £152,100, there are no quotas.
The most popular route into the UK, but unfortunately one that is only open to applicants from specific countries, the Tier 5 visa is the UK equivalent of the Australian working holiday visa. This visa is perfect for those looking to spend 2 years working in and travelling from the UK. It’s not a visa you should be using if you are looking to further your career in the UK market, or if you’re hoping to eventually obtain permanent residency in the UK. The Tier 5 visa is the best and easiest option for anyone who wants to experience British culture, and work full or part time in order to fund their lifestyle in the UK for a short time.
To be eligible, you will have to:
- Be a citizen of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea and or Taiwan.
- Have no dependent children and if married then your partner must also be heading to the UK on the same visa
- Not have previously held a UK working holiday visa
- Be over 18 years of age, but under 31 years at the time of your application.
- Have at least £1,800 (as at Aug 2013) in your bank account
A quota applies per country, with the majority of places allocated to citizens of Australia (35,000 places) and New Zealand (10,000 places). If you are from Canada, Japan, or one of the other countries, best apply early on in the year in order to qualify.
Other visa routes to the UK include spousal visas, which are issued for 2 years, after which the holder can apply to remain in the UK individually. If you are a Commonwealth citizen with a grandparent on either side of your family who was born in the UK before March 1922, then you’re eligible for a UK Ancestry visa, which is not points-based and has no work or time limit restrictions.