Moving to the UK: Visas

If you’re thinking of , 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 for a short time in order to experience the culture and the opportunity for travel. All are granted on a points-based system, and there are annual quotas, so try to prepare for and apply for them early!

Moving to the UK visas
UK arrival stamp (Pic from

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 routes outlined below.

moving to the UK visa
Example of a UK visa (Pic from

Tier 2 Visa (General)

The Tier 2 visa used to be the 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 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.

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To be eligible, you will need:

working in the UK visas
Canary Wharf, the Financial District (pic from

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.

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moving to the uk visa
Pack your bags! (Pic from

Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme)

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.

moving to the UK visas
The UK’s centre for jobs (Pic from

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 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
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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.

Moving to the UK visas
Pulling pints in a pub – a time honoured English job (Pic from

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.

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  1. Oh visas… I could write a novel on my experiences applying and searching for these elusive leprechauns… the majority of my time overseas was spent on a student visa (studied design in London and Paris) and have also traveled on a Working Holiday Visa to Australia. Was never able to convert those over to full sponsorship though!

    1. I’ve been on one visa or another since I was 18 – student visas in Australia, permanent residency visas, highly skilled in the UK, tourist visa in the US… and we just submitted a giant application for a partner visa in Australia – luckily it went through! If only we could all be global citizens!

      1. You’re telling me!! Fighting for visas has been an uphill battle for me, and one I’ve never fully won. One of these days… Fingers crossed!!

  2. No old mediocre US citizens allowed, lol.

    1. LOL Stephanie!!! That’s hilarious, I didn’t think of it that way, but yes, it does sound very discriminatory, doesn’t it?! There are other visa routes though – I particularly liked the investing in the UK visa, where if you have the tidy sum of £1mil, (or something like that!) you’d be able to gain permanent residency! Money solves all problems!

  3. kiwidutch says:

    I know I am VERY lucky to have been born with both New Zealand and Dutch nationalities…makes the commute between hemispheres SO much easier and as for working in The Netherlands,it’s saved me reams of paperwork and thousands of hours of hassle and form filling.
    I’m also lucky to work in a highly skilled job where there are fewer worldwide specialists so my options would be more than open if I ever desired a move else where in the world.
    That said, it’s also restrictive being so specialised because I’d have to work in specific cities that have facilities for my speciality. For instance for the UK I’d have to live in London(not my personal preference).
    Every international move requires a trade off between wishes and possibilities… getting the balance between them both is the tricky bit! 🙂

    1. Multiple citizenship opens up many more options, I agree! And there definitely isn’t as much paperwork! I’ve only ever had the one passport, but for a time I held three permanent residencies – it made making a choice so difficult!

      It also sounds like the world is your oyster and you could pretty much go anywhere you’d like, awesome! Why would London not be your personal preference? I loved it there!

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