Explained: UK Work Visas

The UK is one of the most attractive destinations worldwide for people wishing to live, work or study abroad. However, following on from Brexit, a new points-based immigration system was introduced, and key changes made to the Visa system.

EU nationals who were already the UK by 31 December 2020 can remain in the UK and retain their Right to Work if they registered under the EU settlement scheme. Otherwise, anyone seeking to work in the UK must be granted a work permit, known as a UK work visa.

There are several types of work visa, and the type you apply for will ultimately depend on your intended length of stay, your level of skill and whether you are joining a company as an employee or starting your own business in the UK.

In the following guide, we explain the differences between the various types of UK work visa. If you need advice or legal support through the application process, our expert UK immigration lawyers are here to help.

 

Skilled Worker visa

Replacing the Tier 2 (General) work visa, the Skilled Worker visa is for non-UK individuals who have been offered employment by a UK business holding a valid sponsor licence. However, there are certain criteria that must be met for individuals to qualify for the skilled worker route.

In order to apply for a Skilled Worker visa, migrant workers who move to the UK will need to make up 70 points.  A job offer at the appropriate skill level from a UKVI approved UK employer and the ability to speak, read and understand English at the required level will grant an individual 50 points. To make up the remaining 20 points, individuals will need one of the following:

  • A salary of at least £25,600 a year or above or at least the going rate for the profession (whichever is higher)
  • A job in a shortage occupation as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee
  • Higher qualifications (10 points is awarded for a relevant PhD, while 20 points is awarded to individuals with a PhD in fields such as science, technology, humanities, medicine, engineering or maths)
  • Certain job offers in health and education merit 20 points even if the salary is below £25,600, but the applicant must still receive a minimum salary of £20,)

The Skilled Worker route does make provision for spouses, long-term partners and dependent children to apply to join the main visa applicant. This route is also a viable avenue to settlement and Indefinite Leave to Remain.

Applicants must show they have enough funds in their bank account to support themselves as they won’t get access to public funding like state benefits. The rules state a minimum of £1,270 must be held in the applicants account for 28 days prior to application.

If you have been recognised by a UK business as a skilled worker and wish to apply for a skilled worker visa to take up their offer of employment, our UK immigration lawyers can help. Moving to a new country to live and work can be daunting, so it’s worth having an expert on hand to handle all of the paperwork through the application process.

 

Investor, business development and talent visas

These types of visas are for highly skilled applicants who wish to invest in the UK and entrepreneurs who are highly skilled in their field of expertise.

Most of these work visas lead to Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.

 

Global Talent visa

The Global Talent category replaces the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa, so is aimed at individuals who are skilled in a qualifying field and have been endorsed as a recognised leader or an emerging leader in their field. In order to secure a Global Talent Visa, you will need to be qualified in one of the following fields:

If you are outside of the European Economic Area and Switzerland and qualify for a Global Talent visa, you will need to either hold a prestigious prize for your occupation, or be endorsed by an organisation that is related to your qualifying field as either:

  • A recognised leader (showing you already have exceptional talent)
  • An emerging leader (showing you have exceptional promise)

Once approved, you can stay in the UK for 1 year to a maximum of 5 years. You can renew your visa as many times as you like, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements.

If you want to stay longer in the UK you may be able to get indefinite leave to remain so you can settle in the UK after 3 or 5 years, depending on which field you work in and how you apply.

If you’re opting for the Global Talent visa but need support through your application, our UK immigration lawyers can help you get all your documentation in order and provide expert advice at every step of the way.

 

Start-up visa

Looking to move to the UK and set up a business? You may qualify for the Start-up visa, which grants prospective entrepreneurs the right to live in the UK and establish a new business. In order to secure a start-up visa, applicants must be able to show that the business is viable, scalable and innovative.

As part of the eligibility criteria, your business idea must be unique and original, differing from anything else on the market – with potential for growth. It should also receive endorsement from a UK higher education institution or approved industry body.

On top of this, you as an individual will need to meet a number of general requirements. In order to secure a start-up visa, you must:

  • Be aged 18 or over
  • Meet the English Language Requirement to Level B2 CEFR
  • Have had at least £1270 in your bank account for 28 consecutive days before you apply

Additionally, applicants must be able to show that they are eligible under the general UK immigration rules – i.e., you are of sound character and have not previously breached any immigration laws in the UK.

You cannot apply to extend this visa. You may be able to switch to an Innovator visa if you set up a business while on a Start-up visa.

If you are intending on establishing a new UK business, getting legal advice from specialist immigration lawyers is essential in ensuring your company is compliant with the law. A team of commercial lawyers can also be invaluable in helping you to navigate the business landscape in the UK and identifying risks and opportunities early on.

 

Innovator visa

Similar to the Start-up visa, the Innovator visa is for individuals coming to the UK to set up an innovative and scalable business. There are several differences between either route, so it may be worth getting advice from a legal expert in order to determine the right avenue. The key criteria for the Innovator visa are as follows:

  • Applicants will require endorsement from a relevant business sponsor who will assess the viability, scalability and innovation of the business.
  • Applicants will need to show investment of at least £50,000 has been put into the business from any legitimate source. This investment is not necessary if you are already on the start-up visa and switching to the innovator visa.
  • Applicants will need to satisfy the English language requirement to Level B2.

If you want to stay longer in the UK

You can renew your visa as many times as you like, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements. The Innovator route may lead to settlement after 3 years of continuous residence – however, your business must have done two of the following:

  • Has received £50,000 of investment, which you’ve spent on developing the business doubled the number of customers in the last 3 years – and this number is higher than the average for similar businesses
  • applied for intellectual property protectionin the UK\made £1 million revenue in the last full year covered by accounts
  • made £500,000 revenue in the last full year covered by accounts, with £100,000 of this from exporting overseas
  • created the equivalent of 5 full-time jobs that have existed for 12 months, with an average salary of £25,000 a year
  • created equivalent of 10 full time jobs that have existed for 12 months

 

Tier 1 Investor visa

If you wish to invest £2,000,000 or more in the UK, you can make an application for a Tier 1 UK Investor Visa. The investment must be at least £2 million by way of UK Government bonds, share capital or Loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies. This route is available if you have the following attributes:

  • You are 18 or older
  • You can show that the funds belong to you or your partner
  • You have a valid bank account in the UK
  • Your funds should be deposited in one or more regulated banking institutions of the UK.
  • You have sufficient funds of your own to support yourself

If you qualify for an investment visa, you must make the investment of at least £2 million within three months of the date you were granted entry clearance as a Tier 1 Investor in the date of entry to the UK. If you have only held the funds for three months or less, you will need to provide evidence for the source of the funds.

If your application is successful, your Tier 1 Investor Visa will be valid for 3 years and 4 months or 3 years if you are already in the UK. You can apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years if you have invested £2 million; 3 years if you have invested £5 million or 2 years if you have invested £10 million.

 

Temporary T5 worker visa

If you intend to travel to the UK to work for an employer on a temporary basis, you may qualify for the Temporary T5 worker visa. This category is primarily for those who have already had a job offer in the UK from a UK licenced sponsor for a role on a short-term basis. Under the Home Office rules, there are six categories of temporary workers eligible for the T5 visa. These are:

  • Creative and sporting workers
  • Charity workers
  • Religious workers
  • Government Authorised Exchange Workers – this allows individuals to come to the UK for a short time as part of work experience or training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme.
  • International Agreement – this applies for individuals contracted to do work covered by international law while in the UK
  • Youth Mobility Scheme – this is aimed at individuals aged between 18-30 looking to come to the UK for a working holiday.

Aside from applications under the Youth Mobility Scheme, anyone seeking to apply for a Temporary T5 Visa will need to be assigned a certificate of sponsorship by a UK licenced sponsor. Whether you’re an individual applying for a temporary work permit or a UK business eager to hire temporary talent from outside the UK, our immigration lawyers can help.

 

Intra-company Transfer (ICT) visa

The Intra Company Transfer Visa allows an individual to transfer to the UK from an overseas branch of a UK company in order to undertake work on a specific project.

To successfully apply for an Intra-Company Transfer visa, you must be able to show that there is common ownership or control of the overseas and UK business and the overseas business must first be added to the sponsor licence as a linked entity.

In most cases, the minimum UK salary will need to be the higher of £41,500 per year, or the specific salary requirement for their occupation known as the “going rate”.

The minimum salary for a graduate/trainee on an intra-company transfer is whichever is the higher of £23,000 per year, or the specific salary requirement for their occupation known as the “going rate.”

An applicant on the Intra-Company Transfer route must:

(a) be currently working for the sponsor group overseas; and

(b) unless they are applying as a high earner (going to be paid £73,900 a year or more to work in the UK), they must have worked outside the UK for the sponsor group for 12 months.

It is possible to hire workers through this route who are being transferred by the business they work for overseas to undertake a role in the UK as part of a structured graduate training programme for up to one year, but they will need to have worked outside the UK for the sponsor group for a continuous period of at least 3 months immediately before the date of application.

The Intra-Company Transfer Visa does not lead to settlement in the UK.  However, you may be able to switch into another immigration route which does lead to settlement.

 

Immigration lawyers for businesses and individuals

360 Law Services is committed to delivering an exceptional standard of legal advice to businesses and individuals across the UK and beyond. Should you need support on work visas from a specialist, you can arrange for a free consultation with one of our expert immigration lawyers. Simply fill in the quick contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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