If you are looking to move to the UK to study or to work, this article is for you. We have provided a summary of the different types of visas, requirements, costs, and anything else you need to know in the most comprehensible way! Take a look at the table below, for an overview.
For starters, following Brexit, Europeans no longer have freedom of movement and require a visa to work in the UK.
If you want to work in the UK, there are 4 different kinds of work visas you could apply for, depending on your eligibility. This article focuses on the three most popular routes, i.e. graduate, skilled worker and Intra-company visas. The full list of work visas can be found on the UK Government website.
When you graduate from a University in the UK, you become eligible to apply for a Graduate visa (Short-term work visa). You will most likely be on a Student visa whilst applying for this one (scroll to the bottom of this article for more information on student visas).
A Graduate visa permits you to stay and work in the UK for 2 years (3 years if you completed a PhD) without requiring a sponsoring employer. Please note, you must be in the UK when you apply. Before applying, you need to have :
- a valid passport or another travel document that shows your identity and nationality
- your biometric residence permit (BRP)
- your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) reference number.
- completed your course.
This visa is not eligible for an extension or indefinite leave to remain, but you can switch to the Skilled worker visa if you meet the requirements discussed below.
Skilled worker visa
A Skilled Worker visa allows you to stay and work in an eligible job with an approved employer for up to 5 years.
You must have a confirmed job offer from a licensed sponsor before you apply for your visa. To be eligible for the Skilled Worker visa (previously known as Tier 2) you will need a minimum of 70 points under the Point-based Immigration system. The PBS is a structured system introduced following BREXIT, that will enable potential migrants to move to the UK for work.
A lab technician with a STEM PhD coming to the UK with a salary offer of £21,000. The general salary threshold applies.
General salary threshold: £25,600
Job at appropriate skill level
Education qualification: STEM PhD
The going rate for jobs has been predetermined; you can find out how much it is by using the occupational code on this government website.
You will need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your employer and at least £1,270 available in your bank balance. You and your family will pay a lower application fee if your job is on the shortage occupation list.
The fee for each person applying is:
- £610 if you’re staying for up to 3 years (£464 if the job is on the shortage list)
- £1,408 if you’re staying for more than 3 years (£928 if the job is on the shortage list)
After 5 years, you are able to apply to settle permanently in the UK (also known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’). This gives you the right to live, work and study here for as long as you like and apply for benefits if you’re eligible.
If you want to work in an eligible job at your employer's UK branch, you can apply for one of two types of Intra-company visas.
1. Intra-company Transfer visa
If your employer is transferring you to a position in the UK, you can apply for this visa.
To be eligible you need to have worked for your employer for a minimum of 12 months. If you are paid above £73,900, the 12-month requirement does not apply. This visa replaces the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Long-term Staff visa.
2. Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa
Transfers to the UK as part of a graduate training programme for a managerial or specialty post are eligible for this visa.
You must have worked for your employer in a foreign country for at least 3 months prior to applying. This visa replaces the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) Graduate Trainee visa.
When you apply for either of these visas, you’ll need:
- your Certificate of Sponsorship reference number
- a valid passport or other document that shows your identity and nationality
- your job title and annual salary
- your job’s occupation code
- the name of your employer and their sponsor licence number - this will be on your CoS.
- evidence that you have enough personal savings to support yourself in the UK, for example, bank statements (unless your CoS shows your employer can support you)
- proof of your relationship with your partner or children if they’re applying with you
- your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a listed country.
You can stay in the UK with an Intra-company visa for whichever is shorter of:
- the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days
- 5 years for Intra-company transfer visa / 12 months for Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa
- the length of time that takes you to the maximum total stay allowed (5 years in any 6-year period for an Intra-Company Graduate Trainee Visa)
Please note, the maximum total stay allowed for an Intra-company Transfer visa is:
- 5 years in any 6-year period if you’re paid less than £73,900 a year
- 9 years in any 10-year period if you’re paid £73,900 a year or more
You can extend your current visa or apply for a new one up to the maximum total stay. If you have already been in the UK on an Intra-company visa before applying, that time will be added to your total stay.
On the contrary, your Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa cannot be extended, but you may apply for another one from outside the UK.
You can apply for a student visa to study in the UK if you’re 16 or over and eligible. You need a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) before you can apply for your visa, which is a reference number your school or University provides when you are offered a place. Before applying, you also need:
- a valid passport or other travel documents
- your tuberculosis test results
- proof you have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course (this will vary depending on your circumstances)
- written consent from your financial sponsor if you’ve received sponsorship for fees and living costs in the last 12 months.
If successful, you will be issued a biometric residence permit (BRP), which is a little blue card that contains your name, date of birth, place of birth, photo, immigration status, and any stay conditions. This card can be used to establish your identity, eligibility to study, rent property, or work part-time in the UK, as well as your entitlement to any public services or benefits. In general, if you apply to come to the UK for more than 6 months, extend your visa for more than 6 months, or want to settle in the UK, you will receive a BRP; you do not need to apply separately for this!
The visa will be valid for the duration of the course, following which you will be able to apply for a Graduate visa. If you receive a job offer from an approved sponsor, you may be able to move to a Skilled worker visa.
Furthermore, you will be able to extend your visa to continue your course or start a new one if you meet the basic requirements. It is worth noting that you will not be allowed to work more than 20 hours per week during term-time.
Your partner and children (‘dependants’) may be able to apply to come to the UK or stay longer in the UK. To make this possible, you must be a full-time student on a postgraduate level course (RQF level 7 or above) that lasts 9 months or longer, a new government-sponsored student on a course that lasts longer than 6 months or a Doctorate Extension Scheme student.