Work Permits for the United Kingdom

Passport StampEuropean Union (EU) nationals do not need a visa to work or live in the United Kingdom, but all other foreign nationals will need a work visa.
Expats wishing to obtain a work permit for the United Kingdom should prepare to wade through a maze of requirements and eligibility stipulations. 

The points-based system in the UK awards points depending on how well the applicant satisfies a particular set of criteria within a category of application.

Separate criteria for what seems like countless categories can prove overwhelming for those not used to unravelling red tape. Furthermore, only a certain number of visas are granted in total each year; intra-company transfers, those applying for a job with a salary of GBP 150,000 per year and sportspeople are exempt from the cap.

Getting a work visa in the UK as a non-EU citizen

The criteria by which work visas are issued can be difficult to understand. There are numerous schemes and skill enticements – it suffices to say that the more highly skilled and experienced an applicant is in a desirable field, the better the chances of a smooth and speedy application process. Key fields include doctors, scientists, engineers and MBAs.

Category requirements for a UK working visa

There are many different categories under which a non-EU national can apply for a UK work visa. Each has unique requirements and entitles the individual to a specific set of rights.

It is vital to note that when submitting documents for application, applicants must include the original document as well as a copy. The documents must be in English and must include contact details where appropriate. Documents in another language must be accommpanied by a certified translation of the document

The main category that expats from outside of the EU would be interested in is the Tier 2 (General) grouping.

Skilled workers with a job offer in the UK (Tier 2 General Work Visas)

This category is for skilled workers who have a formal job offer made by a registered UK company. These workers must be able to prove that they can fill a gap in the workplace not adequately being satisfied by current UK citizens.

Each year the UK designates a list of prospective occupations marked by shortages; expats who are able to work in these fields have a higher chance of receiving a work permit than those who have a job offer from an industry sector not on the list.

In order to receive a work visa in this category it is necessary to have a "Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship", to speak an intermediate level of English, and to have proof of adequate funds (GBP 800 in a bank account for 90 days).

An expat's sponsoring employer must first apply to the UK Border Agency and receive approval in order to issue a "Restricted Certificate of Sponsorship". The UK Border Agency will only issue approval for a set number of visas per month.

Approval will be granted to applicants who score the highest number of points. Points are allocated based on qualifications; future expected earnings; sponsorship; English language skills; and available maintenance (funds).

Additional points are granted for the following:
  • Applications for jobs on the Shortage Occupation List receive 75 points; 
  • Applications for which the employer conducted a Resident Labour Market Test for an occupation recognised by the UKBA as being at the PhD level receive 50 points; 
  • Applications for which the employer conducted a Resident Labour Market Test receive 30 points 
  • The foreign national’s proposed salary earns points on a sliding scale from 2 to 30 points for salaries between GBP 20,000 and GBP 149,000
Supporting documents must be included with the application proving the applicant is adequately qualified in the profession for which they have been offered the job. These vary depending on the job offer and the level of occupation. A complete list can be found on the web site of the UK Border Agency.

It is important to consult the points based calculator on the UK Border Agency site prior to preparing any application.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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