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UK work visas

There are a variety of UK work visas and permits that are available to non-European Union (EU) nationals. Most of these visas are highly reliant on the type of work a person is qualified to do. Holding one of these visas will enable you to live and work in the UK. We ensure that employers and employees do everything by the book and have the greatest chance of success when making a UK work visa application.

The UK Tier 2 visa

A non-EU national with a job offer from a UK-based company will need to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa. This will allow a migrant to live and work in the UK. There are, however, several requirements and restrictions associated with these visas.

Work and live in the UK

If you have been offered short- or long-term skilled employment in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for a UK Tier 2 (General) visa.

You can apply for a Tier 2 visa if the following criteria are met:

  • You have a job offer for a skilled position in the UK
  • You’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland

Who can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa?

The Tier 2 visa will allow you to live and work in the UK if you have been offered permanent employment and your employer is willing to sponsor you.

Some professions - such as engineering, healthcare and teaching - are in such high demand in the UK that they can use a fast-tracked application process.

If your occupation is not on the shortage list, your employer must show that the role cannot be filled by a qualified UK resident. They must meet the resident labour market test by advertising the post for a minimum of 28 days.

How does it work?

A Tier 2 (General) visa is a points-based category. Points are awarded for the following:

  • Future expected earnings - 20 points
  • Sponsorship - 30 points
  • English language skills - 10 points
  • Available maintenance (funds) - 10 points

To be eligible for the Tier 2 work permit, your post will need to be at the right level for sponsorship (at least NQF Level 6). The minimum salary required for a Tier 2 is £20,800, but this may vary depending on your occupation and your SOC code.

What are the steps?

There are three main steps involved in lodging an application for a UK Tier 2 visa.

1. Tier 2 Sponsorship licence

The first stage is undertaken by the employer. Your employer will apply directly to UKVI for a sponsorship licence.

Your employer will also need to meet the resident labour market test to show that they could not find any suitable resident worker for the post.

2. Certificate of sponsorship

An approved sponsor applies for a certificate of sponsorship (COS) for the position they would like a non-resident worker to fill. Once a COS is assigned, the migrant may apply for their visa.

3. Applying for the Tier 2 (General) visa

In this final stage, the prospective employee will submit a visa application using their unique COS number and provide evidence that they meet the Tier 2 visa requirements. 

 

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UK Sole Representative visa

This is available to a senior employee from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. It allows them to act as the sole representative of a company in the UK and apply for the Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

Qualify to live and work in the UK

The application process for the sole representative visa is often complex. You will need to provide extensive documentation to show that the company you wish to represent requires a sole overseas representative.

To be considered for this visa, you must:

  • Be recruited and employed outside of the UK by an overseas company*
  • Have extensive industry-related experience and knowledge
  • Hold a senior position in the company and have full authority to make decisions on its behalf**
  • Intend to establish the company’s first commercial presence in the UK

You may need to prove your knowledge of the English language depending on which passport you hold. This can be done by:

  • Passing an approved English language test
  • Holding an academic qualification that was taught in English***

* The headquarters and main place of business must be outside of the UK.
** You may not be a major shareholder of this company.
*** The qualification must be recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree.

Family members of the visa holder

If you have family members that you want to bring with you, they may enter the country under a UK family visa category, such as the UK dependant visa or a UK spouse visa or partner visa.

A dependant child is one that is under 18, born outside of the UK and one (or both) of the parents holds a valid visa allowing them to live in the UK. The parent(s) must also meet the maintenance requirement, which varies depending on the visa class and the number of children. Children are entitled to the same educational rights as British citizens.

Your spouse will be able to live and work freely if they have a UK spouse visa.

Extending the Sole Representative visa

This visa is initially valid for three years. If it expires and you need to stay for longer, you can extend your UK visa for up to two years.

If you have dependants who are on your current visa, they should be included on your visa extension application - including children who have turned 18 during your stay. You will need to apply for a spouse visa extension at least 28 days before it expires.

You can expect to receive a response on your spouse’s visa extension roughly 12 weeks after you made your application. You can also make use of a fast-track visa service which will give a decision on your spouse visa extension within 24 hours.

After you have been in the UK for five years and been employed with the same company, you are able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

 

Contact an immigration expert
 

UK work visa: Intra-company transfers

This visa provides for the transfer of a senior executive from a foreign-based company to their UK office. It is part of the Tier 2 visa class of UK visas. To qualify for this visa you must be from outside the European Economic Area.

We take stress out of international company transfers

This visa category allows an employee of an international company to be transferred, or seconded, to its UK-based entity as a sponsored worker, allowing them to live and work in the country.

This scheme is only available if you wish to take up a graduate-level role within the UK branch of the company and will require a specific licence from the Home Office.

Other eligibility requirements

To apply for this visa you will need a certificate of sponsorship appropriate salary as well as at least £945 in savings.

These applications are complex and have many potential speedbumps. We ensure that your application is handled quickly and with little admin so you can get to work.

Contact an immigration expert

UK employer work permit for a non-EU national

A UK employer can use a variety of visas to employ a non-EU national. There are, however, strict legal requirements that the employer and employee both must meet. If you want to sponsor a non-EU national as an employee you must have met the requisite criteria for a Tier 2 visa.

The skills charge: Important information for UK employers

In 2017, the UK government introduced a skills charge to encourage businesses to train British citizens to fill skilled roles and reduce reliance on migrant labour. The charge is payable when an employer sponsors an employee on a Tier 2 visa.

The nuts and bolts of the skills charge

The skills charge is levied against employers hiring Tier 2 migrant employees under the General and Intra-Company Transfer categories. Each hire will set them back £1,000 per year, as covered by the certificate of sponsorship.

Those sponsoring non-EEA nationals to fill a vacancy for the full duration of a Tier 2 visa will pay £5,000 to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

Exceptions to the rule

There is relief for small businesses and charity sponsors in the form of a reduced rate of £364 per year. A sponsor will be allowed this relief where their annual turnover is £10.2 million or less, with fewer than 50 employees.

Government has provided for other exemptions, including for companies who have hired migrant workers who:

  • Were on Tier 2 visas before April 2017 and are applying to extend from within the UK
  • Are Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainees
  • Are non-EEA nationals filling PhD-level roles
  • Change from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa

Get the employees you need: UK visa sponsorship for employers

The process for UK-based employer is as follows:

  • Obtaining a sponsorship licence
  • Issuing a certificate of sponsorship (COS)

Obtaining a sponsorship licence

A UK-based company wishing to sponsor a migrant must hold a sponsorship licence. Once obtained, a certificate of sponsorship is assigned to that migrant.

To get a sponsorship licence, the company must:

  • Prove to the Home Office that they are a genuine company operating and trading lawfully in the UK
  • Meet the suitability criteria
  • Give the Home Office no reason to believe that you represent a threat to immigration control
  • Comply with the duties of sponsorship

Issuing the certificate of sponsorship

Once an employer has a sponsorship licence, they can issue Tier 2 certificates of sponsorship. These are divided into two different types: Restricted and unrestricted.

Unrestricted category

Employers will not need permission from the Home Office to issue a certificate of sponsorship for candidates under this category.

The unrestricted category is for an employee:

  • With a salary of £153,500 or above
  • Seeking to extend their employment with their existing employer
  • With an existing certificate of sponsorship with other employers
  • Already in the UK with a current visa type that allows switching to a Tier 2 from within the UK*
  • Being transferred from an overseas branch of the UK sponsoring company

*Includes the Tier 1 post study work visa or the Tier 4 student visa

Restricted category

This category is for candidates who are unable to switch to a Tier 2 visa from within the UK. These candidates need to apply for their visa from overseas (e.g. Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa) or for those who are already overseas.

There is a cap on the number of potential employees permitted through this scheme. This is currently set at 20,700 for the year and only those who pass a new points-based system will qualify.

Points are gained from the salary amount, whether the job is on the current shortage list and whether the position is at PhD level. You must also conduct the resident labour market test. This test is to protect the resident work force and means you must advertise the post to give resident workers the opportunity to apply.

The Home Office has categorised, rated and coded every occupation and specified a minimum salary

for each one. Whatever type of certificate is required, you will need to decide upon the appropriate code and offer at least the minimum salary stated. Apart from a few occupations in the creative sector, jobs have to at least be classed at degree level (NQF Level 6).

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