Updated November 26, 2020:

A Guide on How to Obtain a UK Work Visa

Learn more about UK work visas, who it's for, the requirements, and the process for obtaining one for those who wish to work in the United Kingdom.

What is a UK Work Visa?

The United Kingdom work visa has a point-based 5-tier visa system. The system separates people into five ‘tiers’ that will rate an applicant based on points.

Generally, points are awarded according to the applicant’s ability, experience, and age. There is a minimum number of points for each tier and the more points an applicant has, the better their chances of obtaining a work visa.

The UK 5-Tier Work Visa System:

Tier 1: This visa category is an entrepreneur visa for if you would like to set up or take over a pre-existing UK business. Additionally, you need to have at least 50,000 Euros in investment funds available.

You do not have to be an entrepreneur as investors with a million Euros to put into the UK economy will be allowed to obtain a Tier 1 visa. Exceptional talents and students who have graduated from a UK university may obtain visas in this category as well.

Tier 2: This visa category is the most common, equivalent to the United States’ H-1B visa, and is for skilled workers. A certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 sponsorship license is needed before you can obtain a valid visa. 

Additionally, the job cannot be one that could be filled by a worker already a resident in the UK and a new yearly cap of 20,700 visas has been implemented since 2011. The Tier 2 visa does not stop at skilled employees, if you are employed for a multinational corporation you can apply for an intra-company transfer via the Tier 2 visa.

To transfer to the UK office of a multinational corporation you must be in one of four categories: short-term staff, long-term staff, graduate trainee, or skills transfer. Lastly, the Tier 2 visa covers people going to the UK to play a sport as well as a minister of religion.

Tier 3: Typically, you do not even see anyone talk about the third tier in the UK’s visa system because the government has never allocated a Tier 3 visa. The category was originally designed for low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labor shortages, but the government has since removed the ability for anyone to apply for such a visa.

Tier 4: The Tier 4 visa is for students over the age of 16 who would like to study abroad in the United Kingdom. Applicants must have been accepted at a registered UK educational establishment before they can apply for a visa. Additionally, while studying abroad, some students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week.

Tier 5: Six sub-tiers of temporary workers create the Tier 5 visa category for the UK. One of the most notable is the Youth Mobility Scheme, which allows 55,000 young people from participating countries to come to the UK on working holidays.

Charity and religious workers, government authorized exchange and international agreements coming from the UK for employment of specific people or countries are a few of the other categories covered by the Tier 5 visa.

The UK immigration system is subject to frequent changes, which will make picking the correct visa for the quickest turn around for an acceptance challenging. It is difficult to find specialty lawyers in this area, but UpCounsel has a few on hand that will talk through all the correct steps to getting a work visa in the UK.

Need help obtaining a UK Work Visa?

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