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UK work visa: how to start working in the UK?

PUBLISHED: 4 January 2022

The UK is a large country with independent political system, strong economy, fair social welfare system, high standards of living and many opportunities for savvy and hard-working foreigners. It may be the reason why the immigration flow into the country has not decreased after Brexit.

Foreign specialists do not fear strong competition on the British market. If they manage to succeed, they will get useful knowledge and unique expertise. It does not mean, however, that you will need to bring out the big guns to make a good career in the UK; the country lacks qualified specialists in several important spheres. Highly skilled IT-specialists, engineers, architects, researchers, and doctors are always welcome in the UK. The British government regularly updates the list of the most wanted specialties on their official website.

Foreign specialists are also highly motivated by the fact that they can move to the UK with their families and in 5- 6 years obtain permanent residence and then citizenship.

The UK offers safe and comfortable living conditions with high-quality medical services and real government support. Your children will be able to get qualitive modern education in one of the UK’s best universities that have centuries-long history. If you are an entrepreneur, you will get an opportunity to enter an international market.

What is a sponsorship licence?

The UK immigration legislation does not allow foreign citizens to come to the UK for work if they have no contract with a British company. Even if your profession is on a shortage occupation list, you won’t obtain a permit to enter the country without an invitation from a British employer.

Sponsorship licence offers a convenient means for a British company to hire specialists from other countries. Through the sponsorship management system developed by the British government, British companies can issue certificates of sponsorship.

To become a sponsor, the company must fulfil the following requirements:

  1. The company must provide a foreign employee with a salary above the minimum established for this job and make all the necessary social welfare contributions into the corresponding funds.
  2. The company must properly monitor the work of its employees to be able to inform immigration authorities if the status of a hired foreign specialist changes. For example, if they are fired or do not come to work.
  3. The company must maintain sponsorship management system and assign employees who will be responsible for managing the system, issuing certificates and monitoring compliance with the legislation.

What is a certificate of sponsorship

What is a certificate of sponsorship?

Certificate of sponsorship is an important electronic document (recorded under a number in the sponsorship management system) that a migrant needs in order to obtain a work visa in the UK. If the company issues a certificate of sponsorship to you, it takes the responsibility for your working status. The company provides you with work, regularly pays you a salary, and informs the authorities about any changes in your status. If you decide to leave the company, you will have to find another sponsor for your work visa to remain valid.

Who does not need a certificate of sponsorship?

After Brexit, almost every migrant needs a certificate of sponsorship to start working in the UK. The only exceptions include:

  1. Citizens of Ireland.
  2. EU citizens as well as the citizens of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein who got settled or pre-settled status in Great Britain or Northern Ireland under the EU settlement scheme.
  3. Permanent residents in the UK.

If you do not fall in any of these categories, you must obtain a certificate of sponsorship to work in the UK.

How can I get a certificate of sponsorship?

For a migrant, the most important thing is to go through the interview process and get a potential employer interested in their skills. In other words, you need sufficient qualification and experience, personal achievements, clean reputation, and good knowledge of English.

Till recently, there was one more requirement: a migrant was able to get a job if the company could not fill the position with a UK permanent resident or UK citizen. Now, British companies do not need to search for employees on the British market before offering a job to a foreigner. Experts underline that this is only a temporary concession, so we suggest that you should not wait for too long if you want to get a job in the UK.

A certificate of sponsorship is issued within several days after the company decides to give you a job and applies through the sponsorship management system. When you get the number of the certificate, you can apply for a work visa in the next 3 months. You cannot apply for visa earlier than 3 months before the date of commencement of employment specified in your certificate of sponsorship.

British work visas

British work visas

According to the British law, there are 5 long-term and 8 short-term visa categories in the UK. We have intentionally excluded business visas from this list since it is a separate topic that will be covered further on. We have also excluded Exceptional Talent visas and visas for special categories of migrants, for example, visas for Commonwealth citizens.

Long-term work visas

CategoryDuration
Skilled worker5 years
Medical worker5 years
Intra-company transfer workerDepends on a case, but is limited to:

  • 5 years of staying in the UK if the annual income is below £73,900
  • 9 years of staying in the UK if the annual income exceeds £73,900
Minister of Religion3 years and 1 month or any other term defined in the certificate of sponsorship + 14 days
Sportsperson3 years

Short-term work visas

CategoryDuration
Charity worker12 months or any other term defined in the certificate of sponsorship + 14 days
Creative or sporting worker12 months or any other term defined in the certificate of sponsorship + 28 days
Government authorised exchange worker12 months, 24 months, or any other term defined in the certificate of sponsorship + 14 days
International agreement workerDepends on the agreement
Religious worker24 months or any other term defined in the certificate of sponsorship + 28 days
Seasonal workersNot more than 6 months
Migrants under youth mobility programUp to 2 years
Graduates2–3 years

Who can a work visa applicant add to their application?

If you are a seasonal worker or take part in a youth mobility program, you cannot add anyone to your application. All other immigration categories can include the following family members into their application:

  • Spouses or unregistered civil partners.
  • Minor children and even unmarried children over 18 years of age, if they were already in the UK at the time of application and are dependent on the main applicant.

For more information about each work visa category, you can visit our official website or contact Imperial & Legal advisors.

Business visas to the UK

Business visas to the UK

If you are an entrepreneur and no work visa suits you, you can apply for any of the following business visas.

VisaApplicant
Sole representative visaCo-owner or top manager of a successful foreign company
Start-up visaStarting entrepreneur with a promising business idea
Innovator visaExperienced entrepreneur who can invest into their company and innovative business idea
Investor visaInvestors who are ready to buy shares of British companies

On our website, you can find more information about each of these visa categories. This prestigious status of a business migrant will obviously require more efforts, costs, and responsibilities on your part. For example, to get an Innovator, Sole Representative, or Start-up visa, you must register your company in the UK. To obtain an Investor visa, you must contribute at least £2,000,000 to a real sector of British economy.

However, if you get legal support from Imperial & Legal advisors, you will be able to successfully apply for work and business visas. We will help you through the whole process: from obtaining a certificate of sponsorship to registering and managing your company.

Contact our specialists to get an initial consultation. Imperial & Legal advisors adopt a complex approach to each client to make your immigration to the UK quick and comfortable.

FAQ about UK work visas

What is the rating of sponsorship licences like?

British companies that meet all criteria get a sponsorship licence of a high “A” rating that allows them to issue certificates of sponsorship to the invited foreign specialists.

As a rule, after the sponsorship licence is issued, the Home Office representatives visit the company for an audit. If it reveals serious violations of the law, the rating will be downgraded to “B” level. With this rating, sponsors can keep foreign employees, but they cannot issue new certificates of sponsorship.

It would be a mistake to think that a company can operate normally with a “B” rating provided it does not need to hire more foreign specialists. If the follow-up audit reveals that the situation has not improved in the set period of time, the licence will be revoked.

Where can I find information about British companies that can sponsor foreign specialists?

If you want to find work in the UK without any problems and obtain a certificate of sponsorship and a work visa, you should contact experienced immigration advisors right away. However, if you want to check the British company that you are interested in, you can download an up-to-date list of all authorised sponsors from the official government website. You will be able to find answers to the following questions:

  • Does the company you are interested in have a sponsorship licence?
  • Which rating do they have?
  • What specialists can be hired under the licence issued to the company?

What requirements does the applicant have to meet to obtain a skilled worker visa?

Apart from the basic requirements published by the immigration authorities (you must be at least 18 years of age, have no legal offences, serious health problems and dangerous infectious diseases), you need to meet the following additional requirements:

  1. Your future work (specialisation) must suit the visa category.
  2. Your British employer must have a sponsorship licence.
  3. You must get a certificate of sponsorship.
  4. You must be paid more than the minimum salary.

The last requirement calls for clarification. In most cases, to get a skilled worker visa, you must earn at least £25,600 per year, or at least £10,1 per hour, or more than the minimum wage set by the company (it must exceed the minimum established by the government). The largest possible amount will be chosen. For example, if you can get £35,000 per year for your position, the company won’t be able to pay you only the set minimum of £25,600.

One more important requirement is related to the knowledge of English. You must be able to read, speak with British nationals, and understand them without difficulties. Sufficient knowledge of English is confirmed by special tests.

How much does it cost to apply for a skilled worker visa in the UK?

Exact costs depend on your case and the job you want to get. For example, if your profession is in the shortage occupation list, you will pay less. Here are the main costs that each foreign specialist must bear in mind:

  1. You pay a fee from £610 to £1,408 for each dependent added to your application.
  2. You pay £624 for each dependent every year till the visa expires for free access to healthcare.
  3. If you apply for a work visa for the first time, you must prove that you have at least £1,270. It is necessary to prove to the government that you will be able to cover initial costs related to moving to another country and won’t apply for government support. If you add your spouse to the application, you must pay additional £285. To add one child to the application, you must pay £305. Each additional minor dependent comes at a cost of £200.

How does a long-term visa for a sportsperson differ from a short-term visa for creative and sporting workers?

The main difference is obviously in the name. Short-term visa for a sporting worker lasts for up to 12 months, while a sportsperson visa allows for a 5-year stay in the UK with the opportunity to further extend the immigration status.

Another difference is who can get these two visa types. Exact wording is important here. A sportsperson visa is issued only to professional sportspeople and coaches whose level of proficiency is confirmed not only by the accepting country, but also by international sports federations. A short-term visa for a sporting worker is granted to a recognised specialist that can contribute to the development of sports industry in the UK. This visa can be beneficial for those, for example, who want to arrange commercial workshops with a “champions’ coach” or masterclasses with a renowned foreign sportsperson.

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