Please note that this is general advice, and may not apply to all circumstances. It’s wise to seek professional advice that takes into account your particular circumstances.
Which industries employ expats in the UK?
There are a wide range of industries in the UK which regularly employ expats. Such industries include financial institutions, construction companies, law firms and the UK fashion industry as well as many others. There are also several occupations where there is a clear shortage of workers in the UK and so these provide an excellent opportunity for expat workers. These include jobs within the engineering, medical and teaching fields.
How many kinds of employment visas are there?
There are several ways in which an expat can lawfully work within the UK. The traditional ‘work permit’ route now known as Tier 2 enables an expat to work in the UK for a designated employer. This employer must ‘sponsor’ the expat employee. There are 2 types of Tier 2 visas. The Tier 2 General visa relates to ‘brand new hires’ and leads to permanent residence after 5 years stay in the UK. The Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer Visa (ICT) is only for existing employees who have worked for the company overseas for a minimum of 12 months. This does not lead to settlement.
It is also possible to work in the UK for a limited period under the Tier 2 ‘Skilled Transfers’ or as a ‘Graduate Trainee’. These visa categories mainly apply to new graduates coming to the UK to seek training or skills to assist them in performing their roles overseas.
Other routes also include the Post Study Work visa which will enable an expat who has completed studies within the UK at graduate level to work in the UK for up to 2 years for any employer. There is no requirement for sponsorship.
Expats can also work in the UK by running their own businesses in the UK and this is possible via the Entrepreneur route (if the expat has £200,000 to invest in the UK business that he/she plans to run) or Investor Visa (which requires a £1 million investment but there is no requirement to run any business at all) or alternatively the Sole Representative visa which enables senior members of companies overseas to establish branches in the UK.
How can I get an employment visa in the UK?
The conventional employment visa, the Tier 2 visa, can be applied for in-country if you are already in a visa category which allows you to switch from within the UK to a Tier 2 Visa (eg. If in the UK on a Tier 4 visa or Tier 1 General or Post Study Work visa etc). Alternatively you can apply via the British Embassy overseas. All cases will require that the Employer presently holds a Tier 2 Sponsors Licence in order to ‘Sponsor’ the Expat to work in the UK.
Can I apply for an employment visa on my own?
If you have a Tier 2 Sponsor in the UK who is willing to Sponsor you then it is possible for you to make the Tier 2 Visa application by yourself once the employer issues a Certificate of Sponsorship. However the Immigration Rules relating to Tier 2 visas are quite complex and it is not uncommon for applications to be refused on a simple technicality such as wrong documents submitted with the application, or insufficient maintenance for dependants. Hence it is strongly recommended that legal advice is sought when an Expat applies so as to ensure a smooth and expeditious process.
Who can I hire to assist me in processing my papers?
UK Immigration Advisers who are Solicitors registered with The Law Society or with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) and are legally permitted to provide immigration advice.
What documents do I need to submit?
The Expat would need to provide evidence of Sponsorship. This is usually demonstrated by producing the Certificate of Sponsorship reference number that would be provided by the UK Employer. In addition to this the expat’s passport, biometric residence permit card (if relevant), passport photographs and other documents proving qualifications and proof of English language and maintenance will need to be included with the application. If the expat also has any dependants then additional information confirming their relationship to the dependants will also need to be added to the application. The Expat will also be required to undergo a biometrics appointment which will require fingerprinting and photographs at a biometric centre in the country of application.
How long do I have to wait for my papers to be processed?
Within the UK the Visa application can take as little as 1 day if applying through a legal representative using the UKBA same day service. If the Expat applies overseas the application can take between 1 to 4 weeks depending on their location.
Where can I check on the status of my application?
Representatives can usually contact the UKBA or British Embassy to check on the progress of an application if there has been a significant delay. However in most Tier 2 applications, these matters are usually resolved in time thus alleviating the need to check on the status of a case.
What will my proof of employment visa be?
If applying overseas, the Tier 2 Visa will usually be issued on a Visa label placed in your passport by the British Embassy.
If applying within the UK, the Tier 2 Visa will be issued on a Biometric Residence Permit, which is a type of identification card which will confirm your immigration status in the UK.
In addition to this, the terms of your employment will be contained on your Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) issued by your employer. This is proof of your ‘sponsorship’ by your employer and it is important that all the terms on the COS are adhered to. A reduction in salary or a changeover to a completely different job with new duties could lead to a breach of that COS requiring you to make a fresh visa application.
What are the government fees I have to pay for while I’m on my work visa?
Most of the costs associated with obtaining the Certificate of Sponsorship and your visa are usually paid by your UK employer. As an example, the costs associated with applying for a Tier 2 visa from within the UK are £550 for a postal application and £850 for a same day application. These costs relate to the main applicant Expat worker. The Certificate of Sponsorship will be an extra fee and is payable by your employer.
How long is the validity of the employment visa before it expires?
A Tier 2 General visa is initially granted for 3 years and 1 month. A further extension is also possible for an additional 2 years. After 5 years in total on a Tier 2 General, the Expat and his dependants can apply for permanent stay in the UK.
The Tier 2 ICT visa is now broken into 2 main categories: long term and short term. Generally speaking those applying under a ‘long term’ Tier 2 ICT visa can work in the UK for up to 3 years if applying from outside the UK and 2 years if applying from within the UK. You can then extend your stay for up to 5 years. Those on a ‘short term’ Tier 2 ICT visa are permitted to stay up to a maximum of 12 months. Neither the short term or long term Tier 2 ICT visas lead to permanent stay in the UK.
If my passport expires before my employment visa expires, what should I do?
This should not affect your right to live and work in the UK. You should apply for a new passport as soon as possible and then carry the expired passport (and your biometric resident permit if applicable) together with your new passport when travelling in and out of the UK. If you prefer, you can also request for the visa to be transferred to your new passport at an extra cost.
When my employment visa expires, how can I re-enter the UK and accept a new job?
If your employment visa has expired then the Expat may have difficulties re-entering the UK on the expired visa. The Expat may still be able to enter on another visa such as a tourist visa but they will not be permitted to work in the UK. We would recommend therefore that the Expat takes steps to find new work prior to the expiry of the employment visa. This would also enable the Expat to ‘switch’ to the new employer and obtain the new visa without having to leave the UK.
Is there a grace period to renew an employment visa?
We would recommend that you extend your visa prior to its expiry date to avoid overstaying.
Can I come to the UK on a tourist visa to search and apply for jobs?
The UK Tourist visa does not permit you to do anything other than visit the UK for tourism purposes. Should you be provided with an ‘interview’ by a UK employer then the most appropriate visa would be a Business Visitor visa but this would require the prospective UK Employer to provide you with a Letter of Invitation for the interview addressed to the UKBA or British Embassy which would confirm your purpose for visiting the UK. In some cases employers may be unwilling to provide this letter and so it is now more common for the Employer to hire the Expat candidate based solely on their CV, qualifications and references thus not requiring the Expat to attend the UK until their start date.
What happens when an employer asks me to work immediately without an employment visa?
You should never agree to commence working in the UK if you do not have the pre-requisite permission to work in the UK for your employer. Both you and your employer would be committing a criminal offence and you would be working illegally.
How do I make sure I don’t get banned from re-entry?
Common reasons for banning an Expat from re-entry to the UK include overstaying your visa once expired and the providing of deceptive documents or information at the time of application.
How can I transfer my employment visa from one employer to the next?
You would need to make a fresh Tier 2 visa application from within the UK. You would need to obtain a fresh Certificate of Sponsorship from your new Employer and thereafter submit a new Tier 2 visa application. These can all be done quite quickly by posting your application to the UKBA or by using the UKBA’s same day service via your legal representative.
Aside from obtaining an employment visa, how else can I reside in the UK?
As mentioned earlier, you can live and work in the UK under a Tier 4 visa (you can work in limited circumstances), under Tier 1 General, Tier 1 Post Study Work Visa, or alternatively under a Sole Representative Visa, an Entrepreneur Visa or an Investor visa. Other alternatives also include Spouse or Civil Partner visas.
Most of these options provide the right to permanent stay in the UK at the end of a qualifying period. Those Expats presently in the UK as the dependant of an EEA national (from certain EEA countries) are also permitted to live and work in the UK without any restrictions at all, providing the EEA national is exercising treaty rights in the UK. For example, this would mean that the American spouse/civil partner or unmarried partner of a French national working in the UK would not require a Tier 2 visa but can apply for a EEA Family residence document instead.
How can my partner / spouse or children who work and live in the UK sponsor my residency?
If you are the dependant of an EEA national who is living and working in the UK then you can usually enter the UK as their dependant on a Family Residence Permit and this will enable you to live and work without any problems.
If your spouse is in the UK on a Tier 2 or other UK Visa then you would need to apply for entry clearance to enter as a dependant. This would usually require you to provide proof of your relationship to the spouse in the UK (eg marriage certificate) and proof of how you will be maintained in the UK without recourse to public funds (eg. Proof of your spouse’s income and finances in the UK and any accommodation arrangements.)
If your spouse is British then you may be able to make an application to enter the UK as the Spouse of a Person Present and Settled in the UK.
How can I get a job soon after my family sponsors my residency?
In all of the above, there are usually no difficulties or immigration restrictions in the Expat dependant obtaining employment within the UK. It is however recommended that the Expat Dependant checks this entitlement with a UK Immigration Adviser as some visas do carry restrictions eg. Tier 4 dependant visas.
How can I apply for permanent residency and acquire citizenship when I get my employment visa?
After 5 years on a Tier 2 General Visa you can apply for permanent residence in the UK. Once you have received permanent residence you would then have to wait a further 12 months before you can apply for British Citizenship.
Does the UK have single and multiple entry visas? How do I get a multiple entry visa?
It is possible to apply for a multiple entry visa. This would need to be stated on the entry clearance application to the British Embassy at the time of application.
Will an expat’s child born in the UK acquire citizenship?
This is not an automatic right, however, if a parent later goes on to acquire indefinite leave to remain then a child may thereafter be entitled to register for British Citizenship.
I’m British currently living overseas with a foreign nationality. What are the requirements for my partner to be able to reside with me in the UK?
If you are in a marriage or civil partnership or have been in an unmarried partner relationship (for at least 2 years) and you plan to settle in the UK together, you could make a Visa application for your partner to enter as the Spouse/Civil Partner/Unmarried partner of a person present and settled in the UK. For this you would need to demonstrate that you would be entering the UK either before or at the same time as your accompanying partner and have plans to settle in the UK and make the UK your ‘home’. You would need to establish your finances and accommodation and also your relationship to your partner. However if you have lived overseas together for some time it can be sometimes difficult to convince the British Authorities that you and your partner consider the UK your home and that you have no alternative place to live. In these types of cases it is best to seek legal assistance.
Where can I find more information on residency and citizenship?
The UK Government have limited information on the UKBA website. It is advisable to seek assistance from a legal representative for up to date information on the process and requirements.
What should I do to have a successful relocation?
If the UK visa part of your application has been sorted out then usually all the other elements of your relocation should fall into place. Often relocation agents rely on the UK Visa date to organise all the other parts of your move (eg. Shipping of items to the UK, arranging accommodation etc.) To ensure a stress free and smooth visa process it usually best to work closely with your local immigration provider.
| ◄ IMMIGRATION EXPERT IN THE UK ►
THE IMMIGRATION EXPERT
ExpatCareers.com nor the author guarantee the accuracy of the information on this page. It is recommend that particularly prior to your travels you check with the relevant government authority.
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