You’re excited about a commute on the infamous Tube, you can’t wait to go for after-work drinks in the shadow of the Shard, and you’re bursting with anticipation to add “UK” to your CV. But you have to get to the UK first. If you’re thinking of moving to and working in London, then this is your quickfire guide to choosing the right visa. Once you’ve got that in the bag, you can start looking for jobs in England.
Do I need a visa for working in the UK?
Most Antipodeans can consider moving to London for six months on a tourist visa—but you can’t work. If you want to stay for any decent length of time and a job in the UK, then yes, you’ll need a visa.
You may also qualify for “right of abode”. This means you have a right to live in the UK if:
- A parent was born in the UK and was still a citizen at your birth;
- You were born before 1st Jan 1983 into a Commonwealth country;
- You never stopped being a Commonwealth citizen after 31st Dec 1982.
Nowadays, most Aussies and Kiwis looking for jobs in England don’t fit these categories, so they will need visas. And unfortunately, while it’s a simpler process than it once was, it’s still complicated.
Get started with your UK working visa
Start by getting yourself acquainted with the UK government website for UK Visas and Immigration. That’s where it’s mostly going to happen, aside from a trip to your nearest city for a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) that has to be done in person.
Then, you need to know which visa to apply for. The Brits use a 5-tier system. Tier 3 no longer exists.
Tier 1 – Exceptional talent & entrepreneur visas
Very restricted numbers come over on these visas—you have to be pretty amazing in your field.
Tier 2 – General (skilled worker) visa
If you’ve lined up a job before you move then this route might work, as the employer sponsors you. There are lots of jobs with candidate shortages, which go on the UK shortage occupations list. If your skillset fits in here, getting a Tier 2 visa is simpler.
Tier 4 – General (student) visa
Two visas make up Tier 5: the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) visa and the temporary worker visa.
If you qualify for the YMS, then this could be your easiest route to working in London. You can work, study, and travel. You need to be 18-30 years old and the visa will cover you for two years. You also need to have at least £1,890 in a bank account.
The temporary worker visa is kind of similar to Tier 2 in that you need a sponsor, but it’s for a shorter term.
In addition to the tiers, you may be able to come in on a UK ancestry visa for five years (with room for extension) if at least one parent or grandparent was born in the UK.
All visas come with costs involved. You can check out the current costs on the UK Government site. The UK visa process is relatively quick, and you should mostly get decisions in three weeks or less. This means you can easily apply for UK jobs and then consider using a Tier 2 visa. However, Tier 5 is the most common route for younger people.
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