Long-term work visas explained
Anyone wishing to work in the UK requires permission to do so by applying for a UK work visa. The UK’s points-based immigration system contains short and long-term work routes.
For all work-related visa routes, you will need to work with a UK-based employer who has a licence from the Home Office to employ foreign workers. All EEA, Swiss, and non-EEA nationals who are not settled workers or do not otherwise have permission to undertake work in the UK will need a visa.
There are many different long-term work visas available.
- Skilled Worker visa: Allows individuals to work in specific skilled jobs that are listed as eligible on the UK government website. These jobs must be offered by employers who are sponsored by the Home Office to employ foreign workers.
- Health and Care Worker visa: A special category under the Skilled Worker Visa designed for qualified doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who have been trained to a recognised standard and have secured employment with the National Health Service (NHS), social care sector or organisations that provide services to the NHS.
- Scale-up Worker visa: Allows individuals to work in specific skilled jobs listed as eligible on the UK government website. These jobs must be offered by employers who are sponsored by the Home Office to hire foreign workers. Unlike the Skilled Worker visa, after the initial 6 months of employment, individuals can continue to stay in the UK without requiring ongoing sponsorship.
- Minister of Religion visa: Allows individuals to perform religious activities at an employer that is sponsored by the Home Office to employ foreign workers.
- International Sportsperson visa: For internationally recognised elite professional sportspeople and coaches who an endorsed application from a recognised sport governing body.
Eligibility for a UK Work Visa: Long-Term Workers
Eligibility varies depending on the category of visa. However, there are some similarities:
- Usually, the applicant must have a job offer from a licensed sponsor employer, who will issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).
- The job must meet certain requirements depending on the visa. For example, pay a minimum salary threshold, or be listed on the eligible occupation lists.
- Some work visas require proof of English language proficiency at level B1 or above.
- Unless exempt, you must show you have enough money to support yourself for an initial period in the UK.
- Unless exempt, you will need to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of the application.
Long-term work visas FAQs
Can I bring my family with me?
A Skilled Worker visa allows you to bring your dependents, including your partner (spouse, civil partner, or unmarried partner that you’ve been living with for at least 2 years) and any children under 18 years. Each dependent requires their own visa application and must meet certain requirements.
How long can I stay on a UK work visa?
Work visas are typically valid for the time given on the certificate of sponsorship plus an additional period depending on the scheme:
– Skilled Worker visa: Up to 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on the certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter.
– Scale-up Worker visa: Initially up to 2 years, can be extended by 3 years. This visa is a five-year route to settlement.
– Health and Care Worker visa: Up to 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on the certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter.
– The Minister of Religion visa: Up to 3 years and 1 month before it is needed to be extended. This visa is a five-year route to settlement.
– International Sportsperson visa: Up to 3 years but some are shorter depending on the duration of the work or dictated by the time stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship.
Can I switch to a different type of visa?
In most cases, you can switch from a Skilled Worker visa to another visa while in the UK if you meet the eligibility requirements and apply before your current visa expires. Some visas, like Visitor visas, are not eligible for switching. As rules may change, always seek legal advice before making the switch.
What happens if my job ends while I’m on a work visa?
If your job ends (due to redundancy, resignation, or termination), your employer must inform the Home Office. The Home Office may curtail or shorten your visa and send you a letter with the new expiry date. You usually have a grace period to find a new job with a licensed sponsor and apply for a new Skilled Worker visa or switch to another eligible visa. If unable to find a job or switch visa, you must leave the UK by the curtailment notice date. Failure to comply can impact future returns. Note that processes and consequences vary for other work visas.
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