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.
Eligibility varies depending on the category of visa. However, there are some similarities:
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.
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.
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.
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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