What type of Visa can I get? Immigration options for Work, Business and Study: Updated June 2022
We are often contacted by clients who want to get a visa to move to the UK to live in order to work here.
This post gives a general overview of some of the options for people in that position. The options are all linked to your occupation, be it work, business, or study. It does not cover options connected to your family life.
Most visas are issued for a specific purpose that will bring benefit to the UK. For example, if you have a skilled job, you can look at the Skilled Worker option, and if you want to start a business then look at the Innovator or Start Up visa.
The Global Talent visa and Youth Mobility visa are the most flexible options for those that qualify for them. However, they have quite restricted criteria. Details are set out below.
Skilled Worker Visa
This is a visa that allows applicants to move to the UK to work in a ‘skilled’ job for a specific employer.
The key points are:
- You must be sponsored by an employer
- The employer must have a sponsor licence issued by the Home Office
- You must speak English to level B1
- You need to have enough money to support yourself and any family members for the first month that you live in the UK
This visa requires you to have a job offer, so finding a job is your first step. Sectors that use a lot of sponsored workers are health, tech and engineering so workers in those sectors may well be able to find sponsored work. Senior Care Workers, Chefs, Restaurant Manager and Bar Managers are also currently in demand.
More detailed information is available here.
This visa leads to settlement after 5 years.
Global Talent Visa
The Global Talent visa is designed to provide promising and talented individuals from various fields, the opportunity to pursue careers in the United Kingdom, enabling them to ‘benefit from and contribute to UK life’. The bar is set very high so this is not an appropriate route for the majority of people. However, it is a very good option if you can meet the criteria.
Applicants must have exceptional talent or promise in one of the following areas:
- Digital Technology
- Arts and Culture
All applications must be endorsed by an endorsing body. The endorsing bodies are:
- Arts Council England
- The British Academy
- Tech Nation
- Royal Academy of Engineering
- The Royal Society
- UK Research and Innovation
There are 4 main routes to endorsement:
- You are appointed to an eligible academic or research post as an approved institution. This is for very senior academics and researchers. If you are appointed to a relevant post then your employer is likely to discuss the visa with you.
- You have been awarded a prestigious fellowship or prize. The Royal Society, British Academy and Royal Academy of Engineering publish their own list of approved fellowships. There is a list of approved prizes here.
- You are employed on a research project funded by a grant from an endorsed funder approved by UKRI. If you are eligible for this, it is likely that your employer will discuss this with you.
- You are endorsed following a peer review by distinguished colleagues in your field.
This visa leads to settlement within 3-5 years provided that you meet the eligibility criteria.
Innovator and Start Up Visas
These are visas for entrepreneurs who wish to start a new business in the UK.
- The business plan must be endorsed by one of the named endorsing bodies.
- The business plan must be ‘innovative, viable and scalable’. This means that it must be a new idea, it must be financially sustainable and it must have potential to expand into national and international markets. The Applicant must also show that they have the skills and expertise to successfully run the business.
- Those applying for the Innovator visa must also have £50,000 funding.
- You must speak English to level B1
The Innovator visa leads to settlement after 5 years provided that you meet the eligibility criteria.
The Start-Up visa does not lead to settlement. Applicants who get a Start-Up visa are expected to move onto an Innovator visa or another type of visa as their business grows.
There is more detailed information about this option here.
This is a visa has been withdrawn. The Home Office have indicated that they may introduce a new investment related visa option later in 2022.
This is a visa for a person who wants to come to the UK to study.
To apply for a student visa you must have a place on a course at a UK university or college and that institution must have issued you a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
You must also have enough money to pay your tuition fees and support yourself during your studies.
This visa does not lead to settlement.
Students who complete degree courses on a student visa are eligible to apply for a further visa on the Graduate route at the end of their course. This gives applicants and further 2-3 years leave. During that time they can work, study or be self-employed with minimal exceptions.
The Graduate Route also does not lead to settlement. However, it can provide a valuable opportunity to explore other opportunities that may lead to a more long-term option. We are often contacted by employers who want to sponsor an existing employee who is already working for them.
Youth Mobility Scheme
This is a two year ‘working holiday’ visa. It allows young people to spend two years in the UK in order to experience the culture and gain some work experience.
The scheme is only open to the following nationals:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- India (but see below for additional criteria)
- British overseas Citizens
- British Overseas Territories Citizens
- British Nationals (Overseas)
The visa is only open to Applicants aged 18-30 years old. There are limited places available for each country. In some countries, the places are allocated by ballot. In others, it is on a first come first served basis.
The visa for Indian nationals is called the ‘Indian young professionals’ visa. It has some additional criteria for those entering the ballot. In particular, those entering the ballot must have a university degree, or three years professional experience.
Applicants must have enough money to support themselves when they first arrive in the UK.
The visa allows you to work, study or be self-employed with some limited exceptions. It is therefore very flexible compared to most other options.
This visa does not lead to settlement. However, we are often contacted by employers who want to sponsor an existing employee who is already working for them on this type of visa.
High Potential Individual Visa
This is a visa for people who have graduated from an ‘eligible university’ in the last five years.
The Home Office compile a list of ‘eligible universities’ based on international rankings. The list changes from year to year as the rankings change. To be eligible, you must have received your qualification at a time when the university was on the list.
The qualification that you have must be equivalent to a UK undergraduate degree or above.
There is also an English language requirement and a maintenance requirement.
Like the Youth Mobility Scheme, this visa does not require you to be sponsored or endorsed by a third party organisation.
The conditions associated with this visa are very similar to those for the youth mobility visa. One key difference is that you can bring dependants with you on the HPI visa. It lasts two or three years depending on the level of your qualification. Those with a PhD can stay in the UK for three years.
It does not lead to settlement.
Some nationals can enter the UK without a visa for up to 6 months. However, if you enter in this way you are granted leave as a visitor only. Visitors are allowed to look for skilled work while they are in the UK. However, in the majority of cases you must not work while you are in the UK as a visitor. There are some specific exceptions to this, set out in the guidance here.
You cannot enter the UK as a visitor and live as a ‘digital nomad’. This includes working remotely for a company based abroad or being self-employed.
If you enter as a visitor, you usually must leave the UK in order to apply for any other type of visa. Most applications submitted from inside the UK are automatically invalid if the applicant is here as a visitor.
If you think that you are eligible for one of the options set out above then please book a free appointment with our Business Immigration Team who would be happy to discuss it with you.
Still not sure? Take one of our Immigration Service Quizzes.
[…] You could also consider whether you could apply for a different type of visa to live in the UK, and then switch into the Hong Kong BNO route at a later date. You can see some potential options in our article ‘what type of visa can I get’. […]