‘Moving to the UK, Part One’ is about UK Working Visa’s and what it costs to move to the UK. Answering those important questions you have about how to get a visa to live in the UK, which type of UK Visa you should choose, what types of documentation you need to consider to support your visa application and of course the cost to move.
Disclaimer: This article is based on research and discussions with others who are on these various visa types (including myself). The UK Government website will reflect all current conditions needed for each visa and cost. It also has a handy tool to verify your eligibility which will show you the visa requirements for your specific nationality (here).
Do I need a UK Working Visa’s
Let’s sort out the first question! Do I need a UK working visa? Potentially you will need a work visa, it can be quite a varied answer but it is very easy to find out!
I have highlighted the most common working visa’s for Commonwealth citizens, spousal visas, sponsorship visas and the Youth Mobility visa scheme. Hopefully, this will give you a rough idea of the type of visas available and costs associated with these.
If you’re from the European Economic Area (or Switzerland) you don’t need a work visa to take a job in the UK, despite the recent UK EU referendum so ignore the visa section!
Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa:
If you are from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Monaco, Hong Kong, Taiwan or the Republic of Korea and between the ages of 18 and 30 the Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa could be the one for you.
It’s a perfect visa for those who want to move aboard, plus the UK is a great base for travel. Although this visa cannot be extended and means after the 2-year term has ended you will have to leave the UK or obtain sponsorship.
What you will need for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa:
- Your passport
- £1,890 in the bank
- Visa fee plus the healthcare surcharge
Some professions will require you to be certified in the UK or have restrictions on certain jobs so do some research beforehand. For example, my friend couldn’t work as a pharmacist on her New Zealand qualification so she’s had to work as pharmacist’s assistant.
UK Ancestry Visa:
If you have a grandparent born in the UK and are a Commonwealth citizen you may be eligible for a UK Ancestry Visa. Not only does this visa cover you moving to the UK but this visa can be extended to your family members or dependants (including unmarried and same-sex partners).
After spending 5 years in the UK, you can switch from the UK Ancestry to Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) which is permanent residency and then naturalise after being on IRL for a year.
What you will need for a UK Ancestry Visa:
- Your Passport
- Birth certificate
- Parent birth certificate
- Grandparent birth certificate
- Potentially your grandparents’ and parents’ marriage certificates
- £1,600 in your bank account for 90 days prior to the application
- Visa fee plus the healthcare surcharge.
Read more about applying for your UK Ancestry Visa here…
Right to Abode
If you have a British parent then you might be eligible to apply for a ‘right of abode’. Essentially as the child of a British citizen, you have the right to permanent residency. This is a right you inherited at birth.
What you will need for Right to Abode:
- One of your parents was born in the UK and a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies when you were born or adopted
- You were a Commonwealth citizen on 31 December 1982
- You didn’t stop being a Commonwealth citizen (even temporarily) at any point after 31 December 1982.
- Evidence of employment in the UK (if applicable)
- Financial evidence – bank statements, term deposit statements etc.
- Letter of invitation from a British citizen living in the UK (not mandatory, but preferential)
- Proof of relationship documents – your birth certificate, your mother’s birth certificate (grandparents are not required)
- Evidence of accommodation upon arrival (this can be a hotel booking or your referee in their letter of invitation can state that you are staying with them, even if this is not a long-term arrangement).
Read more about applying for your Right to Abode…
Tier 2 UK Sponsorship Visa
Just from my friends’ experiences, the Tier 2 Sponsorship visas are more common once you are in the UK (i.e. switching from a youth mobility visa to a sponsorship visa) or if your company is transferring you. These are referred to as Tier 2 General and Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer visa types. There are other Tier 2 visas but unless you are a Minister of Religion or Sportspersons these won’t apply to you.
The Sponsorship visa is a skilled worker and is for workers who are offered a job in the UK with an employer acting as your sponsor.
The visa structure means that your employer needs to be licensed before you can be considered for sponsorship so double check they have a license. Depending on the Tier 2 visa types you could also be evaluated against the points system and appear on the shortage occupation list.
After 5 years on the Tier 2 visa, you can apply for the Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) which will give you permanent residency status. If you switched from another visa like Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa then these years spent in the UK may not count.
What you will need for Sponsorship Visa’s:
- Your certificate of sponsorship reference number (provided by your employer)
- A current passport or travel document to prove you can travel
- Show you can travel and your travel history over the last 5 years which includes expired passports or travel documents if you need them to show your travel history
- Have a valid certificate of sponsorship for your job
- Potentially show you’re being paid an appropriate salary for your job
- Prove your ability to speak English
- £945 savings for over 90 days
- Visa fee plus the healthcare surcharge.
Are you or your partner a British citizen, EEA National or settled in the UK (they have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ or proof of permanent residence) and you’ve been living together for more than two years or are married? Then you’d be elidable for a spousal visa.
What you will need for a Spousal Visa:
- A civil partnership or marriage that’s recognised in the UK; or
- Prove that you have been living together in a relationship for at least 2 years (photos, bills, joint savings accounts, proof of holidays and anything else that can prove your relationship)
- A plan that you will marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of arriving
- Be capable of speaking English to a good level
- Proof that you can financially support yourself
- Visa fee plus the healthcare surcharge.
How long does it take to process UK Working Visa’s?
You can apply for a visa up to three months before you intend to work in the UK. Applications go through the British Embassy or High Commission closest to you and tend to be quicker when dealt with in Commonwealth countries. Processing time, in general, is around 3 weeks but it is visa dependent. You can check the likely processing time for different nationalities on the UK government website.
Where do I start my application?
Applications are started online, some visas are required to have your fingerprints and other biometric data recorded. This means that you will need to visit your nearest visa application centre to have your biometric data processed.
If you’re already in the UK (and need to switch your visa type or extend it for example) then you can apply at a UK based application centre.
Set a Budget and Save
Let’s discuss the most fundamental part of moving, ‘money’. Most likely the least favourite on everyone’s list until you start seeing the money accumulating then it’s slightly more exciting.
Set a Budget
Setting a budget that covers two months accommodation, food, six weeks’ worth of bond money and anything else you need to buffer for. Each visa has its own requirements for how much money you need in the bank which will be the minimum you need to save before moving over.
The average expat will recommend bringing over £5,000.
Make a Plan
Planning is the most important part of saving. Everyone saves differently, here are two methods you could use; incremental savings or set an amount each month. My preferred way to save is incrementally as it gives me time to adjust to each phase and I am not sacrificing too much at the start.
Here is an example of how I plan to incrementally save for Central and South America which is a 23-month saving plan.
4 Months at £400.00 £1,600.00
5 Months at £500.00 £2,500.00
8 Months at £750.00 £6,000.00
I had a big three-month trip before I landed in the UK and one of my biggest regrets is not saving enough when I moved to the UK. I just thought I would make it work with whatever money I saved and always had my credit cards.
Next Steps on Moving to the UK.
Now you have the visa basics down and a savings plan the next steps will cover before you arrive in the UK.