A country steeped in history and culture, even today, the UK is a melting pot of cultures – with over 50 nationalities and 300 different languages.The UK’s booming economy and the pull of an exciting and cosmopolitan lifestyle continues to draw people from all over the world. The UK is home to some of the world’s best universities and colleges, museums, theatres, art galleries, scenic parks and historic monuments. Free schooling, a world-class free healthcare system, and a large welfare system are some of the additional benefits of life in the UK.
The country’s high job turnover rate creates a multitude of employment opportunities; with the added attractions of a 35-hour work week, statutory maternity and paternity benefits, attractive salaries, and generous leave. The world’s fourth-largest economy, the UK is also a member of the European Union and G8. A variety of working schemes aimed at attracting high skilled and shortage occupations are available to those looking to immigrate to the UK.
Types of Visas
A new immigration system was launched in the UK in February 2008 to help the country control migration more effectively, tackle abuse and identify the most talented workers.The new system combines more than 80 pre-existing work and study routes in to the United Kingdom into five tiers. Points are awarded on workers’ skills to reflect aptitude, experience, age and also the demand for those skills any given sector, to allow the UK to respond flexibly to changes in the labor market. The new system is also aimed at enabling potential migrants to assess their likelihood of a successful application; thereby helping to reduce the number of failed applications. The five distinct Tiers are described below.
- The Tier 1 Visa category of the UK Points Based System was introduced worldwide on 30 June 2008. The Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSMP), International Graduates Scheme (IGS), innovator visa and entrepreneur visa have been replaced by the Tier 1 Visa.
- There are four sub-categories under the Tier 1 Visa. All Tier 1 Visa sub-categories require the applicant to attain a minimum of 75 points and (excluding the Investors sub-category) all applicants also need to meet the Maintenance and English Language criteria.
- The four sub-categories are:
- Tier 1 HSMP Highly Skilled Visa – For highly skilled individuals without an employment offer who are able to score sufficient points on the basis of age, earning power, education and UK experience. This visa provides the right to work in the UK without an employer sponsorship for an initial period of three years.
- Tier 1 Post Study Work Visa – This visa allows those who have been in the UK on a Student Visa the right to work in the country for an initial period of two years if they have achieved a certain level of educational qualification.
- Tier 1 Investors Visa – This visa allows those individuals who invest a significant amount of funds in the UK to live and work in the UK.
- Tier 1 Entrepreneurs Visa – This visa is for people who are interested in setting up or taking over a business in the UK and actively running it.
- In the new UK visa structure, the Tier 2 visa has taken the place of the previous system of work permits.
- This visa is intended for medium and highly skilled workers immigrating to the UK. Applicants are required to have a confirmed offer of employment with a British company.
- Excluding those with tier 1 visas, all non-EEA (European Economic Area) nationals relocating to the UK need to have a sponsor and must furnish a Certificate of Sponsorship in order to apply for a tier 2 visa.
- Applying for a tier 2 visa is an employer-led process – the sponsoring company needs to apply on behalf of the candidate. Nevertheless, candidates will still be assessed against a points test, with a minimum requirement of 50 points.
- While the Tier 2 visa is not a permanent residency visa, in the long run, it offers the possibility of permanent residency in the UK. Candidates who live and work in the UK for the minimum residency requirement of five years are permitted to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK (ILR).
- The new system emphasises the responsibility and accountability of the sponsors with regard to the selection of non-EEA nationals that are brought to the UK. Employers need to ensure that candidates are eligible and suitable to fill the positions being offered.
- Employers must be able to show that the position is a genuine vacancy at the time of issuing a certificate of sponsorship. The remuneration offered should equal that which a UK national in the same position would receive.
- Following the Border and Immigration Agency’s risk assessment, Employers will be awarded either an A or B level sponsorship licence. Successful candidates are awarded an A rating, while those who do not fulfil their responsibilities may be downgraded to a B rating or may even have their licence revoked.
- The tier 3 visa is for unskilled, temporary workers for employment that is mainly seasonal in nature.
- This visa category was intended to take the place of the current Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) and the Sectors Based Scheme (SBS). However, the UK government recently decided to suspend the implementation of the Tier 3 visa indefinitely.
- The Tier 4 visa is a study permit for international students to study in the UK.
- The Tier 4 visa is not a direct path to settlement in the UK and does not lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK (ILR), or permanent residence. However, upon the successful completion of their course, candidates may switch to another UK immigration service without leaving the country.
- The Tier 5 visa is meant for young people in the age group 18-30 who would like to live and work in the UK for up to two years, commonly known as ‘youth-mobility workers’.
- This visa is available only to citizens of nations with which the UK has Working Holiday agreements and to citizens of British territories and Commonwealth countries.