already a member?   login »
username password

Work Visas - UK

Which UK Visa to choose and how to get it

To work in the UK you will need a current UK work visa. There are a variety of UK working visas, work permits and passports that will enable you to legally work in the UK and each has its own eligibility requirements and restrictions.

On this page:

  • you can quickly find the best UK work visa option for you, with links to more information on the most common types of visas.
  • we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using a service to assist you and also how to apply for a visa yourself.
  • we also discuss timing — when to get the wheels in motion for your visa is very important!

Quick guide to UK Work Visa types

In order of popularity for Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians

Common NameOfficial NamePeriod of ValidityMain Requirements
(see ”Full Details“ for all requirements)
Full Details
(click for full information)
Working Holiday Visa Tier 5 - Youth Mobility 2 Years Aged between 18 and 30 years inclusive,Australians, Canadians, Japanese and New Zealanders only Working Holiday Visa
Ancestry Visa — “right of abode”, “entry clearance”, “certificate of entitlement” UK Ancestry 5 Years — renewable Commonwealth citizen, Brith certificate of the parent or grandparent born in the UK. Ancestry Visa
British or EU Passport Holder Citizen of Britain or EU Not applicable none Apply to your local consulate
SUSPENDED - Highly Skilled Tier 1 - Highly Skilled 3 Years Not Applicable Highly Skilled
Sponsorship Visa Tier 2 - Skilled worker 3 Years plus 1 month Sponsorship from employer, salary level, English Sponsorship
Spouse Visa Settlement 2 Years Dependent on the visa of your partner or spouse Spouse

Highlights

  • 50% of Workgateways applicants who are Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians opt for the Working Holiday Visa — Tier 5, Youth Mobility. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed.
  • Alternatively (if possible) Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and other nationalities should see if they qualify for a British or EU Passport or Ancestry Visa over a Working Holiday Visa because of the additional flexibility they provide.
  • Sponsorship can be an excellent way for many to work in the UK. (often it is much easier to get this if have already been in the UK)
  • Spouse Visas are relatively unrestricted.

FAQs and more information

  • Who uses a Visa Service or Immigration Agency?
  • Why use a Service?
  • What types of Services are there?
  • How do I get a Visa myself?
  • When should I apply?

Plus see answers to more common questions at our Visa FAQ's.

Who uses a Visa Service or Immigration Agency?

Mostly Aussies, Kiwis and Canadians use these services. For many Working Holiday and Ancestry Visa holders who want to ensure the visa is done right the first time using a visa service can be a good option.

For more complex visas, such as Sponsorship or moving a family to the UK, using an Immigration Agency is often the best way to go to ensure applications are approved and costly mistakes avoided. We do not specifically recommend any Immigration Agencies as we mainly focus on Working Holiday makers (who either use a Visa Service or apply on their own).

Why uses a Visa Service? (for Working Holiday and Ancestry)

Getting assistance through a Visa Service ensures you get your visa as quickly as possible without fear of having all the documents returned to you (if you haven't filled it out correctly) or having to take the time to understand all the various details associated with getting it right in the first place.

  • IF you love filling out lots of forms that require attention to detail, and have time on your side skip below to the section that explains how to do it yourself.
  • IF you dislike filling out lots of forms that require attention to detail and want to get your application approved as quickly as possible with minimum hassle then we recommend using a Visa Service.

What types of Visa Services are there?

It is important to understand there are basically two different types of services:

  1. Travellers Companies — these companies are set up to provide low cost work visa assistance services. They are mainly aimed at Working Holiday and Ancestry Visas but can sometimes help with more complex situations also. These travellers companies are usually one-stop-shops and typically also sell bank account opening services, NI number services and have money transfer services. To help you compare and purchase these services, check out our UK Visa Services comparison page for three of the biggest providers.
  2. Visa Companies or Immigration Agencies — these companies are specialists at providing Visa Services or Immigration advice. Typically they assist with more complex visas such as sponsorship or helping to relocate families to the UK.

How to apply for your UK work Visa yourself — a step by step guide.

Step 1. Use this page to help determine the kind of UK visa for which you are likely eligible to apply. This is an important step and you should also check the official information on the British Government's official websites.

Step 2. Once you know which visa or entry clearance option you would like to apply for, you will need to contact your nearest British High Commission, Consulate or Embassy and ask to have the appropriate application forms sent to you, or you can often download these forms quickly and easily from their websites. You can also apply for some online. Depending on your time and patience threshold, at this point you may decide you would like to use a service to assist you with your application. Also see our Visa FAQs which will likely answer many of your questions.

Step 3. Read through the forms carefully to ensure you qualify and to see what documents you will need to provide. Fill out the forms completely and return to the British High Commission or Consulate in your country with all of the information and supporting documentation they have requested. If you have questions about filling out the forms, you should contact the British High Commission or Consulate on the number provided on your application forms (this may incur charges).

Step 4. You will have to visit your nearest British application centre to have your biometric information recorded (10-digit finger scans and a digital photograph). Your visa application will not be processed until you have provided the necessary biometric information.

Step 5. Wait for written confirmation of your successful application from the British High Commission or Consulate to which you applied. If there are any problems they will contact you.

Step 6. If you are planning to work in the UK, be sure to get a head start by applying to jobs or registering with recruitment agencies now (and upload your resume and keep your file updated as your travel plans become clear). Have a great time in the UK! Also read our newsletter or visit us on facebook for the latest in UK traveller news.

When should I apply for the Visa?

With regards to the timing of your application, you should check with the the British High Commission or Embassy in the country you are applying from, as they all have different processing times. However in general, don't apply too early (i.e. more than a year ahead). Most applications (Ancestry, Youth Mobility, Spouse etc) will be processed within six weeks in a Commonwealth country, but that is not a guarantee. If you are applying for the Sponsorship, this may take much longer and you should give yourself several months. It is not normally recommended to purchase your airline tickets until you have received your visa if this is something that will effect whether you go to the UK or not.

This information should be used as a guideline only. For official information on working visas and permit processing times please contact your nearest British Embassy or Consulate.

Also see:

The Working Holiday — Youth Mobility Visa guidance says that I can only apply if I am entering the UK within three months of the application date — but what if I want/need to apply earlier?

Go to top of page UK Jobs / Working In The UK / UK Work Visas