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UK Working Visa FAQs

When and how do I apply for a visa?

Depending on the visa and your arrival plans you will want to determine when to apply. For most people applying for a visa like a tier 5 visa or ancestry visa getting the visa is usually a formality so you can begin to apply to jobs far in advance. 

To get the necessary application forms contact your nearest British Consulate or High Commission and either download the application forms, or contact them to request they send you the forms by post. You can also apply for some visas online. Read through the forms carefully to ensure you are eligible, and to see what documents you will need to provide. Fill out the forms and return to the British High Commission or Consulate in your country of residence with all of the necessary documents. 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. You will also need to get your biometric details recorded.

Most Visa applications will be processed within up to six weeks in most Commonwealth countries, but that is not a guarantee. Each individual High Commission or Embassy will usually have different processing times, be sure to check with your nearest one. Note that applications for a Tier 1 visa can take up to several months to be assessed. 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.

Still not sure? Follow these easy Visa steps…

The 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?

This guidance means that the latest your visa can be dated is three months from the date of application. So, if you are applying in February, you should state the your expected date of arrival in the UK is no longer than three months after you apply (ie May). You can still enter the UK at any time after this date, however the two year validity period of your visa will already have started. So the later you leave entering the UK, the less time you will have on your visa.

How much money do I need to have saved for my visa application?

For a Tier 5 - Youth Mobility application, you need to show you have at least £1,600 in your personal bank account. Go to our Youth Mobility Visa page for more info on the proof required

For a Tier 1 visa application, you will have to show savings at least £2,800 if you are applying from outside the UK. You need to provide evidence such as original bank statements or a letter from your bank to show that this amount has been in your bank account for at least three months. For applicants outside the UK, the evidence must be dated no more than 7 days before your application is submitted.

I am almost 31 and want to apply for a Youth Mobility visa — do I have time?

You can apply for the Youth Mobility program up until your 31st birthday. The date of application is considered to be the date your payment and biometric details are taken, so you need to ensure this happens before you turn 31. Your visa will then be valid for the standard two-year period and you can enter the UK any time during this time.

I am travelling overseas before I enter the UK — can I apply for my visa in another country?

You can apply for the Youth Mobility program from your home country or from a country where you are staying in at the time of application, however you need to have permission to be in that country for longer than 6 months. The British Entry Clearance Post in that country must also be authorised to process Youth Mobility applications.

I need to provide a letter for my UK Ancestry Visa Application — how do I get one?

When applying for your UK Ancestry Visa, you may be required to provide proof that you have sought employment in the UK. Usually, proof that you are registered with a suitable UK recruitment agency is sufficient, usually in the form of either a letter or email.

To get a letter, you will need to be registered with a UK recruitment agency that specialises in your industry. When requesting a letter from them, be sure to indicate that you are registered with them, provide your postal address (though an emailed letter may be all they can provide), and the date by which you need this letter. Most agencies featured on WORKgateways will gladly assist with this.

How hard is it to secure a sponsor for a Tier 2 visa from outside the UK?

If you do not qualify for Youth Mobility or Tier 1 you could also investigate the possibility of sponsorship for a Tier 2 general visa (previously known as a work permit). Unless your occupation falls into a National Shortage Occupation (these include some engineering, healthcare and other occupations, including teachers and vets – see the Home Office website for an updated list) then it is a very difficult process to obtain sponsorship for a Tier 2 general visa from outside the UK. Employers will usually always want to meet you before sponsoring.

If you do fall into one of the shortage occupations and wish to find a UK employer to sponsor you, you can start by registering with the relevant recruitment agencies. If you qualify for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa or a Tier 1 visa, it is recommended you look into these avenues to determine which is the better option for you.

I am in the UK on a Youth Mobility Visa that is coming to an end but I want to stay here for longer. What are my options?

This happens frequently — you come to the UK expecting only to stay for a year or so, and you love it so much you don't want to go home just yet! This is the situation a lot of working holiday makers find themselves in and the good news is that you may have a couple of options. Many working holiday makers who are young, experienced professionals with a degree and earning power qualify for the Tier 1 visa (UNFORTUNATELY THE BRITISH GOVERMENT SUSPENDED THIS VISA ON DECEMBER 2010 – you will have to return home for around a month or more to apply for this visa and you will have to plan thoroughly up to a year in advance (ie collecting wage slips, original bank statements, saving money to contribute towards the visa fee and the savings required). You do not need a job offer for a Tier 1 visa and you can work for any employer. See Tier 1 (General) Highly Skilled Workers

Its possible you could obtain sponsorship for a Tier 2 (general) visa from an employer you have already been working for on your Tier 5 youth mobility visa. Although this is quite a complicated process (for those whose occupation is not on the national shortage list) it is a common transition for working holiday makers. A Tier 2 visa is non-transferable and only allows you to work for the employer who sponsors you. You will have to return to your home country though, and it is also a good idea to enlist the services of a visa agency.

Both these options can be expensive, especially when you take into account flights home, so start saving! Or, some working holiday makers get their employers to foot the bill — however consider the commitment you will have to make to an employer if they pay for your visa.

Should I use a visa representative/visa agency for my visa application?

Some applications are more difficult and more time-consuming than others. For example, many people use a visa agency for their Tier 5 — Youth Mobility Visa Application to ensure all the correct documentation is in order and forms are filled out correctly.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas take even longer and require more paperwork. While many people do their visa applications on their own, some choose to enlist the help of an agency to ensure their application runs smoothly and to check things like that they have included all the relevant documentation. Of course, there are extra fees for this service, on top of the already quite substantial visa fees.

If you choose to use a visa agency, try to find one that has been recommended to you, or that is a partner with respected recruitment agencies. Check that they are accredited by the Offices of the Immigration Services Commissioner. Make sure you are well aware of all the fees you will be responsible for.

Arriving in the UK: what is it like going through immigration?

Depending on what airport you arrive at and what time you arrive, everyone has different experiences of the British immigration system. There is no need to be nervous, however you may be asked a few questions and it is useful to be prepared. Make sure you are aware of any restrictions on your visa — for instance, if you enter the UK on a Youth Mobility Visa you should be prepared to tell them that you are aware that you are required to leave the UK at the end of two years. If you are entering the UK on a Tier 2 visa, you may be asked some details about your employer.

Make sure you have the UK address of where you will be staying to write on your landing card (sometimes you may be given your landing card to fill in while still on the plane, otherwise you can pick one up at Immigration).. You may also be asked to show proof of savings that you have (like a bank statement) however this is unlikely.

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