Visas for work or studying in the UK

Passport Pages And Immigration StampA visa is a document or mark that shows that you have been granted permission to enter the UK. There are different types of visas depending on whether you are coming to the UK as a tourist, to work or to study; they all have different conditions and grant different amounts of time that you are allowed to stay for. Also, different rules are in place depending on whether or not you are a citizen from a country within the European Union.

Working in the UK

European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national

If you are a citizen of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you do not need to apply for permission to work. You will have the benefit of freedom of movement and can live and work in other member states. You will be able to accept job offers and work as an employee, or even set up your own business. But, if you are a national of Bulgaria or Romania, you must still obtain permission from UK Border Agency before being able to work.

Other countries

For citizens belonging to countries outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you will need to obtain a visa to work here. The UK currently has in place a points based system where a non-European worker will be classified into one of five tiers (see below) depending on what work they actually do (e.g. doctors and labourers will be put into different tiers). In order to qualify for a visa for one of the tiers, you must reach a points score above the minimum threshold of your tier. Points are generally given depending on the worker’s age, experience and ability in their profession.

When sufficient points are reached and you have also fulfilled all the conditions and requirements necessary you will be granted a work visa. With this work visa they will be allowed to work for a certain time period.

For working in the UK the relevant tiers are:

  • Tier 1 – Highly skilled migrants, entrepreneurs, investors
  • Tier 2 – Skilled migrants with a job offer in the UK
  • Tier 3 – Unskilled temporary migration
  • Tier 5 – Temporary workers, working holiday makers

Studying in the UK

To study in the UK you need a visa and the type of visa will depend on what you are studying, e.g. a short course, an eleven month English language course,  a degree or long term child education. 

A student will be allowed to stay and study in the UK for up to six months using a student visitor visa; this is used for prospective students who are unsure what course they want to do. If you plan on studying longer than six months in the UK, for example for a university degree, you must apply for a Tier 4 Student visa and have your biometrics (finger prints and facial image) taken at a visa application centre.

The visa will generally last for a few weeks after the completion date of the course. When it ends, you have to leave the UK or reapply for another visa. You will need to provide confirmation of your enrolment on the course and show you have access to enough funds to support yourself. The funds must be able to cover the course fees and living expenses for the duration of their studies. Timing is crucial for your application, it is important to apply well before the course starts. Processing the application itself takes time. Your application may be further delayed because you need to provide extra documents showing finances or qualifications, or you may need to attend an interview or have certain vaccinations.

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