There is no denying that the United Kingdom is full of opportunities. People from countries all over the world have become ‘Smitten by Britain’ and for those willing to work hard, the country offers the prospect of building and maintaining a solid career in a number of different sectors.

UK work permits are split into four categories. They are:

  • Tier 2 General – Skilled Worker
  • Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer
  • Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa
  • Tier 2 Minister of Religion

This article will concentrate on those seeking to enter the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa.

For those who are looking to try their luck in Britain, here is a straight-forward, step-by-step guide on how to obtain a UK work visa. The first step is to get the right advice:

Step One – Get legal advice

If your dream is to come to the UK to work, then you need to seek legal advice before you begin the process of applying to the UK Border Agency for a visa. The British Government is making it increasingly difficult for non- European Economic Area (EEA) nationals to obtain work permits and submitting incorrect documents can lead to frustrating delays for you and your employer.

An experienced immigration solicitor will assist you in working out whether you or the skill set you enjoy will help you in obtaining a Certificate of Sponsorship and they can then organise visas for both you and your family.

They will explain how the Points-Based System used to award UK visas operates, making what can be a complex process easy and stress free.

Remember, if you can, always use a lawyer for this as they are trained and qualified to advise and assist you whereas other accredited representatives may not be. Picking the wrong advisor or going for the cheapest option available will only end up causing issues and delays in your application.

Step Two – Find a company to sponsor you

To enter the UK under a Tier 2 (General) visa, you must obtain an offer of employment from a certified sponsor. They will provide you with a Certificate of Sponsorship which you will need to submit when you make your application.

Any employer who wishes to recruit workers from outside the EEA must have a Sponsorship License. A sponsor will either hold an A or a B rating. It is preferable to have a Certificate of Sponsorship from a sponsor with an A rating as:

  • you will not need to have £945 in savings before you enter the UK; and
  • a company who has their sponsorship licence downgraded to a B rating may be at risk of having to terminate all its non-EEA workers if the rating is not improved and its licence is subsequently revoked.

A Certificate of Sponsorship is not a document in itself but a reference number which holds information about the job that has been offered and your personal details.

The Certificate of Sponsorship is valid for three months after it has been issued and can only be used once.

Step Three – Make sure you are offered an appropriate salary

To qualify for a Tier 2 (General) visa you must be offered an ‘appropriate salary’. As of 6th April 2013 this was classified as £20,800 per annum. You will not have to meet this threshold if your last permission to reside in the UK was as:

  • a Tier 2 (General) migrant before 6th April 2011
  • a Jewish agency worker
  • a minister of religion or member of a religious order
  • a journalist representing an overseas newspaper or news agency
  • a work permit holder
  • an unregistered nurse but your salary will be at least £16,271 while you’re doing your supervised practice or £21,478 after you have Nursing and Midwifery
  • Council registration
  • ground staff of a foreign-owned airline

The appropriate salary for jobs which are exempt from advertising in Jobcentre Plus is £72,500 per annum.

Step Four – Mind your language

To be eligible for a Tier 2 (General) visa you will need to pass an approved English language test in reading, writing and listening or have an academic qualification that was taught in English and is equivalent to a UK bachelor, masters or PhD degree.

Nationals from certain countries such as New Zealand and Jamaica do not have to prove a knowledge of English.

Step Five – Collate the relevant documents and apply

Having assessed your eligibility to work in the UK under the points-based system, found a company that will offer you employment at the required salary and passed your English language test, you can now submit your application together with the following documents:

  • Your passport
  • Either a bank statement showing you have at least £945 in savings over the last 90 days or a letter from your sponsor stating that they can accommodate
  • and support you for your first month of employment
  • Proof that you can meet the English language requirement
  • Medical results showing you do not have tuberculosis (if required)

You can apply for your visa three months before your job in the UK is due to start and you should get a decision within 3-6 weeks but please note that the Home Office can be slow to make decisions and this timeline is only therefore an estimate.

A fee will need to be paid and the amount will depend on whether you are applying for a visa of three years or less and if your position is included on the Shortage Occupation List (a list of jobs that require skills the UK is short of).

A Tier 2 (General) visa will allow you to remain in the country for up to five years.

Dependent family members (a spouse and/or children) may come with you to the UK; however, if they are non-EEA nationals they must apply for a separate visa. You must provide proof that you have at least £630 per dependent in savings on top of the £945 you have to support yourself during the first month of your residence.

Once your visa is granted you can begin the next stage of your life in the UK and take advantage of all the opportunities this unique country has to offer.

Saracens Solicitors is one of London’s most respected law firms. Our immigration team are experts in advising non-EEA clients on obtaining entry clearance and visas. If you wish to talk to us about working in the UK, please phone our London office on 020 3588 3500.