Apply for a UK Work Visa

Are you looking to work in the UK? Our immigration lawyers are experts processing visas across all employment categories for non-EEA nationals.


Most employment routes are now governed by the Points Based Visa System (PBS). The rules are complex and it is, therefore, vital that you consult a specialist immigration solicitor for legal advice and information before applying to work in the UK.

We also have considerable experience advising sole representatives of overseas companies, whose applications are considered outside the PBS scheme.

How do I apply to work in the UK?

There are some categories of worker who may seek entry to work in the UK outside the Points Based System; for example sole representatives of overseas companies or news agencies, or domestic workers in diplomatic households. However, the majority of foreign workers fall to be considered under Tiers 2 & 5 of the PBS.

The Points Based System is intended for foreign (non-EEA) nationals who wish to work in the UK. Since its introduction, the system has been altered to meet changing economic conditions following the global economic downturn. It is governed by immigration rules, appendices to those rules and published policy guidance, and is split into five tiers. Those tiers are:

  • Tier 1 Visa is for entrepreneurs, investors and high-value migrants
  • Tier 2 Visa is for skilled workers, ministers of religion and sportspeople
  • Tier 3 Visa is currently suspended
  • Tier 4 Visa is for students with a place at independent school, college or university
  • Tier 5 Visa is for temporary creative and sporting workers, charity workers, religious workers

Tier 2 (General) Visa

A Tier 2 visa is available for skilled workers based outside of the EEA that have been offered a position from an eligible UK company via a sponsor licence. Alternatively, you may be able to eligible for a Tier 2 visa if you have a skill which is deemed to be in short supply by the UK government, if you’re being relocated by your current employer or if you’re a Minister of Religion or Sportsperson.

If you are granted a skilled worker visa, you are eligible to remain in the UK up to 5 years. You may be eligible to settle in the UK at this point, or continue in Tier 2 employment for a further year.

Different rules apply depending on whether you are abroad, or already in the UK in another immigration category.  Latitude’s specialist business lawyers can advise whether your application is subject to the government’s annual cap on restricted certificates of sponsorship, and how best to deal with the issues this raises.

Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) Visa

The intra-company transfer route is for those already employed by a sponsoring business overseas, who are transferring to take up a role with the same company’s UK office. If moving long-term you must have been employed by the company for at least 12 months outside the UK.  This category does not lead to settlement, and is restricted to a maximum of 5 years for long-term transferees. Less onerous requirements exist for graduate trainees whom an employer wishes to transfer to the UK to gain experience here for up to 12 months.

How we can help

Latitude Law has advised foreign workers and families on the Points Based System since its introduction in 2008, and our immigration lawyers have acquired a particular in-depth knowledge of Tier 2 Visas. We advise a wide range of companies in relation to their overseas workers and work with you to identify the tier which best suits your circumstances. Our lawyers help to prepare and review your application to ensure it’s completed correctly and that you’ve gathered the right supporting documentation.

We can advise employers and prospective workers on the challenges involved in this increasingly complex area of immigration law.

Why choose us?

Our aim is to give you the best chance of successfully securing your work visa so you can be employed in the UK. We have helped many other migrant workers successfully through the Points Based System and pride ourselves on the efficiency of our processes. We aim to be responsive, and proactive in the pursuit of your case.

We are known for going that extra mile to ensure clients are successful in their endeavours whilst maintaining professionalism and ethical standards at all times. Our team is friendly and approachable and are always willing to answer any questions you might have.

We can meet you in our London, Liverpool or Manchester offices or take your instructions via telephone or video conference.

UK Work Visa Q&As

When can I apply to work in the UK?

In order to work in the UK, you will need to be sponsored by a UK organisation that holds a valid sponsor licence. If you are offered a role, they should issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which will allow you to make an application to work in the UK.

What documents do I need to apply to work in the UK?

To apply for a work visa, you must be able to provide:

  • A valid passport or equivalent travel document;
  • Your Certificate of Sponsorship reference number;
  • Evidence of how you meet the English language requirement
  • Evidence of how you meet the maintenance requirement

Additional documents may be required depending on the country you will be applying form (or the visa you will be switching from if applying from within the UK), the role you are intending to take and if your family members are also applying with you as your dependants.

Am I eligible for a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa?

The company that you will be working for in the UK must hold a valid Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) sponsor licence, and must issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship.

The Tier 2 (ICT) route is for companies wanting to transfer workers to the UK from an overseas linked entity or organisation. The worker must have worked for the overseas entity for at least 12 months prior to the date of their visa application, unless the migrants will be earning a UK salary of at least £73,900 – in which case there is no requirement to have worked for the overseas business. The minimum salary that must be paid to a worker under the Tier 2 (ICT) category is £41,500 or a salary in line with the Standard Occupational Classification code (whichever is higher).

Am I eligible for a Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa?

The company that you will be working for in the UK must hold a valid Tier 2 (sportsperson) sponsor licence, and must issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship.

You can apply for a Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa if all of the following apply:

  • you’re an elite sportsperson or qualified coach, who’s recognised by your sport’s governing body as being at the highest level of your profession internationally
  • your sport’s governing body is endorsing your application
  • your employment will develop your sport in the UK at the highest level
  • you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
  • you meet the other eligibility requirements

Am I eligible for a Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa?

The company that you will be working for in the UK must hold a valid Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) sponsor licence, and must issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship.

You can apply for a Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa if:

  • you’ve been offered a job within a faith community (for example as a minister of religion, missionary, or member of a religious order) in the UK
  • you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
  • you meet the other eligibility requirements

Am I eligible for a Tier 5 (temporary) visa?

  1. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Charity Worker) visa is for workers who have an unpaid/voluntary job offer and a certificate of sponsorship from a UK charity with a valid Tier 5 sponsorship licence. The job taken must be directly related to the sponsor charity’s work.
  2. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) visa is for very highly skilled workers who have a job offer as a sportsperson or creative worker – such as a musician or actor – in the UK, and a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid Tier 5 sponsorship licence. Sportspeople on this visa must be internationally established at the highest level in their sport, and/or their job must make a significant contribution to the development and running of sport at the highest level.
  3. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange) visa is for workers coming to the UK through an approved government authorised exchange scheme. This visa allows the worker to do work experience, training, academic research or a fellowship, and to take part in an Overseas Government Language Programme.
  4. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – International Agreement) visa is for workers who have a job offer that is covered by international law, such as embassy and diplomatic household workers, and a certificate of sponsorship from an organisation with a valid Tier 5 sponsorship licence. This includes workers under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and similar agreements.
  5. Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Religious Worker) visa is for workers offered a job, such as preaching or work in a monastery or convent, by a religious order in the UK.
  6. Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa is for workers aged 18 – 30 from a limited number of countries who wish to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years. This scheme replaced the Working Holiday visa, though it’s important to note that far fewer people gain entry under the new scheme.

Can I extend my Tier 2 visa?

Yes, the maximum time you can spend in the UK on your Tier 2 visa depends on the sub-category that you are sponsored under. As a Tier 2 (General), Tier 2 (Sportsperson) or Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) migrant you may spend a maximum of 6 years in the UK. As a Tier 2 (ICT) Long Term Migrant you may spend a maximum of 5 years in the UK (or up to a maximum of 9 years if you meet the high earner threshold).

Can I extend my Tier 5 visa?

You can stay in the UK for a maximum of 12 or 24 months depending on which sub-category of Tier 5 you apply under.

What happens after I am granted permission to work in the UK?

If you applied from outside the UK, your passport will be endorsed with a 30-day travel vignette and you will be provided with a letter confirming permission has been granted. The 30-day travel visas should be valid from the intended travel date, as stated on your visa application form. You must travel to the UK within the 30-day validity of the travel visas or it will expire, and you will need to apply for a replacement visa.

Your “full visa” will be issued in the form of Biometric Residence Permits (BRP’s) and will be available for collection once you arrive in the UK. Once in the UK, you must collect your BRP’s within 10 days of arrival, from the Post Office branch detailed in the decision letter.

If your visa is for a period of 6 months or less, your “full visa” will be issued as a stamp in your passport and you will not need to collect a BRP upon arrival to the UK.

If your application is approved from inside the UK, the Home Office will issue your BRP card for the duration of your Certificate of Sponsorship and send this to you directly upon approving your application.

Is a suitable job role on the UK Shortage Occupation List?

Skilled jobs in the UK usually need to be advertised to residents of the European Economic Area (EEA) for a set period before they can be offered to a Tier 2 worker, this requirement is known as the Resident Labour Market Test. However, each year the UK publishes a list of shortage occupations, which employers struggle to fill. Jobs on this list do not need to be advertised before they can be offered to a non-EEA immigrant.

Jobs on the UK Shortage Occupation List are generally very specific, so we will need to assess your circumstances and the job that you will be doing to determine whether you fit into one of these roles.

Can I switch employers on a Tier 2 visa?

Yes, you can switch employers on a Tier 2 visa. You will be required to submit a new Tier 2 application before you can make the switch. Tier 2 (ICT) migrants are generally not permitted to switch employers, but may be eligible in limited circumstances.

When am I eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

You may be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) on the basis of your Tier 2 permission once you have resided in the UK continuously for five years. As a general requirement, you can only apply if you meet the continuous residency requirement, preceding an ILR application, your sponsor still needs you for the job, you are paid the relevant salary listed in the Code of Practice and that you meet the minimum salary for the ILR.

The Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route does not typically lead to settlement, although you may be eligible if you have had continuous leave as a Tier 2 (ICT) Migrant prior to 6 April 2011.

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