The UK implemented a revised points-based immigration system for work permits following Brexit. Although the mechanism for work sponsorship remains the same, the changes herald a more flexible work permit system due to the lowering of the minimum skill level from university level to school-leaver level.
Please note that the below is an overview of various UK visa options, and does not contain an exhaustive list of requirements for a successful visa application. UK Immigration Rules are subject to change, and the relevant rules should be consulted.
Skilled Worker visa
The Skilled Worker route is for applicants that are employed by a UK company and working in the UK. This route is a three-step process.
- The UK company must obtain a sponsor licence (if it does not have one already).
- The UK company assigns the applicant a Certificate of Sponsorship.
- The applicant submits an application for a Skilled Worker visa.
The requirements for a skilled worker visa are:
- The applicant can speak English and has a certificate that confirms this;
- The job is at a skill level above RQF 3 i.e. A-level or above; and
- In most circumstances, a minimum salary of £25,600 per annum or the "going rate" for the job type (whichever is higher) must be met.
Applicants who hold a Skilled Worker visa can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (also known as "ILR", "settlement" or "permanent residency") after five years in this visa category.
Under this visa category, an applicant could be sponsored to work in the UK for a UK company, for example as retail managers, merchandisers or aftersales managers. Tailors and dressmakers, as well as fashion, textile and furniture designers, could also be sponsored under the Skilled Worker visa category.
Tier 5 Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting visa
Creative workers may be eligible for this visa to come to the UK for short-term contracts or engagements. An applicant seeking to come to the UK on this route must apply for and obtain entry clearance on the route before they arrive in the UK, except where the concession (see below) applies.
- have been issued with a valid Certificate of Sponsorship from a UK company and that company must first have considered the needs of the resident labour market and be satisfied these needs cannot be met by a settled worker;
- make a unique contribution to the UK market, for example being internationally renowned;
- if working for more than one sponsor, obtain Certificates of Sponsorship from each sponsor, but there cannot be more than 14 days between each job. As of 6 April 2021, creative workers can travel in and out of the UK without that time counting towards the 14-day engagement rule.
An applicant can be granted permission for up to 12 months initially. A creative worker can apply to extend their stay up to a maximum of 24 months if they are still working for the same sponsor.
This type of visa is suitable for models at the various stages of their careers. Employers may be required to advertise the job they are seeking to fill, unless the worker falls into one of the following categories:
- Top models – these are people who are recognised not just as models but may, also, be personalities in their own right;
- Commercial models – these are those models who have sufficient level of experience that they are already established, if not in the UK, certainly in their own or other markets;
- The model is required for continuity – the model has worked for the same client, within the past two years, prior to coming to the UK;
- New faces – the model will have experience but may be entirely new to the UK market, or on a second or third visit.
Each of the above requires that specified evidence be submitted with their respective applications to evidence that they fall in the relevant category.
There is a concession which permits applicants to enter the UK without a visa if they:
- have a valid Tier 5 creative visa Certificate of Sponsorship;
- are coming to work in the UK for three months or fewer; and
- do not normally need a visa to enter the UK as a visitor.
This route is for applicants aged 18 or over in various fields, who can show that they have exceptional talent or exceptional promise, for example a fashion designer.
There is a two-part application process:
- Application for endorsement: An applicant for endorsement in the field of fashion design specifically must:
- Have a leading design role in the fashion business;
- Show regular professional engagement in the fashion industry in the last five years;
- If evidencing exceptional talent, show professional engagement in producing outstanding work that has been sold or exhibited internationally through catwalk or other exhibitions and a substantial track record in more than one country; and
- Application for entry clearance or permission to stay: Once the endorsement is issued, this is then used in support of the visa application.
Permission will be granted for the period of years the applicant requests, up to a maximum of five years on each application. There is no limit on the total period of permission that may be granted under the Global Talent visa route.
Nationals of countries that require a visa to enter the UK as a visitor must obtain one prior to travel. A list of countries whose nationals that require a visa to enter the UK as visitors can be found on the Gov.uk website.
Visitors cannot work, whether paid or unpaid, in the UK unless this is expressly allowed within a defined category of permitted activities.
To obtain a visitor visa, the applicant must prove they are a genuine visitor and demonstrate they:
- will leave the UK at the end of their visit;
- will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home;
- will not undertake any of the prohibited activities; and
- have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs.
Directors can undertake general business activities under a standard visitor visa.
Alternative options to those above:
Other UK visa options for applicants are:
- EU Settlement Scheme – the deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021. Applicants may be granted pre-settled or settled status.
- UK Ancestry – a long term visa option for those who are from a Commonwealth country and can prove one of their grandparents was born in the UK.
- Partner of a British or settled person – a long term visa option for those who are married or in a durable relationship with a British / settled person in the UK.
- Partner of an EEA national – a long term visa option for those who are married or in a durable relationship with a EEA national in the UK (where the EEA national moved to the UK by 31st December 2020).
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Government Authorised Exchange – a short-term visa option for those who want to come to the UK on an approved scheme, such as an internship or work experience.
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Youth Mobility Scheme – a one-off visa for applicants from certain countries or territories, aged 18 to 30, to live and work in the UK for up to two years.
- Frontier Worker – a frontier worker permit is for EEA workers who were regularly travelling to the UK for work prior to 31st December 2020, but do not reside in the country.