A wide number of routes are available for those who wish to establish permanent residence in the UK and, eventually, British citizenship. One of the most common ways to fulfil this goal is through the attainment of a work visa.
Simply migrating to the UK to get a job is not enough, however. You'll need to apply for specific types of visas that can qualify you to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). Let's explore these visa options.
What Are the Long-Term Visa Routes for Foreign Workers?
The long-term work visas that we'll be dissecting are the following:
- Skilled Worker Visa
- Health and Care Worker Visa
- Scale-Up Visa
- Senior or Specialist Worker Visa
All of these routes are “sponsored routes”, meaning that you must receive a “certificate of sponsorship” from your employer with information regarding the role you'll fill in the UK.
What is a Skilled Worker Visa?
The UK Skilled Worker Visa is one of the main immigration gateways for non-UK workers. This visa enables individuals to work in the United Kingdom in qualified occupations. It superseded the Tier 2 (General) Visa effectively on 1 December 2020.
This Skilled Worker Visa is part of the UK Points-Based Immigration System, which means that applicants must obtain a minimum score of 70 points among mandatory and tradeable requirements.
To apply for this visa, you must meet the following conditions:
– You must have a confirmed job offer from a Home Office-approved employer.
– The job must be on the list of eligible occupations.
– The offer must reach a minimum salary threshold (£25,600 per year or the “going rate” for the role if higher).
– The skill level for the role should be equal to or above RQF3.
The visa is valid for five years and you can apply for an extension or for Indefinite Leave to Remain as it expires.
The fees would range from £625 to £1,423, depending on the specific circumstances. Also, applicants must pay the health surcharge which amounts to £624 per year of stay. You'll be able to obtain a discount if the job you're applying for is on the shortage occupation list.
What is the Health and Care Worker Visa?
The UK health care worker visa is yet another “sponsored” visa route available to qualified health professionals such as doctors, nurses, and social care workers who wish to take an eligible job at the NHS, one of their suppliers, o in adult social care.
To qualify for a Health and Care Worker Visa, you ought to meet the following requirements:
– You must work in an eligible job in health or social care.
– The employer should be approved by the Home Office.
– You must be paid a minimum salary of £25,600 or the job's “going rate” if higher.
The Health and Care Worker Visa is also valid for five years and you may extend it as many times as you like or apply for permanent settlement in the UK.
The payable fees depend on how long your stay will be. They would be:
– £247 per person if the stay is for up to three years
– £479 per person if the stay is for longer than three years.
What Is a Scale-Up Worker Visa?
This visa is issued to individuals who are offered a position at a fast-growing UK business (also called a “scale-up business”) for at least six months. This visa program was launched on 22 August 2022 and it's aimed at facilitating UK businesses that experience quick growth to maintain momentum by hiring overseas talent.
A Scale-Up Worker Visa is different from the other visas described above in that there is not a required job skill level, though the candidate must still be offered an eligible role and a minimum annual going rate.
To be deemed eligible for a Scale-Up Work Visa, you'll have to satisfy the following prerequisites:
– You must receive a job offer from an approved scale-up business for a minimum of six months.
– The role that you've been offered must be on the eligible list.
– The salary must meet the minimum threshold of either £33,000 per year, £10.10 per hour, or the “going rate” for the type of job you'll be undertaking (whichever is higher).
This visa has a shorter validity than the other visas exposed above, spanning only two years. You would be capable of soliciting an extension for three more years insofar as you meet the eligibility requirements at that point.
Scale-Up Worker Visa applicants must pay a £715 application fee plus a healthcare surcharge of £624 per year of stay.
Senior or Specialist Worker Visa
This visa program was made available on 11 April 2022. Also called Global Business Mobility (GBM) Visa, this is an option for specialists or workers with a level of seniority who work for overseas companies looking to set up a branch or subsidiary in the UK.
This is another category of visa under a points-based immigration system that replaced the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Visa.
To qualify for this visa, the following requirements must be met:
– You must be an existing employee of a company approved by the UK Home Office.
– Your job must be on the list of eligible occupations.
– The salary must be at least £42,400 annually.
The validity of the Senior or Specialist Worker Visa can be of either five years or 14 days beyond the time specified on the certificate of sponsorship.
This visa is extendable, but you must not surpass the following limits:
– Five years in a six-year period if your salary is below £73,900 annually.
– Nine years in a ten-year period if you're paid more than £73,900 per year.
Unfortunately, you won't be entitled to Indefinite Leave to Remain status under this visa and you'll have to switch to an eligible visa.
How to Apply
The application must be made online. You must provide:
- Proof that you have the means to stay in the country (minimum £1,270 available for the last 28 days, unless exempt)
- Your certificate of sponsorship
- Evidence that you have knowledge of the English language at level B1 at least (on the CEFR scale). This document could be a degree taught in English from an approved institution, an English test, or an ID showing you're from a majorly English-speaking country
- Valid passport or travel ID
- Criminal record certificate
- Documents showing details about your employment.
When needed, you'll have to attend an appointment at your nearest visa application centre to have your biometric data taken and to provide any additional documentation.
How Do I Get Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Indefinite Leave to Remain status enables foreigners to live in the UK permanently without the need to extend any visa or permission. You can also freely enter and leave the country. ILR is the stepping stone toward obtaining British citizenship.
In all of the examples given above, you must have remained legally in the UK for a period of five years, except in the case of the Senior or Specialist Worker Visa, which does not qualify you for ILR.
To obtain indefinite leave to remain, you'll need to maintain the salary requirements relevant to the job position you hold, as well as prove that your employer still needs you for the job after getting ILR status.
You must have spent at least five years minus 28 days in the UK, although the period between the clearance and effective entry into the UK could be counted towards your qualifying period. This period must have been spent under an eligible visa and it must have been continuous.
For the period to be considered continuous, you must not have been abroad for more than 180 days in a 12-month timescale
You should also:
- Prove that you have the necessary knowledge of the English language and have passed the “Life in the UK” test (unless exempt).
- Not have committed a serious offence or broken any immigration laws during your residence in the UK.
- Pay the £2389 fee per applicant (dependents and spouse) and £19.20 for registering biometric information.
How to Obtain British Citizenship?
To attain British citizenship as a foreigner, you must reside in the UK for at least one year after acquiring Indefinite Leave to Remain status. This rule could be circumvented if you're married to a British citizen.
You must likewise:
- Prove that you resided in the UK for five years or more before applying.
- Prove your knowledge of English and that you passed the “Life in the UK” test.
- Show that you plan to continue living in the UK.
- Have been of good character and abided by UK laws during your legal residence.
- Not have spent more than 90 days abroad in the last 12 months or an accrued period of 450 days during the five years prior to your application.
- Pay the £1,330 fee and have your biometric information taken.
You can apply online or by post (which will take significantly longer). After the Home Office receives your application, they ordinarily issue a decision within six months unless you're asked to provide more information or additional documentation.
Afterwards, you'll have to book and attend your citizenship ceremony with your local authority, during which you must make an oath of allegiance and take a pledge. After that, you'll obtain your British citizenship certificate which will permit you to request your UK passport.