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Applying for a UK work visa?

By Aruni Mukherjee
January 23, 2009 14:07 IST
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In a previous article I outlined some of the categories under which overseas nationals can apply to work in the UK. However, such details are subject to change in the world of immigration regulations. Such a change has recently taken place. The British High Commission issued a news release on 25 November, 2008 (PPA 149) that confirms some changes to the immigration system brought in by the UK Border Agency. The document contains details on some very important changes to a number of visa categories that affects Indians and it is useful to have an understanding of what the changes entail.

This article will summarise the key changes outlined in the document and what those will mean for Indian applicants.

Scheme Closures

A number of schemes for individuals coming to work temporarily in the UK closed on 26 November 2008. The old categories that are closed following this date included:

  • au pairs;
  • gap year;
  • Japan: Youth Exchange Scheme;
  • ministers of religion, missionaries and members of religious orders;
  • overseas government employees;
  • voluntary workers; and
  • working holidaymakers

The most important category to be affected by the changes is the working holidaymaker one. This visa allowed overseas nationals to come to the UK for an extended holiday of two years, one of which could be spent working full-time. A lot of Indians in recent years have used this visa category to gain some valuable insight into life in the UK, and earn and save some money at the same time.

The closure of this scheme will mean that without falling under a particular category of "shortage occupations" or having completed graduation or post-graduation studies in the UK it will be very difficult to take up paid work in the UK (unless the applicant is highly qualified). This represents a shift towards an approach that only allows non-EU nationals to work in the UK if their skills are in demand within the economy or they have spent time (and money) in the UK as a student.

Two of the other schemes that closed as of 26 November are:

  • overseas qualified nurses and midwives; and
  • representatives of overseas media organisations

Replacement Schemes

The UK Border Agency has been streamlining its immigration categories over the past year or so to bring most applicants under its new points-based system. This will mean that applicants are awarded points based on their attributes (e.g. qualifications, English language proficiency, etc.) and the number of points they score determines whether or not they qualify under a particular visa category. The system comprises of 5 tiers, which are as follows:

Tier 1: Highly skilled workers, entrepreneurs, investors and post-study workers

Tier 2: Sponsored skilled workers (launched 27 November 2008)

Tier 3: Unskilled and seasonal worker categories (currently not implemented)

Tier 4: International students

Tier 5: Temporary workers (launched 27 November 2008)

Temporary Workers

Unfortunately, the working holidaymaker scheme has no direct descendent in the new Tier 5 of the points-based system. The new categories introduced on 27 November include:

  • temporary workers - creative and sporting;
  • temporary workers - charity workers;
  • temporary workers - religious workers;
  • temporary workers - government authorised exchange;
  • temporary workers - international agreement; and
  • youth mobility scheme

The most important change is that under each of the categories listed above, the applicants would need a sponsor and a valid certificate of sponsorship before their application is considered. This marks a shift from the approach taken in the working holidaymaker scheme where having a job offer was helpful but not mandatory.

Further details on each of the schemes under Tier 5 can be found on the UK Border Agency website,

Sponsored Skilled Workers

The old business and commercial work permit scheme has been replaced by the "general category" under the new Tier 2. Other categories in the tier include:

  • ministers of religion;
  • sportsperson; and
  • intra-company transfers

As per the UK Border Agency website, "The skilled worker category (Tier 2 General) is for people coming to the United Kingdom with a skilled job offer to fill a gap in the workforce that cannot be filled by a settled worker." In other words, this scheme closely resembles the old work permit scheme.

However, the maximum period a successful applicant can stay in the UK under this category has changed from 5 to 3 years after which an application to extend their stay has to be made. As with the temporary worker category, a sponsor and a valid certificate of sponsorship is required before an application can be made under this category.

The shortage occupations list has also been updated as of 11 November 2008. Positions stated on the list are indicative of the skills most in demand in the UK as per the UK Border Agency. The list can be found on:

Full details of all the schemes under tier 2 can be found on the UK Border Agency website,

Other Changes

On 27 November, 2008 a new business and special visitors visa was introduced. This consists of four categories of applicants, including business visitors, sports visitors, entertainer visitors and special visitors. It contains visa categories for visitors for six months, one, two or five and 10 years' duration. The details can be found on the following website,


It is very important to understand the changes that been brought in from the end of November to the UK immigration system, particularly for those who are considering applying under one of the newly launched categories.

The regulations have been recently brought in, so awareness about the changes will take time to spread. I hope this article has given you a head start in trying to grasp with the latest additions to the points-based system. However, you should obtain full details of the various schemes from the UK Border Agency website links mentioned through out the article to acquire knowledge of the details, as this article should only be looked upon as an overview.


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Aruni Mukherjee