Each year more than 35,000 people from destinations like Australia, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand make the decision to spend some time living and working in the UK. Spending time in a totally different environment is an awesome way to experience new things, gain work experience, embrace new cultures and broaden your horizons. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just waving goodbye and boarding a plane to Heathrow.
How Do I Get There?
If you are one of the lucky few who already have a European Union passport this article is not for you. Travellers with EU passports can work not only in the UK but anywhere in the European Union. If you don’t have an EU passport keep reading. A large selection of Immigration Visas, Residency and work permits are on offer in the UK to enable to make your dream of living and working in the UK a reality. Some of these options can even eventually lead to permanent residency, British Citizenship and a UK Passport.
The Work Permit Scheme
The UK work permit scheme is an employer and position specific scheme designed for professionals or executives who will bring value and skill to the UK labour market. If you have a job offer from a UK based employer and fit certain criteria you may be able to apply for a work permit. The main purpose of these visas is to assist businesses in their international development and employing key staff who do not have the required working status in the UK. A work permit may be issued for any length of time up to five years. After completing four years on a work permit the holder may apply for Residency/Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
The Highly Skilled Migrant Program (HSMP)
The HSMP was designed to allow highly skilled people to migrate to the United Kingdom to look for work or self-employment opportunities. The Highly Skilled Migrant Program is different from the work permit scheme because you do not need a specific job offer in the UK to apply. This point based scheme works off points gained in five key areas: educational qualifications / work experience / past earnings / your achievement in your chosen field / your husband’s, wife’s or unmarried partner’s achievements. If you score 65 points or more you will qualify as a highly skilled migrant. Initially the HSMP visa will be granted for a period of one year. After the initial year people on the scheme can apply to stay longer, but must remain economically active. The visa will then be extended for a further three years. On completion of the total 4 years you can also make an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain (Permanent Residency).
Working Holiday Visa
If you are under 30 years of age and are a citizen of a Commonwealth (previous British Empire) country the chances that will be eligible for a Working Holiday Visa are high. The Working Holiday Visa is valid for two years and allows you to legally work in the UK for 12 months. This is a popular option amongst young South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders who are looking to gain a bit of work experience whilst enjoying some time off travelling around the UK.
Permanent Residency & Citizenship
Once you have spent 4 continuous years on the HSMP or the Work Permit you may be entitled to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (permanent residency). After a further year on Indefinite Leave to Remain and once you have spent 5 years in the UK you may be entitled to apply for naturalisation (the process of become a British citizen). Should your application be successful you will become a fully fledged UK citizen with that much sought after UK passport.
Some travellers find all of these visa distinctions and requirements a little confusing. There are a range of companies who make it their job to understand all the rules and regulations when it comes to foreigners living and working in the UK. Some of these companies even go so far as helping you find a job and opening a bank account in the UK. Sometimes it is easier in the long run to entrust the professionals when it comes to some thing as life changing as the “Live and Work in the UK” experience.