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Understanding UK Visa Categories for Foreign Workers

Imagine landing in the UK, ready to dive into its bustling work scene, where history meets innovation. The UK's visa system is your golden ticket, designed to match your skills with the perfect job opportunities. It's a big world of different visas, each with its own path to potential adventures and career growth. But, picking the right one? That's where the real journey begins.

Choosing your visa isn't just about paperwork; it's about finding your fit in the UK's vibrant work culture and paving your path to success. It might seem daunting, but that's where this article comes in. We're here to help you navigate through the maze of UK worker visas, making the complex simple and guiding you step by step. Let's embark on this journey together, unlocking doors to new opportunities.

What is the Points-Based System (PBS)

The UK's Points-Based System (PBS) is a cornerstone of its immigration policy, particularly following the country's departure from the EU. This system assesses applicants based on specific criteria, awarding points for various attributes such as skills, qualifications, salary levels, job offers, and proficiency in the English language. To qualify for entry into the UK, prospective migrants must accumulate a requisite number of points.

Under the PBS, there are mandatory points that are awarded for core criteria necessary to qualify for a visa, and tradeable points, which allow for flexibility in meeting the eligibility requirements. For instance, to apply for work in the UK, applicants need a total of 70 points, with mandatory points being allocated for having a job offer from an approved sponsor, the job being at an appropriate skill level, and speaking English at the required level. Additional tradeable points can be earned through salary levels, education qualifications, and whether the job is in a shortage occupation​​​​.

Specifically, for the Skilled Worker visa, an applicant needs to secure 50 mandatory points by having a job offer from a licensed sponsor, the job being at the required skill level, and meeting the English language requirement. Tradeable points can then be used to reach the total point threshold required for eligibility, based on salary or qualifications​​.

The PBS applies to several visa types, including the Skilled Worker visa, Global Talent visa, and more. Each category has its own set of requirements and points allocation, designed to attract different types of workers and talents to the UK​​.

This structured approach aims to simplify the immigration process, making it transparent and objective, focusing on the skills and contributions of applicants to the UK's economy and society. By prioritizing skilled workers, the system seeks to fill essential roles and drive innovation across various industries​​.

Types of UK Work Visas

The UK tech sector thrives on innovation and global talent, offering a variety of visas to cater to the unique needs of professionals. Here's a brief overview:

Skilled Worker Visa

This visa is a pathway for professionals who secure a job offer in the UK. The role must meet certain skill and salary requirements, but it notably opens the door to permanent residency after five years. With tech roles often featured on the Shortage Occupation List, applicants might benefit from more favorable conditions.

Conditions for Obtaining a Skilled Worker Visa

To qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Job Offer: Job Offer: you must secure an offer from a UK employer approved by the Home Office. You may find the list of approved UK employers here. If your employer is currently not authorized, they can seek eligibility and apply for a sponsor license;
  • Certificate of Sponsorship: Your employer must provide a ‘certificate of sponsorship,’ which elaborates on your role in the UK company;
  • Eligible Occupation: Your job must fall within the list of eligible occupations, including roles in tech, such as IT analysts, systems designers, etc. The complete list can be found on the official government website. If you cannot find your exact job title, you may search for similar ones;
  • Salary: Ensure your salary meets the minimum requirement based on your job type. The minimum salary is the highest among the three options: £26,200 per year, £10.75 per hour, or the ‘going rate’ for your type of work. Your employer must comply with UK rules on wages and working hours. Still, you may receive a salary ranging from 70% to 90% of the standard rate for your job if your annual income is at least £20,960, and you fulfill one of the following conditions:
  • your job is in a shortage occupation;
  • you are under 26, currently studying, a recent graduate, or in professional training;
  • possess a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) PhD relevant to your job. For other PhD qualifications, the salary must be at least £23,580;
  • hold a postdoctoral position in science or higher education;


Starting from the Spring 2024, the minimum salary threshold will rise from £26,200 to £38,700, following the governmental ruling of December 2023.  

  • English Proficiency: Demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English at least at level B1 on the CEFR scale. This can be proven through a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider, specific academic qualifications obtained in the UK, or foreign degrees validated by Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC).

Graduate Visa

Though not exclusive to tech workers, the Graduate Visa allows international students who've completed their studies in the UK to stay and work for up to two years, or three for doctoral graduates. This is an excellent opportunity for those in the tech field to transition seamlessly from education to professional practice in the UK. Note that this visa type does not lead to settlement.

Global Talent Visa

The UK Global Talent Visa caters to exceptional talents and emerging leaders across various sectors, allowing them a flexible route to work in the UK without the need for a job offer. This visa is split into categories based on professional fields, with each category having its own set of eligibility criteria and endorsement requirements. Here's an outline of the different types within the Global Talent Visa framework:

Academia or Research

This category is tailored for individuals in science, engineering, medicine, humanities, and social sciences. Applicants must be endorsed by a recognized UK body such as the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society, or UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)​​.

Arts and Culture

Individuals in the fields of combined arts, dance, literature, music, theatre, and visual arts fall under this category. Endorsement must be obtained from Arts Council England, and applicants should demonstrate exceptional talent or promise in their field​​.

Digital Technology

This category is for leaders in the digital technology sector, requiring endorsement from Tech Nation. Applicants should prove their exceptional talent or promise in the tech industry​​.

Unique Features

  • Flexibility: The visa allows holders to work as employees, self-employed individuals, or directors, providing a high degree of flexibility.
  • Duration: It grants up to five years of stay with the option to renew and doesn't bind the individual to a specific employer.
  • Path to Settlement: Visa holders can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) after a certain period, offering a pathway to permanent residency in the UK.
  • Family Members: Visa holders can bring family members to the UK.

Application Process

The application process involves obtaining an endorsement from the relevant body in the applicant's field, followed by the visa application to the UK Home Office. Certain prestigious prize holders can bypass the endorsement stage​​.

The UK Global Talent Visa is a testament to the UK's commitment to attracting global talent across a spectrum of disciplines, offering a unique combination of flexibility and opportunity for individuals aiming to develop their careers in the UK.

Scale-Up Worker Visa

The upcoming Scale-up Visa aims to support fast-growing tech businesses by facilitating the recruitment of highly skilled individuals. This visa is especially geared towards roles with a significant salary threshold, offering a unique blend of flexibility and opportunity for those looking to contribute to the UK's tech growth.

Each visa offers a distinct route into the UK's tech sector, whether you're a recent graduate, a seasoned professional, or a global leader in your field. With the tech industry's rapid evolution, these visas provide the means to not only enter but thrive in one of the world's most dynamic professional landscapes.

Working in the UK for an Overseas Employer

The UK offers several visa options for individuals working for an overseas employer or looking to undergo professional training in the UK. These visas cater to senior or specialist workers, overseas domestic workers, and graduate trainees under the Global Business Mobility scheme. Here's a summary of these visa categories:

Senior or Specialist Worker Visa (Global Business Mobility)

This visa category is designed for employees of an overseas company who are being transferred to work in the UK branch or subsidiary of the same organization. Applicants must be existing employees of a company approved by the Home Office as a sponsor and have a certificate of sponsorship from their employer. The job must be on the list of eligible occupations, and applicants must be paid at least £45,800 per year, or the going rate for their specific job, whichever is higher. The visa allows stays of up to 5 years, with the possibility of extension, subject to a maximum stay depending on the salary level​​​​​​.

UK Expansion Worker

The UK Expansion Worker Visa is designed for international businesses planning to expand their operations into the UK. It falls under the Global Business Mobility Visa scheme and came into effect on 11 April 2022, replacing the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa. This visa category allows established and actively traded overseas businesses to send senior managers or specialists to the UK to establish a commercial presence​​.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for the UK Expansion Worker visa, the following criteria must be met:

  • The applicant's employer must be a branch or wholly-owned subsidiary of an established overseas business that does not already have a trading presence in the UK.
  • Applicants must be senior managers or specialists within the company.
  • The applicant must have been employed by the overseas company for at least 12 months before applying unless they meet the high earner threshold (£73,900) or are subject to specific provisions for Japanese nationals.
  • Applicants must meet the minimum salary and skill requirements for their job role in the UK​​.

Sponsor Licence Requirements

Employers need a valid sponsor license for this visa category to sponsor applicants. The license is a crucial part of the UK's immigration system, allowing UK employers to hire non-UK nationals for specific roles. To obtain a sponsor license, the employing organization must demonstrate a UK 'footprint' by providing evidence of UK business premises or proof of registration as an overseas company branch or a subsidiary. Additionally, the organization must present a credible plan for expanding into the UK and show an ability to establish a new UK branch or wholly-owned subsidiary within two years of obtaining the license​​. If you want detailed guidance on obtaining the UK Sponsor Licence, check our recent guide.

How Tech Nomads Can Help

Seeking assistance in figuring out what type of UK worker visa would work best for you or your employees?

Tech Nomads is ready to assist you in sponsor license application and further renewal processes.

To explore your options for hiring foreign employees, you may:

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