How To Get A Work Visa For The UK From The USA?
There is no doubt that the UK and the US still have a 'special relationship'; a term that was first used by former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill in 1946. Many Americans are drawn to the UK to get to know the place of their ancestors and to absorb the history and charm of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. If you are considering moving to the UK to work, it is important to understand how the UK immigration system works. In this article, we will explain how US citizens can apply for a UK work visa, the eligibility criteria, and fees and timescales involved.
Can A US Citizen Apply For A UK Work Visa?
Yes, eligible US nationals can apply for and acquire a work visa through the Tier 2 work visa scheme (in the same way as other individuals from outside the European Economic Area). There are several sub-categories within Tier 2, namely the:
- Tier 2 General Visa: allows skilled workers to work in the UK
- Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Visa: the ICT is intended for employees of multinational businesses with a branch in the UK
- Tier 2 Minister of Religion Visa
- Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa
Most applicants for a UK work visa use the Tier 2 general route. To be eligible for a Tier 2 general work visa in the UK as a US citizen, you will need to meet the following eligibility criteria:
- have a valid certificate of sponsorship for your job
- show you're being paid an appropriate salary for your job
- prove your knowledge of English (as a national of the United States, you will not be required to take an English language test)
- have personal savings so you can support yourself when you arrive in the UK
- show you can travel and your travel history over the last five years
- provide a criminal record certificate from any country you've lived in for 12 months or more in the last ten years, if you'll be working with vulnerable people
How Can I Acquire A Certificate Of Sponsorship From A UK Employer?
One of the main pre-requisites to gaining a Tier 2 general work visa in the UK is having a valid certificate of sponsorship (Cos). It should be noted that CoS's can only be issued by employers with sponsor licenses, of which there are currently over 30,000.
When you apply for a job with a licensed sponsor, a number of criteria will need to be met before you can be sponsored. Firstly, you will need to be paid an appropriate salary for the role you have been offered (this is typically at least €30,000; however, the rate will vary according to the type of job). The role being advertised must be genuine, and you must have the qualifications and skills required. Your prospective employer may also need to carry out a resident labour market test (RLMT) to verify that no settled person in the UK can do the job. This will not be necessary, however, if the job you are applying for is on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). This list includes specialist roles such as:
- Biological scientists and biochemists
- Civil engineers
- IT professionals
- Artists, and;
- Graphic designers
The benefit of applying for a job on the SOL is that the overall timescale is reduced by 30 days (the amount of time the role has to be advertised for in the UK before being open to a non-EEA worker).
Once you have been offered a role with a licensed employer, they will provide you with a CoS reference number which you will need to include on your Tier 2 general work visa application form.
How Can A US Citizen Apply For A UK Work Visa?
The absolute earliest you can apply for a Tier 2 general work visa is three months before your employment start date in the UK (this date is shown on your CoS).
The application for a Tier 2 general work visa is completed online. Once you have submitted your online application, you will also need to book an appointment at a local UK visa application centre (VAC) in your home country. At your appointment, you will have your fingerprints and signature scanned and your photo taken. This is then uploaded along with any additional documents you wish to have scanned.
You will also need to pay an application fee of €610 (for a visa of up to three years), or €464 if the job is on the SOL. The fee rises to €1,220 and €928 respectively if you are applying for more than three years. In addition, there is the healthcare surcharge of €400 per year, and €19.20 to have your biometric information processed.
Tier 2 general work visas can be granted up to five years and 14 days. Your visa will entitle you to:
- work for your sponsor in the job described in your certificate of sponsorship
- do a second job in certain circumstances
- do voluntary work
- study as long as it does not interfere with the job, you're sponsored for
- travel abroad and return to the UK
- bring family members with you from the US to the UK
The processing time for Tier 2 work visas is relatively short, and you should expect to receive a decision within three weeks of the date of your application in the United States.
Related article How does the Tier 2 visa work for US citizens?
From the start of 2021, following the UK's full departure from the European Union, the process of applying for a skilled work visa will become even easier. Not only will the appropriate salary threshold drop from €30,000 to €25,600, but employers will also no longer need to complete RLMTs, and there will be no more caps on the number of overseas employees which can be hired. Also, you can have a seamless and hassle-free application by engaging the service of experienced immigration solicitors.