Whether one plans to travel, take up a short-term job offer or make a more permanent move to the UK, it's best that expats familiarise themselves with the types of visas available to them and apply accordingly. At present, nationals of the EU, EEA and Switzerland can visit, live and work in the UK without the need for a visa. However, this may change in future as Brexit is implemented.

Foreigners visiting the UK on holiday may need a visa depending on their nationality. Nationals of most non-EU countries will need a standard visitor visa, which is usually valid for six months.

To obtain this visa, applicants will need to show that they’re able to support themselves financially while in the UK and that they have strong ties to their home country such as having a job to return to.

Foreign nationals who enter the UK on a visitor visa aren't able to take up any form of paid employment. These visas are strictly for tourists, doing business or visiting friends or family.

EU nationals do not need a visa to work or live in the United Kingdom, but all other foreign nationals will need a work visa.

Work visas for the UK are issued according to various criteria. There are numerous schemes and skill enticements, each of which has unique requirements and entitles the individual to a specific set of rights. The more highly skilled and experienced an applicant is in a desirable field, the better the chances of a smooth and speedy application process.


Tier 2 General Work Visa

This category is for skilled workers who have a formal job offer made by a registered UK company. These workers must be able to prove that they can fill a gap in the workplace not being adequately satisfied by British or EU citizens.

Each year the UK designates a list of prospective occupations marked by shortages; expats who are able to work in these fields have a higher chance of receiving a work visa.

To be eligible for a Tier 2 visa, expats will need to satisfy a number of requirements and provide proof of qualifications, future expected earnings, sponsorship from an employer and sufficient English language skills.


Tier 2 Intra-company Transfer Visa

Employees of a multinational corporation that are sent to the company’s branch in the UK will require an Intra-company Transfer Visa. There are two sub-categories: one for long-term staff and another for graduate trainees. There are strict requirements to be met with regards to the applicant’s history with the companyand the salary they will be earning in the UK.

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme Visa

Expats who are interested in moving to the UK to work for a short period might be able to apply for a Tier 5 Temporary Worker Visa.

The Youth Mobility Scheme working holiday visa is available for nationals of a number of countries including Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30 to apply. Those who qualify can enter the UK without a job offer and use this working holiday visa to work and travel. The scheme is designed to give young people the opportunity to live and work in the country for up to two years, and is a great way to see what living and working in the UK is actually like.

Expats who want to remain in the United Kingdom for the long term may be eligible to apply for permanent residence. Being a permanent resident means an individual has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status in the UK, giving expats the freedom to live and work in the UK without restrictions.

Those who have lived legally in the UK for a certain length of time – usually five years – can apply for ILR status, depending on the category of visa they currently possess.