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The Construction, Oil and Gas, Engineering and Creative industries commonly employ expats in the UK. Indeed, due to skills shortages, these industries are heavily reliant on migrant workers to fill gaps in the labour market.
There are a number of different work permits available depending on an individual’s intended length of stay in the UK as well as the skill and salary level of the role in the question. Work permits are available for intra-company transferees, new hires and graduate trainees under Tier 2 of the Points Based System. There are also options for temporary workers under Tier 5.
The process for obtaining a work permit for the UK is as follows: The sponsoring company must issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the prospective worker. If the visa category comes under the government’s annual quota, the sponsor must first apply for the CoS before it can be issued to the individual.
Once the CoS has been issued, the individual can make their visa application. This comprises submission of their application form online, attending an appointment at a visa application centre for biometric enrolment and submitting their original supporting documents to the relevant Decision Making Centre.
Processing times vary greatly depending on the country of application but, as a rough guide, are around 15-17 working days under the Standard Service. In countries where Priority Service is available, applications will take between 6-10 working days.
Depending on the duration of stay granted, the applicant will be issued with a 30 day short-term visa in their passport and will need to enter the UK before this expires otherwise they will need to repeat the application process afresh. Following arrival in the UK, they will need to collect their Biometric Residence Permit card within 10 working days.
The entire process from assembling the relevant documents for submission to collection of the work permit can take anything from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the visa category. This is because advertising of roles may be required in some instances and also because English language testing centres have set exam timetables.
Short term work permits can be issued for up to 12 months whereas long term work permits can be issued up to 3 or 5 years initially. Depending on the visa category, these are then extendable up to a total stay of 6 or 9 years. If the worker does not qualify to remain in the UK upon the total permitted length of stay being reached, they must leave the UK and will not be permitted to apply for another work permit under the Tier 2 category for 12 months, unless an exemption applies. This is known as the “cooling off period”.
Citizens of most countries will require a visa in order to enter the UK for business, tourism or general visit purposes. Those that do not require a visa (known as non-visa nationals) will be granted entry at the Border, provided the Immigration Officer is satisfied that they are genuinely coming to the UK for visit purposes and will leave at the end of their stay. Those coming to the UK as business visitors must ensure their activities remain within the scope of permissible activities under this immigration category. Work, whether paid or unpaid, is strictly prohibited a visitor.
Individuals who have been continuously resident in the UK under an eligible working category can qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain, subject to meeting the applicable salary threshold and other requirements such as demonstrating knowledge of life and language in the UK.
It is important that a thorough assessment of the proposed move is conducted at the outset of the relocation process, looking not only at the imminent requirements of the application but also long-term considerations, such as whether the employee may be required in the UK on a permanent basis. Such considerations will determine the appropriate immigration category and ensure that businesses are able to navigate around or be prepared for certain challenges, such as the cooling off period, ensuring the continuity of their operations.