UK Temporary Work Visas

  • Paolo Barbato
  • 14 August 2023

uk temporary work visa

IN THIS SECTION

Under the UK’s Immigration Rules, there are several temporary work visa options available when it comes to hiring someone from overseas, or when looking for a temporary job as a migrant worker.

In this guide, we outline the main visa options for foreign national workers, with insight into the eligibility and application requirements.

UK Temporary Worker visas

The Temporary Worker routes in the UK are designed for specific types of roles within specific sectors:

  • Temporary Work – Creative Worker route : for foreign nationals with the offer of short-term work within the creative industry in the UK for up to 12 months, where they can make a unique contribution to the UK’s cultural life as either an entertainer, artist or other type of creative worker, with the option to extend to up to 24 months.
  • Temporary Work – Charity Worker route : for foreign nationals with the offer to do voluntary work for a recognised charitable organisation in the UK for up to 12 months.
  • Temporary Work – Religious Worker route : for foreign nationals with the opportunity to support the activities of a UK religious institution, either by working in a religious order or doing non-pastoral work, for up to 2 years.
  • Temporary Work – International Agreement route : for foreign nationals providing a service in the UK covered under international law, such as employees of international organisations or private servants in diplomatic households, typically for up to 2 years.
  • Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange route : for foreign nationals taking part in an approved exchange scheme for the purposes of training, research or work experience, for up to either 12 months or 24 months.
  • Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker route: for foreign nationals with the offer of horticulture work in the UK for up to 6 months, or within the poultry production sector from 2 October to 31 December of the same year, with an approved scheme operator.

Does a Temporary Worker visa require sponsorship by an employer?

For UK-based businesses looking to recruit foreign nationals under any one of the Temporary Worker routes, they must first be licensed by the Home Office to sponsor any individual who is not a settled worker or does not otherwise have permission to work in the UK. This means that the employer must have in place a Temporary Worker licence and have been approved to sponsor the specific category of workers in question.

A Temporary Worker licence is the permission needed from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to assign Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) to migrant workers, where UKVI is the division of the Home Office responsible for both licensing and issuing visas. The CoS is an electronic record containing a unique reference number that each new recruit will need to apply for a Temporary Worker visa, where the information contained on each CoS will confirm the details of the job for which the migrant worker will be sponsored.

Temporary Worker sponsor licence requirements

An organisation in the UK can apply to be a licensed sponsor for migrant workers in any one of the Temporary Worker categories. However, to be eligible for a sponsor licence, there are a number of general requirements that must be met, as well as various route-specific requirements, depending on the category of worker that the employer is looking to recruit.

To be eligible for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence, the applicant organisation must be able to show, with reference to a number of supporting documents, that it is:

  • genuine and operating lawfully in the UK
  • trustworthy and capable of carrying out its sponsor duties
  • able to meet the requirements of the relevant route.

In assessing whether these requirements have been met, UKVI will look at the history and background of the applicant organisation, induing those involved in the day-to-day running of the business, as well as the key personnel named on the licence application. This will include any evidence of criminality and previous immigration violations, or any other evidence that the organisation or its people are not honest, dependable and reliable.

UKVI will also assess whether the organisation has suitable HR systems and recruitment practices in place to monitor sponsored workers and manage the sponsorship process. In many cases, UKVI will carry out a pre-licence site visit to ensure that the applicant has the capability to discharge its duties as a sponsor under the rules, including its reporting and record-keeping obligations, and will not otherwise pose a threat to immigration control.

In addition to any route-specific requirements for sponsorship, the applicant organisation must have jobs that are suitable for sponsorship on the route in question, and comply with either the National Minimum Wage Regulations or Working Time Regulations.

How do you apply for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence?

To apply for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence, the applicant organisation must complete an online application at GOV.UK and pay the relevant fee.

As part of the application process, they will need to submit a number of documents in support, including those specified in Appendix A of the sponsor guidance and for the specific route in question. In most cases, at least 4 documents or 4 combinations of documents must be submitted to meet the general requirements for a Temporary Worker sponsor licence, including any documents described as mandatory. As part of the licence application process, a number of individuals must also be nominated to fill the key personnel roles, including an Authorising Offer (AO), Key Contact (KC) and Level 1 user.

The AO must be the most senior person within the applicant organisation responsible for recruiting migrant workers and ensuring that all sponsor duties are met. They will also be responsible for managing the sponsor licence application, and signing and dating the submission sheet. The submission sheet, together with all documentation, must be sent to UKVI within no more than 5 working days of submitting the application.

The KC will act as the main point of contact with UKVI, whilst the Level 1 user will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the sponsor licence using the sponsorship management system (SMS). The AO can act as both the KC and Level 1 user named in the application. Alternatively, different people can be appointed to these roles. Additionally, if the application for a Temporary Worker licence is approved by UKVI, additional Level 1 users can subsequently be added, together with Level 2 users. A Level 2 user is someone authorised to use the SMS, but with more restricted system access than a Level 1 user.

Once the application for a Temporary worker sponsor licence has been completed, the fee paid and supporting documentation submitted, a decision will usually be made by UKVI within a period of 8 weeks. However, it can take longer for UKVI to reach a decision if a pre-licence site visit is needed or additional documentation is requested.

Temporary Worker visa requirements

If the application for a Temporary Worker licence is approved by UKVI, and once the migrant worker has been assigned a valid CoS, that worker can apply for their visa. In addition to the sponsorship requirement, there are various other requirements that must be met for someone to be eligible for a Temporary Worker visa, including:

  • a genuineness requirement: with the exception of Seasonal Workers, UKVI must be satisfied that the applicant genuinely intends to undertake the role described on their CoS, is capable of undertaking that role and does not intend to undertake employment in the UK other than in the role for which they are being sponsored.
  • a tuberculosis (TB) certificate requirement: again with the exception of Seasonal Workers, applicants must have a TB test certificate, if from a listed country.
  • a financial requirement: in most cases, when applying for entry clearance from overseas, the applicant must have funds of at least £1,270 and have held these funds for a period of 28 days or, alternatively, have their sponsor certify maintenance on their CoS.

Each route also has specific requirements which must be met in addition to the general requirements.

How to apply for a Temporary Worker visa

To apply for a Temporary Worker Visa, the applicant will need to complete an online application at GOV.UK and pay the relevant fee. As part of the application process, they will also need to prove their identity and enrol any required biometric information.

Depending on the applicant’s nationality and the type of passport they hold, they may be eligible to use the ‘ UK Immigration: ID Check’ app . In other cases, they may be asked to schedule an appointment at an overseas visa application centre. In either case, they will need to submit a number of documents in support of their application, including a valid passport or other travel document to verify their identity and nationality. They will also need to submit any documents in accordance with the route-specific guidance.

Once the application for a Temporary Worker visa has been completed, the fee paid, documents submitted and any biometrics enrolled, a decision will usually be made within 3 weeks. Applicants cannot normally switch into Temporary Worker routes from another route while in the UK and therefore must apply from overseas. The only exceptions are those who hold, or were last granted, permission as a Student, where they may be eligible to switch into the Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange route. In these cases, an application made from in the UK will typically take up to 8 weeks.

How much is a UK Temporary Worker visas?

The cost to apply for a Temporary Worker visa is £259 from 4 October 2023. In most cases, the applicant will also be liable to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge for each year of leave they are granted.

Other costs associated with the Temporary Worker visa include the cost of assigning the sponsorship certificate – £25 from 4 October 2023. Where the employer does not yet hold a valid sponsor licence for the route under which they intend to sponsor a Temporary Worker, they will need to apply for a licence before they can assign an CoS. The cost to apply for a Temporary Worker licence is £536, both for small and large sponsors.

What do the different types of Temporary Worker visa allow?

If an application for a Temporary Worker visa is successful, the visa-holder will be allowed to come to the UK to work in the job role for which they are being sponsored.

In some cases, supplementary employment may be allowed, depending on the visa route. However, a Temporary Worker visa-holder will not have access to public funds during their stay in the UK, even if they are not permitted to take a second job under the rules.

In all cases, the visa-holder will be able to undertake a course of study in the UK, subject to the ATAS condition. This means that an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate may be required where studying certain sensitive subjects at postgraduate level. Visa-holders will also be allowed to travel in and out of the UK during the validity of their visa.

When a Temporary Worker visa is due to expire — unless the visa-holder is eligible to extend their stay on the same immigration route, where they have not exceeded the maximum grant of permission allowed — they must either leave the UK or apply to switch to another type of visa, provided this is permissible under the route-specific rules.

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are UK work visa specialists . For expert advice on visa options to work in the UK, contact us .

UK temporary work visa FAQs

How do i get a temporary work visa for the uk.

To obtain a Temporary Worker visa for the UK, before applying for your visa to UK Visas and Immigration, you must have the offer of a suitable job from a UK sponsor and be assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.

How long is a temporary work visa in UK?

The length of a UK Temporary Worker visa will depend on the category of visa. For example, Creative Worker visas can run for up to 24 months, while Seasonal Worker visas will be for no more than 6 months.

What is temporary work permit visa?

A temporary work permit visa refers to a visa under one of the Temporary Worker routes. These allow foreign nationals to work in the UK for short periods, typically between 6 months to 2 years depending on the visa category.

Is Tier 2 a temporary visa?

The Tier 2 visa, now replaced by the Skilled Worker visa, will initially be granted on a temporary basis, but also provides a path to settlement. In contrast, Temporary Worker visas do not lead to indefinite leave to remain.

Last updated: 14 August 2023

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The UK's points-based immigration system allows successful candidates to work in the country via several avenues.

The Skilled Worker path is most popular. Employers may ‘sponsor’ foreign workers for five years using this approach. UK settlement is normally possible for Skilled Workers after five years of stay. The Skilled Worker path is popular for long-term UK residents and workers, frequently migrating with their families. However, a three- or five-year Skilled Worker visa is expensive and has tight qualifying restrictions.

What choices are there for temporary workers in the UK? Many multinational companies send staff to the UK for short-term assignments or training, frequently for a few months. Some UK firms in crucial areas like farming only need to hire international workers at specific times of year and want to keep sponsorship payments low.

The points-based system allows successful candidates to work temporarily in the UK in many ways. The job you’ll do determines your visa. Explore the most prevalent alternatives below.

Short-term Work routes

The points-based immigration system provides many ‘Temporary jobs’ visas for short-term jobs. UK temporary work visa applicants still need UK employer sponsorship. These pathways have cheaper visa application and employer sponsorship expenses than Worker routes.

1. Seasonal worker visa A Seasonal Worker visa lets you work in horticulture in the UK for up to six months, collecting fruit and vegetables or flowers.

2. International Agreement visa If you’ll be working under international law or treaty in the UK, you may apply for a Temporary Work – International Agreement visa. Your International Agreement visa lets you remain in the UK for 2 years.

3. Government Authorised Exchange visa For a short-term visit to the UK for work experience, training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research, or a scholarship, you may apply for a Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange visa. This visa allows you to remain in the UK for 12 or 24 months, depending on the program.

4. Religious Worker visa Temporary Work – Religious Worker visas are available for non-pastoral religious work and religious orders. The UK allows religious workers to reside and work for 24 months.

5. Charity Worker visa Temporary Work – Charity Worker visas allow unpaid volunteer work for charities for up to 12 months.

6. Creative Worker visa You may apply for a Temporary employment – Creative Worker visa if you’ve been offered UK creative employment. Creative workers include actors, dancers, musicians, and film crew members. You may remain in the UK for 12 months with this visa.

Global Business Mobility Paths

UK government introduced Global Business Mobility (GBM) in April 2022. This ‘umbrella category’ of five visa categories is for foreign enterprises that need to temporarily transfer workers to the UK for a particular purpose that cannot be done by a settled worker.

1. Senior or Specialist Worker visa Senior or Specialist Worker visas let you work at your employer’s UK branch in the UK. It superseded the Intra-company Transfer (ICT) visa. Only this route is a ‘Worker’ route for sponsor licencing among the five GBM routes. Compared to the other four GBM methods, applicants and sponsors must pay greater application and sponsorship costs to transfer workers to the UK.

2. Graduate Trainee visa Your employer’s UK branch may hire you on a Graduate Trainee visa. Your position must be suitable for management or specialty graduate training. This superseded the Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa.

3. UK Expansion Worker visa You may set up a UK branch of an international firm that has not yet begun trade using a UK Expansion Worker visa. You must be a senior management or expert at the international company.

4. Service Supplier visa Service Supplier visas are available to anyone with a UK corporate contract to offer services:

  • Employee of an international corporation.
  • Self-employed professional abroad.

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Page contents.

  • Temporary Worker Visa categories
  • Temporary Worker Visa requirements

Creative and Sporting categories

  • Authorised Exchange & International Agreements
  • Temporary Worker Visa required documents

What is a Certificate of Sponsorship?

Applying for the youth mobility scheme.

  • Passing the Genuine Migrant Test
  • Frequently asked questions
  • How can I get help

What is the Temporary Worker Visa?

The Temporary Worker Visa is a permit designed for those who wish to travel and work in the UK in a number of specific circumstances, and only for a limited period of time (up to 12 months).

International workers need a job offer from a licensed UK sponsor before they can submit their Temporary Worker Visa application.

However, applicants from a small number of countries can come under the Youth Mobility Scheme, provided that they meet specific requirements.

This immigration route is not available for highly-skilled foreign workers, who can instead apply for a Skilled Worker Visa .

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What are the Temporary Work Visa categories?

You can apply for one of the following categories to travel to the UK:

  • Charity Workers , for those covering unpaid or voluntary roles for a UK-registered charity.
  • Creative and Sporting , for highly skilled sportspersons, musicians or actors. Sportspersons must be internationally recognised at the highest level in their sport, or they must enter the UK to make a significant contribution to the development of their area of interest.
  • Government Authorised Exchange , available only for nationals of countries who have signed an approved exchange scheme. Under this visa, young foreigners can do work experience, training or academic research in the UK, or take part in an Overseas Government Language Programme.
  • International Agreement , only for workers whose job offer is covered by international law. This includes embassy and diplomatic employers under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) who hold a certificate released by an accredited UK organisation.
  • Religious Workers Visa , for those hired for preaching or work in a monastery or convent by a religious order in the UK.

What are the Temporary Worker Visa requirements?

To be eligible for a Temporary Worker Visa, you must have:

  • A valid job offer from a UK-based institution which holds a Certificate of Sponsorship and it’s legally allowed to hire international workers
  • A certificate of sponsorship from your sponsor
  • At least £1,270 in savings, available on your bank account for at least 28 days in a row. Day 28 must be within 31 days of applying for this visa.

Based on the visa category you are applying for, you may be required to complete an English language test.

You can either prove your knowledge of English by providing a degree taught or researched in English, or an approved language qualification.

Your sponsor may get an on-site visit from the compliance officers at any time, to ensure that migrant workers, as well as the company, are complying with their duties.

Our London immigration lawyers are here to help you should you have any questions about the Temporary Work Visa. Please call us now on 020 3883 6530 for more information.

Sportspeople

A professional sportsperson is someone who provides services in this field either as an athlete or a coach, at a professional or semi-professional level of their sport. Eligible applicants must have represented their national team within the previous two years, or have an established international reputation in their chosen sport.

Creative Workers

Creative workers, such as dancers, actors and models in the fashion industry, can be eligible for a Temporary Worker Visa provided that their sponsor can show that the post could not have been filled by a British worker.

Artists will be able to bring their entourage using a group Certificate of Sponsorship, but they should prove the specialist skills of each member.

Government Authorised Exchange & International Agreements

Government Authorised Exchange (GAE)

Applicants under this subcategory can come to the UK to learn new skills through work placements. However, this visa cannot be used to bring unskilled foreign employers to the UK.

With the only exceptions of academic researchers sponsored by an approved institution, individual employers and organisations are not allowed to sponsor any applicant under this category.

International Agreement

This category is only for those who wish to enter the UK to provide a service covered under international law, such as private servants in diplomatic households, employers of overseas governments, and any agreement between the United Kingdom and another country.

Get in touch with our immigration lawyers in London to find out more about the Temporary Worker Visa. Contact Us

What are the Temporary Worker Visa required documents?

  • A valid job offer from a UK-based institution;
  • A certificate of sponsorship from your sponsor;
  • At least £1,270 in your bank available for at least 28 days in a row

Based on the type of work that you will be doing, you may be required to complete an English language test.

Your Certificate of Sponsorship is not a certificate nor a paper document. It is a reference number linked to all the information about your job and your personal details.

When you apply for a Temporary Worker Visa, your sponsor will give you your sponsorship reference number, which must be reported on your forms.

Your sponsorship reference number will be only valid for 3 months from the date it is assigned to you.

As a general rule, you should be able to use it to leave and return to the UK multiple times over the course of your stay.

Young people aged between 18 to 30 from a specific list of countries can experience living and working in the UK for up to 2 years by applying for the Youth Mobility Scheme .

This category of Temporary Worker Visa is available only for British overseas citizens and for nationals of the following countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea and Taiwan.

It must be noted that the Scheme is closed to those who have children whom they are financially responsible for, or have already travelled to the UK through any working holiday visa. To be eligible, applicants must have at least £1,809 of available funds.

What is the Genuine Migrant Test?

Before your visa is issued, the UKVI must check if you genuinely intend to undertake the role for which you received a job offer in the UK. The Migrant Test applies to all categories of temporary workers, except those under the seasonal employment scheme.

The UKVI will make its decision taking into account your:

  • Knowledge of the role;
  • Previous relevant experiences:
  • Explanation of how the recruitment process went through.

As a part of your Migrant Test, you may be required to provide additional information and evidence about your working experience. You may also be summoned for an interview.

Last modified on August 1st, 2022 at 6:48 pm

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Related pages for your continued reading.

Spouse visa, family visas, indefinite leave to remain, british citizenship, spouse visa extension, frequently asked questions, can i bring my dependents with me.

Temporary Worker Visa applicants can include their dependent family members in their application only if they can demonstrate that they hold sufficient funds to provide for them.

Differently, your relative can submit a Family Visas application and travel to the UK if they meet the mandatory requirements.

What happens if my job ends?

Your job offer must be valid for the entire period of time indicated on your application. However, if your employment ends before your period of leave, your authorised stay may be reduced to 60 days.

Can I change my current immigration status to a Temporary Worker Visa?

Foreign nationals who first entered the UK as visitors undertaking activities pertinent to their skills can apply to switch their status to a Temporary Worker Visa. However, they must first hold a valid Certificate of Sponsorship, released by a UK-based company, interested in hiring a foreign worker.

How long can I stay in the UK on a Temporary Workers visa?

A Temporary Worker Visa allows you to stay in the UK for up to 12 months unless a shorter time is reported on your permit.

At the end of your authorised stay, you can apply for an extension and keep working for the same sponsor for a maximum of 24 months.

Can a seasonal worker apply for a Temporary Worker Visa?

Migrants who are coming to the UK as seasonal workers can apply for a Temporary Worker Visa under a pilot scheme. This will be run until December 2020. This pilot is currently subject to an annual quota of 2,500.

To be eligible for this permit, any worker must be sponsored by an employer operating in the horticultural sector. They will not be allowed at any time to establish their own business or to seek permanent employment in the UK.

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Beyond Borders

How to Get a Work Visa in the U.K.: Your Options Explained

Immigration & Living Abroad

Last updated on February 5th, 2024 at 11:09 am

At Remitly , we know that many people move to the UK to work there and support family back home . There are several pathways to getting a work visa in the United Kingdom. Long-term work visas, short-term work visas, and self-employment-based visas all have different eligibility criteria.

Once you have a work visa, you can stay in the UK for anywhere from six months to five years, depending on the type of visa you’ve applied for.

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Here’s what you need to know about how to get a work visa in the UK and how to prepare for your UK visa application .

Do you need a visa to work in the U.K.?

Most overseas citizens require a visa to work for a UK employer ever since Brexit (the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union), this includes European Union (EU) citizens.

You may qualify for an exception to the UK work visa policy if:

  • At least one of your grandparents was born in the UK, you may be eligible for an Ancestry visa , which includes the right to work.
  • You’re an Irish citizen; you may live and work in the UK under the Common Travel Area (CTA) agreement .
  • You’re a Commonwealth citizen of a British Overseas Territory or have the right of abode in the UK; you don’t need a work permit or visa.
  • You’re a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and have indefinite leave to remain , you don’t need an additional work visa.

Keep in mind that the right to work in the UK and the right to enter the UK are two different things.

Citizens of countries like the U.S., New Zealand, Canada, and Australia can stay in the UK for up to six months as visitors . They can even attend business meetings or interviews but can’t receive paid employment.

Student visa holders in the UK typically have work rights but with restrictions on the type of work and the number of hours.

How to get a UK work visa

The application process for a UK visa depends on where you’re located and which visa you’re applying for. Individuals can apply online for most UK work visa programs, but you may need to visit a visa application centre near you for a biometrics appointment.

You’ll need to gather documents such as:

  • Valid passport or other ID document
  • Proof of personal savings, such as a statement showing the balance of your bank account, to show that you meet financial requirements and can support yourself in the UK
  • Proof of English-language proficiency
  • Results of a tuberculosis test
  • Certificate of sponsorship from an employer proving that you have an eligible job

Not all of these documents are required for every visa, and residents of some countries may use the UK Immigration: ID Check app to prove their identity. Eligibility requirements for different visa types are subject to change, so contact the nearest UK embassy or consulate before beginning the application requirements.

You’ll also need to pay visa fees, including an application fee and an annual immigration health surcharge. Visa fees range from £247 for a Health and Care Worker to £1,423 for some Skilled Worker applications.

How long does it take to get a work visa in the UK?

Once you have successfully completed the application form for yourself and any additional applications for your family members, it will typically take 3 to 8 weeks for the government to process them.

You need to submit the required documents, like your certificate of sponsorship or passport, to ensure the application process is completed on time.

Double-checking that you’ve included all of the documents listed in the eligibility requirements section of the UK work visa program that you’re applying for can ensure that your application gets processed as quickly as possible.

For most visa programs, you can apply up to three months in advance. However, rules for how soon you can apply for certain visas may establish shorter or longer time frames. As a result, anyone hoping to switch jobs to a UK branch, obtain new employment in an eligible occupation, or start a business should read the specific rules for the program before starting their visa applications.

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Types of work visas in the U.K.

There are three main visa categories: short-term, long-term, and entrepreneur/business visas.

Short-term work visas

Short-term visas are UK work visas that allow you to live and work in the UK temporarily.

Several types are available, including the Youth Mobility Scheme visa, the Graduate visa, the Charity Worker visa, the Seasonal Worker visa, the Creative Worker visa, the Government Authorized Exchange visa, the Religion visa, and the International Agreement worker visa. Let’s take a look at each one.

Youth Mobility Scheme visa

The Youth Mobility Scheme UK work visa is available to young people from specific countries, such as Canada, Australia, Japan, and South Korea, and you must be between the ages of 18 and 30 when you apply. The temporary visa granted through the Youth Mobility Scheme allows you to stay in the UK for up to two years, and you don’t need a job offer before you arrive.

Graduate visa

The Graduate Trainee visa is available to applicants who have completed a course of study in the UK, such as a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree. Through the graduate route, you can live and work in the UK for up to two years (three if you have a Ph.D. or doctorate).

Charity Worker visa

The Charity Worker visa allows you to stay up to 12 months and volunteer for a licensed sponsor; however, you can’t perform any paid work on this visa.

Seasonal Worker visa

The Seasonal Worker visa allows you to work for up to six months in the horticultural industry if you have a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer.

Creative Worker visa

Formerly known as the Creative and Sporting visa, the Creative Worker visa lets you work as a creative professional, such as an actor or musician, for up to 12 months. You can also take a second job in the same industry or a Skilled Worker shortage occupation.

Government Authorized Exchange visa

This UK work visa is available to individuals participating in an approved government-authorized exchange scheme, such as a research fellowship, a language program, or a training course. To utilize this UK visa route, an organization or business must sponsor you.

Depending on the length of your exchange program, this UK work visa will allow you to live and work in the UK for 12 to 24 months. In addition to the first job listed on your UK work visa documentation, the immigration status allows you to work at a second part-time job for up to 20 hours per week.

Religion visa

Also known as the Religious worker visa, the Religion visa is available for people coming to the UK to work for a religious order or in a non-pastoral role for a religious organization. The place of worship, religious organization, or order must sponsor your UK work visa application. This visa allows temporary workers to remain in the UK for up to 24 months.

Ministers of recognized faith communities and missionaries can apply for long-term UK work visas through the Minister of Religion visa program .

International Agreement visa

The final category of temporary UK visas for workers is the International Agreement worker visa, which is available to people sponsored by an overseas government, a recognized international organization, or a diplomatic household hiring a private servant. This UK work visa is usually good for up to 2 years.

Engineer wearing a hijab and using a tablet

Long-term work visas

Long-term work visas allow you to stay in the UK for a longer period, usually up to five years and may offer a pathway to permanent residency. These visas also allow you to include your partner and children on the application.

There are a few main types, including the Skilled Worker visa, the Health and Care worker visa, the Senior or Specialist worker visa, the International Sportsperson visa, and the Domestic Worker visa. Read on to learn about each one.

Skilled Worker visa

The Skilled Worker visa is open to skilled workers in specific eligible occupations, such as graphic designers, fitness instructors, laboratory technicians, and dozens more. The skilled worker route uses a points-based system to determine your eligibility. You can learn more about this points-based assessment here .

To qualify for a UK skilled worker visa, you’ll need a job offer from a UK overseas employer approved by the Home Office, know English, and receive a minimum salary. You will also need to pay a healthcare surcharge.

Health and Care Worker visa

The Health and Care Worker visa is primarily for medical professionals who want to work for the National Health Service (NHS). For this visa, you won’t need to pay the healthcare surcharge attached to the Skilled Worker visa. As with the skilled worker visa, you’ll need a confirmed job offer before applying.

Senior or Specialist Worker visa

Formerly known as the Intra-Company Transfer Visa, the Senior or Specialist Worker visa is for people who already work for a licensed employer with a location in the UK and are moving to the country to work in the same job as their current one overseas.

When applying for a certificate of sponsorship for the visa program, the sponsoring employer must prove that the visa applicant is a senior worker or a specialist with unique skills, experience, or knowledge that makes it necessary for the company to transfer them rather than hiring someone new in the UK.

International Sportsperson visa

The International Sportsperson UK work visa program is for elite athletes and coaches who are internationally established. An athlete must relocate to participate in the sport at the highest level, such as for a professional team, and a qualified coach must obtain a job offer before applying.

Domestic Worker visa

Also known as the Private Household visa, the Domestic Worker visa is available to cleaners, chauffeurs, cooks, nannies, and personal carers whose employers are moving to the UK on a short-term or long-term UK work visa.

To qualify for the Domestic Worker visa, applicants must have worked in the private household of their employers for at least one year.

Entrepreneur and self-employed visas

The UK immigration system doesn’t have a work visa for freelancers, but some self-employed workers may be eligible for the Innovator Founder visa or the Global Talent visa.

Innovator Founder visa

The Innovator Founder visa program is a newer type of UK work visa program that replaced UK work visas like the Entrepreneur and Investment visas.

Sometimes called the UK start-up visa, this UK work visa is for entrepreneurs with a unique business idea that they want to get off the ground in the UK. The start-up visa is reserved only for those launching a completely novel new company and have had their idea endorsed by an approved body.

Global Talent visa

The Global Talent visa program is for individuals who are current leaders or promising future leaders in academia, research, arts, culture, or digital technology. Individuals who have won prestigious prizes related to architecture, arts and culture, digital technology, fashion design, film and television, science, engineering, humanities, social science, or medicine are also welcome to apply.

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UK Temporary Worker Visa for South Africans

To find out your options to enter the UK on a Temporary Worker Visa from South Africa, you can get in touch with IAS UK immigration lawyers.

Call us on  0333 305 3612  for immediate help & assistance with your situation. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone or online.

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Page contents, uk temporary workers categories.

  • Who is eligible for a Temporary Worker Visa?

The Genuine Temporary Migrant Worker Test

  • Requirements for South African Sportspeople

Eligibility Criteria for South African Creative Workers

  • Requirements for Charity Workers from South Africa

Conditions of Stay for South African Religious Workers

  • Requirements for Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) Applicants

International Agreement Applicants

Seasonal workers.

  • Temporary Worker Visa validity
  • Temporary Worker Visa Maintenance Requirements
  • Frequently asked questions
  • How can I get help from the IAS

Previously, Tier 5 Visa, the UK Temporary Worker Visa grants entry to work in the UK to those working in specific fields, such as entertainers, sportspeople, diplomatic staff, and charity workers.

Eligible applicants need a job offer from a licensed Temporary Worker sponsor, unless applying under the Youth Mobility Scheme.

To find out your options to enter the UK on a Temporary Worker Visa from South Africa, you can get in touch with IAS UK immigration lawyers .

One of our experts will be happy to follow you through each step of your application.

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You can make an application for the UK Temporary Worker Visa from South Africa if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • Creative and sporting , for those coming to the UK from South Africa to work or perform as sportspeople, creative artists or entertainers.
  • Religious workers , for applications who work as non-pastoral duties. If you wish to fill a preaching or pastoral role, you should apply for a Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) Visa.
  • Charity workers , for those travelling from South Africa to the UK to do voluntary and not paid work for charity.
  • Seasonal works , which is an immigration route targeted at those working in the horticulture sector that need to hire seasonal employees.
  • International agreement , if you are coming to the UK under contract to provide a service which is covered under international law.

Who is eligible for a UK Temporary Worker Visa?

The UK Temporary Worker Visa is one of the PBS (Points-Based System) permits, meaning that you must score enough points and send appropriate supporting evidence to obtain entry clearance.

The points available for this application are:

  • Maintenance requirement: 10 points
  • Certificate of Sponsorship: 30 points

Additional points may be obtained depending on the nature of the role stated on your visa. To find out more about the eligibility criteria to obtain a UK Temporary Worker Visa for South African applicants, you can get in touch with one of IAS’ UK immigration attorneys.

To approve your application, the Home Office must be satisfied that you are capable and willing to undertaking the role for which your Certificate of Sponsorship was assigned. Besides, the UKVI needs to confirm that you won’t undertake employment in the UK other than that permitted by your visa.

In making its assessment, the Home Office will base its decision based on:

  • Your knowledge of the role;
  • Your relevant experience and skills required to do the role;
  • Eligibility of your Sponsor in the UK;
  • Explanation of how you were recruited abroad;
  • Any other relevant information based on the supporting documents you submitted.

UK Temporary Work Visa Requirements for South African Sportspeople

To apply for a UK Temporary Worker Visa as a Sportsperson, you must be:

  • Currently playing or coaching in any capacity, at a professional or semi-professional level of sport;
  • Receiving payment for your playing or coaching activities;
  • Being currently registered to a professional or semi-professional sports team.
  • Have represented your national or regional team within the two years before your application.
  • Have an established international reputation in your sport.

To be recognized as a creative writer and qualify for a UK Temporary Worker Visa, you must:

  • Work in dance, film, theatre, television, or as a model in the fashion industry;
  • Have a UK-based sponsor who is committed to following the code of practice;
  • Have a sponsor who can demonstrate how the recruitment activity was undertaken
  • Have written support from an industry representative body.

UK Temporary Work Visa Requirements for Charity Workers from South Africa

South African citizens who are travelling to the UK to undertake unpaid voluntary work can apply for a Temporary Worker Visa UK, provided that their activities contributed directly to the achievement of the sponsor’s charitable purpose in the UK.

To qualify, you must:

  • Not receive any form of payment or remuneration for your activities.
  • Not be filling a permanent position, including temporarily.
  • Leave the UK when your leave to stay expires.

To qualify as a religious worker, you must have a UK-based sponsor, which must:

  • Be a registered UK charity or ecclesiastical corporation.
  • Be the structure for a faith-based community with a common system of belief and spiritual goals.
  • Receive financial and material support from its congregation or community on a voluntary basis.

K Temporary Work Visa for Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) Applicants

This subcategory is available to those coming from South Africa to the UK through approved schemes aimed at sharing knowledge, experience and best practice through work placements.

Only licensed associations can sponsor under this visa, which is not available to individual employers and organisations.

Speak to one of our UK immigration experts to find out more about the list of approved GAE schemes and sponsors.

This subcategory is for those travelling to the UK from South Africa on a Temporary Worker Visa to provide service covered under international law, including:

  • Private servants in diplomatic households.
  • Employees of overseas governments and international organisations.
  • General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
  • Any official and eligible agreement between the United Kingdom and South Africa.

To apply as a UK seasonal worker from South Africa, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Not intend to establish a business in the UK
  • Only take employment in a seasonal job permitted by the scheme, and in the horticultural sector
  • Leave the UK when your visa expires.

The scheme is subject to an annual quota of 2,500.

UK Temporary Worker Visa validity

The UK Temporary Worker visa grants you leave to remain for up to 12 or 24 months, or the time given on your Certificate of Sponsorship plus 28 days. The overall validity of your leave to stay may vary based on the category you are applying for.

If you wish to remain in the UK with the same sponsor, you can apply to extend your visa for up to a maximum of 24 months.

UK Temporary Worker Visa Maintenance Requirements

To qualify for entry clearance on a Temporary Worker Visa or tier 5 Visa, you must meet the maintenance requirement. This means that you must demonstrate either that:

  • Your sponsor will maintain and accommodate you for a month;
  • You have at least £945 of personal savings, which have been held for 90 consecutive days in your bank account for at least 31 days before your application.

Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to work in the UK. Contact us

Last modified on Aug 14th, 2023 at 12:17 pm

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We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone. Learn more

Frequently Asked Questions

How to change employment on a uk temporary worker visa.

If you are in the UK on a Temporary Worker Visa, you can seek permission to change your employment, unless you are in the country as a private servant in a diplomatic household. You can change your role either within the same organization or with a new company.

You will need to obtain a new Certificate of Sponsorship for the role you are applying for. Besides, you will demonstrate that you meet any additional eligibility requirements.

What happens if my employment terminates before my Tier 5 visa expires?

If your employment ends before your period of leave, your temporary work visa may be curtailed to 60 days. If you wish to remain in the UK, you will need to make a new application.

My Temporary Worker Visa application has been refused. Can a UK immigration attorney help me?

If your application was refused, you will receive a letter from the Home Office stating the reasons for the rejection. If you believe that the UKVI has made a mistake in its decision, you can request an administrative review.

To receive professional advice and representation with your administrative review application, we recommend seeking the help of an expert UK immigration lawyer.

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If a visa application is approved during a visa interview, the average processing time is 5-7 working days. A t least a further 2-3 workdays should be allowed for delivery .

If you are eligible for the  ‘Interview Waiver Program’  and submit your application by courier without attending an interview. Visa processing takes approximately  21 workdays from the date on which the application is received by the Embassy. A further 2-3 workdays should be allowed for the return of your passport.  

If your application has been refused under Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act for administrative processing, the consular section will notify you when it is complete or if additional information is required from you. Please be advised that we do not know how long administrative processing will take.  In some cases it may take many months or years. Please see “Administrative Processing” for further information.

If you were advised at the interview that a waiver of ineligibility is required before the visa can be issued , you can expect your application to take up to 8 months to process from the date of the interview.  Incomplete applications will take longer. Click here for further information.

We cannot guarantee visa issuance or visa processing times in advance.   All processing periods quoted are estimates only. If you require a visa, we recommend that you apply well in advance of your intended travel date and do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have been issued a visa and are in receipt of your passport.

Can I collect my passport in person?

It is not possible to collect your passport in person from the Embassy or Consulate.  As soon as your application has been processed, your passport will be handed to the courier service for delivery.

Tracking the Delivery of the Passport

As soon as your application has been processed, your passport will be handed to the courier company for delivery and they will email you a tacking number.  You can use this number to track your delivery by signing into your account online at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-gb

We cannot answer any questions concerning the delivery .  Applicants choose how their passport is returned to them as part of the appointment booking process.  If you change your address or the  location of the delivery, or cannot remember where your passport is to be delivered, you must contact the Visa Appointment Service .  

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Domestic Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas for Certain Applicants

Important Notice: New Visa Requirement for Certain Caribbean Nationals for Temporary Agricultural Worker (H-2A) Visas

Effective February 19, 2016, any person seeking to enter the United States to perform temporary agricultural work now must present a valid passport and a valid H-2A visa in order to be admitted to the United States.  This includes British, French, and Netherlands nationals and nationals of Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, or Trinidad and Tobago who were previously exempt from this requirement.  This visa requirement also extends to any spouse or child who may wish to accompany or follow the H-2A agricultural worker to the United States.

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Temporary worker visas are for persons who want to enter the United States for employment lasting a fixed period of time, and are not considered permanent or indefinite. Each of these visas requires the prospective employer to first file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An approved petition is required to apply for a work visa.

Temporary worker visa categories

Labor certification.

Some temporary worker visa categories require your prospective employer to obtain a labor certification or other approval from the Department of Labor on your behalf before filing the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, with USCIS. Your prospective employer should review the Instructions for Form I-129 on the USCIS website to determine whether labor certification is required for you.

Petition Approval

Some temporary worker categories are limited in total number of petitions which can be approved on a yearly basis. Before you can apply for a temporary worker visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129 , must be filed on your behalf by a prospective employer and be approved by USCIS. For more information  about the petition process, eligibility requirements by visa category, and numerical limits, if applicable, see Working in the U.S. and Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers on the USCIS website. Once the petition is approved, USCIS will send your prospective employer a Notice of Action, Form I-797.

Important Notice: Same-sex Marriage

Effective immediately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses. Please reference the specific guidance on the visa category for which you are applying for more details on documentation required for derivative spouses. For further information, please see our  FAQ’s .

How to Apply

After USCIS approves the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), you may apply for a visa. There are several steps in the visa application process. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the  embassy or consulate website  where you will apply.

Complete The Online Visa Application

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 – Learn more about completing the DS-160 . You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
  • Photo –You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements .

Schedule an Interview

While interviews are generally not required for applicants of certain ages outlined below, consular officers have the discretion to require an interview of any applicant, regardless of age.

You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview, generally, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence. 

Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply:

Appointment Wait Time

Check the estimated wait time for a nonimmigrant visa interview appointment as a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

Note: Please check the individual Embassy or Consulate website to determine if your case is eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview.

Applicants scheduling visa appointments in a location different from their place of residence should check post websites for nonresident wait times.

Select a U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

You will need to provide the receipt number that is printed on your approved Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, or Notice of Action, Form I-797, to schedule an interview.

Prepare for your Interview

  • Fees - Pay the non-refundable visa application fee , if you are required to pay it before your interview. When your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality. Fee information is provided below:

Select your nationality to see Issuance Fee

  • Review the instructions available on the website of the  embassy or consulate  where you will apply to learn more about fee payment.
  • L visa applicants included in a L blanket petition : You must also pay the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee and may need to pay the Border Security Act fee. Select  All Fees  to learn more.

Gather Required Documentation

Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:

  • Passport valid for travel to the United States - Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements ). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page .
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
  • Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements . 
  • Receipt Number for your approved petition as it appears on your Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, or Notice of Action, Form I-797, from USCIS.
  • L Visa Applicants – If you are included in an L blanket petition, you must bring Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, to your interview.

Legal Rights and Protections

H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B visa applicants should read the Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet to learn about your rights in the United States and protection available to you. Review this important pamphlet before applying for your visa.

Additional Documentation May Be Required

Review the instructions on how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified.   

All visa applicants, except H-1B and L, will generally need to show proof of compelling ties to your home country to demonstrate your intent to return after your temporary stay in the United States. Examples of compelling ties include:

  • A residence abroad which you do not intend to abandon
  • Your family relationships
  • Your economic situation
  • Your long term plans

Attend your Visa Interview

During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying. 

Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing . You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application.

When the visa is approved, you may pay a visa issuance fee if applicable to your nationality, and will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you. Review the visa processing time , to learn how soon your passport with visa will generally be ready for pick-up or delivery by the courier.

Entering the United States

A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Learn more about admissions and entry requirements, restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products, and other restricted/prohibited goods, and more by reviewing the CBP website .

Extending Your Stay

See  Extend Your Stay  on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to learn about requesting to extend your stay beyond the date indicated on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94.

You must depart the United States on or before the date indicated on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94, unless your request to extend your stay is approved by USCIS.

Failure to depart the United States on time will result in you being  out of status . Under U.S. law, visas of travelers who are out of status are automatically voided ( Section 222(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act ). If you had a multiple-entry visa and it was voided due to you being out of status, it will not be valid for future entries into the United States.

Failure to depart the United States on time may also result in you being ineligible for visas you may apply for in the future. Review  Visa Denials  and  Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws  to learn more.

Change of Status

While in the United States, you may be able to request that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) change your nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant category. See  Change My Nonimmigrant Status  on the USCIS website to learn more.

Requesting a change of status from USCIS while you are in the United States and before your authorized stay expires does not require that you apply for a new visa. However, if you cannot remain in the United States while USCIS processes your change of status request, you must apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Additional Information

  • The approval of a petition does not guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.
  • With the exception of Cultural Exchange Visitor Q-1 visa applicants, your spouse and unmarried, minor children may also apply for the same visa category as you to accompany or join you. You must be able to show that you will be able to financially support your family in the United States. 
  • For information about employment and study, review Temporary Workers information and Employment Authorization on the USCIS website.
  • Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date.  Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.

Visa Denial and Ineligibility

Review Visa Denials  for detailed information about visa ineligibilities, denials and waivers.

Visa Renewal

Whether you are applying for the first time or renewing your visa, you will use the same application process (please review How to Apply , above). Some applicants seeking to renew their visas in certain visa classes may be eligible for the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) which allows qualified individuals to apply for visa renewals without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer. Review the instructions on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply to determine if the IWP is available and if you qualify.

I was refused a visa under section 214(b). May I reapply?

Yes, if you feel circumstances have changed regarding your application. Review  Visa Denials  to learn more.

Misrepresentation or Fraud

Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States. 

Review  Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws .

Citizen of Canada and Bermuda

Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require visas to enter the United States as temporary workers; however, a temporary worker petition approved by USCIS is required. For more information see the  U.S. Embassy Ottawa website , the  U.S. Consulate Hamilton website  and the  CBP website .

Additional resources for Canadian temporary workers to the United States can be found on the U.S. Embassy Ottawa website in Canada.

Further Questions

  • Case-Specific Questions  - Contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your visa application for status information. Select  U.S. Embassy or Consulate  for contact information.
  • General Questions  - review  Contact Us .

More Information

A-Z Index Legal Rights & Protections Lost/Stolen Travel Documents Denials Temporary Workers-USCIS Fraud Warning Border Security/Safety Visa Expiration Date Automatic Revalidation Nonimmigrants in the United States–Applying for Visas in Canada or Mexico Visa Applicants - State Sponsors of Terrorism Find a U.S. Embassy or Consulate Customer Service Statement

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  • Visas and immigration
  • What you need to do

How to apply for a visa to come to the UK

Choose a visa.

You may need a visa to come to the UK to study, work, visit or join family.

There are different visas depending on:

  • where you come from
  • why you want to come to the UK
  • how long you want to stay for
  • your personal circumstances and skills

Before you apply, you must check if you need a visa and what type you need. Depending on your nationality, you might not need a visa to visit or transit through the UK.

Your application must be approved before you travel.

You do not need to apply for a visa if you’re an Irish citizen.

If you want to visit the UK

Apply for a Standard Visitor visa to visit the UK for up to 6 months. For example:

  • for a holiday or to see family and friends
  • for a business trip or meeting
  • to do a short course of study

You must apply for a Marriage Visitor visa if you want to visit the UK to get married or register a civil partnership.

If you have a visitor visa you cannot take a job in the UK.

If you’re travelling through the UK

You might need a visa if you’re travelling through the UK on your way to another country, for example if you have a layover between flights.

Apply for a visa to travel through the UK .

If you want to study in the UK

Your course length, type and place of study affect which visa to apply for.

A Standard Visitor visa lets you do a short course of study that lasts no longer than 6 months.

A Short-term study visa lets you come to the UK to study an English language course that is over 6 months and up to 11 months.

A Student visa is usually for a longer course. You must be sponsored by a licensed college or university and have a confirmed place. On this visa, you may be able to do some work.

A Child Student visa is for 4 to 17 year olds who want to study at an independent school. If you’re 16 or over, this visa lets you do some work.

If you want to work in the UK

You can work in the UK on a short or long-term basis with a work visa. There are many types of work visa .

The visa you need depends upon:

  • your skills and qualifications
  • if you have a job offer and sponsorship
  • if you want to bring your family with you
  • what you’ll be doing - for example sporting, charitable or religious work

You can set up a business with an Innovator Founder visa .

If you want to join family in the UK

If you’re a spouse, partner or family member of someone who has British citizenship or settlement in the UK, you can apply for a family visa to join them. They may need to show that they can support you financially.

You may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain ( ILR ) after a set amount of time living in the UK.

If your family member is in the UK on a visa

You may be able to apply for a visa to join a family member who’s in the UK on a visa. They must be either:

  • your spouse or partner
  • your parent if you’re 18 or under

Check what visa you’ll need to join them.

Family reunion visas for refugees

If you were separated from your partner or child when you were forced to leave your country, they can apply to join you in the UK.

Your family members can apply if you have been given asylum or 5 years’ humanitarian protection, and not have British citizenship.

If your family member is from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

You can apply for a free EU Settlement Scheme family permit to come to the UK if you have a close family member who:

  • was living in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • has pre-settled or settled status
  • you had a relationship with by 31 December 2020 (unless you’re applying for a child who was born or adopted after this date)

Close family members include your spouse or civil partner, child, grandchild, parent or grandparent.

A family permit lets you live, work and study in the UK for up to 6 months. You can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to stay in the UK after your family permit expires. You usually need to apply within 3 months of arriving in the UK.

Other ways to get permission to live in the UK

If you’re from the eu, switzerland, norway, iceland or liechtenstein.

If you started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, you may be able to apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme instead of applying for a visa. The deadline to apply was 30 June 2021, but you can still apply if you can show reasonable grounds for the delay in applying.

Check if you can still apply to the EU Settlement Scheme .

You can only apply from outside the UK if you have a valid passport or national identity card with a biometric chip.

Commonwealth citizens

You can apply for an Ancestry visa to work in the UK if you have a British grandparent and meet other eligibility criteria.

You may have right of abode to live in the UK.

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen and cannot prove your right to be in the UK, read about the Windrush scheme .

Returning residents

You’ll need to apply for a returning resident visa to come back to the UK if one of the following is true:

you had indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme (‘settled status’) and left the UK for more than 5 continuous years (or 4 continuous years if you’re a Swiss citizen or their family member)

you had permanent permission to stay in the UK (‘indefinite leave to remain’) but it was not under the EU Settlement Scheme and you left the UK for more than 2 years

Other visas

There may be another visa that’s right for you based on your circumstances. Check if you need a visa and what other visas you’re eligible for.

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International Edition

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CALL US: +44 (0)20 8004 3492

Visas to work in the usa.

  • January 31, 2024

If you’re a non-US national looking to enter the USA for work or business purposes on a temporary basis, there are a number of routes, including nonimmigrant work visas, that you should consider to ensure you have the required permission.

It’s worth bearing in mind that US visa applications take time to compile and submit, so even where you have a leadtime of months, it can help to start thinking early about the route that best suits your requirements and what you will need to do and evidence when making your application.

In this guide, we take a brief look at some of the main work visas and entry routes for foreign nationals planning to work in the USA.

Do you need a visa to work in the US?

The first question you may be asking is whether you need a visa to work in the US. While your options will depend on your circumstances and your intended work activities while in the US, it is a general rule that any form of work – ie gainful employment – undertaken while physically present in the US, even for a foreign employer and even if any earnings are paid into a foreign bank account, will still be classed as work, will require employment authorisation. Employment authorisation for non-US nationals typically comes in the form of a work visa.

This also includes work carried out on a remote basis while in the US; even though there are a number of temporary work visas available for those looking to work in the United States for a US-based employer, known as nonimmigrant visas, there is currently no remote worker visa category on offer to overseas nationals. Read our guide to the rules and options when considering working remotely from the USA.

Visa Waiver Program

The US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows entry for nationals of VWP participating countries (such as the UK, France and Germany) to visit the US for up to 90 days. Traveling under the VWP is highly desirable since it is visa-free with no requirement to apply for a US visa. Individuals must, however, apply for and be granted travel authorization ( ESTA ) in advance of their trip.

Importantly, there are strict limitations on the type of business activity you can carry out under the VWP, and you are not permitted to carry out gainful employment while in the US.

Note also that citizens or nationals of eligible VWP countries will be ineligible to travel visa-free to the US if they hold dual citizenship with Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan or Cuba, or if they have traveled to Cuba since January 12, 2021 .

Under the VWP, individuals are not permitted to change immigration status while in the United States. You also won’t generally be able to apply to extend your stay.

More on the VWP >>

B visa for visitors

B1 or B1/2 visa holders are permitted to carry out business-related activity whilst in the US. This could include meeting with prospective customers, taking business orders and attending board of directors meetings.

The B visa is typically used by nationals of countries that are not part of the Visa Waiver Program, or if the traveler is not eligible for, or has been denied, and ESTA for visa-free travel.

If you are otherwise eligible for visa-free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, a B visa would usually only be considered if you need to stay longer than the 90-day limitation on ESTA.

The B visa permits entry often for up to 6 months, and it may be possible to apply to extend the visa or for a change of status while in the US. The application process requires you to complete an online form ( DS-160 ) and to attend an interview at your local US consulate.

You’ll need to evidence at your interview that you have the intention to leave the US, showing for example your family ties, home and employment are based in your country of residence. You will also need to provide details of your plans and itinerary for the trip, and evidence proof of funds for the duration of the stay.

Depending on your plans while in the US, if you are considering combining your trip between business and personal activity eg tourism, medical treatment, you should apply for the combined B1/2 visa to ensure you do not breach the terms of your visa permission.

More on the B1 visa >>

H-1B visa for skilled workers

The H-1B visa allows non-US nationals including British citizens to be employed in the US, where they have a qualifying job offer from an eligible  US employer and where they meet the additional eligibility criteria and application requirements .

Specialty occupations are occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent number of years of experience (12 years) as a minimum qualification.

H-1Bs are granted for up to six years and can offer a path to a Green Card. H1B workers can also be accompanied by dependents under the H4 visa .

There are strict caps on the number of H-1B visas granted annually: 65,000 for each fiscal year, and 20,000 additional visas for foreign nationals holding advanced degrees from US educational institutions.

The H1B application process comprises set stages and deadlines and is run on an annual basis. Applicants will need to familiarize themselves with the process to avoid delays or missing the annual windows.

This is a highly competitive visa category, with the number of applications typically far exceeding the visas available each year. Given the high volumes of H1B registrations received each year, there are no guarantees of success with an H-1B application , and it may be advisable to consider alternative immigration options, or to make a new application during the next window.

A number of fees apply with the H-1B visa, in addition to the filing fee, falling largely to the employer so it will be important to fully understand the cost implications of this visa route.

More on the H-1B visa >>

L visa for intracompany transferees

The L visa enables intra-company transfers, allowing non-US employers to deploy employees to US subsidiaries or branches on a temporary basis.

To qualify for the L visa, the applicant must have been working for their current employer for a minimum of 12 months at the time of application, and be coming to the US in an executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacity to be employed by a US parent, subsidiary or affiliate company.

There are two types of L visa, depending on the skills, experience and role of the individual applicant:

  • L-1A – intra company transfers of managers or executives for an initial period of up to 2 years. Renewals can be applied for in increments of two years, up to a maximum of seven years.
  • L-1B – intra company transfers for individuals with ‘specialized knowledge’of the product or service being sold by the US employer. Initially granted for a period of up to 2 years, renewals can be applied for in increments of two years, up to a maximum of five

For new US companies, the L-1 individual can be granted a visa for up to 12 months.

For foreign companies who regularly transfer employees to the US, there is the option to apply for the Blanket L visa , which permits the employer to issue L visa without first filing a petition with USCIS, expediting the process. This applies only to companies with three global offices, one of which is a US office which has been operating for at least one year. The US office must demonstrate revenues of $25 million or 1000 US employee or 10 individual L-1s filed within the last year.

It may also be possible as an L-1A visa holder to apply for US permanent residency in the first preference green card category.

More on the L visa >>

E visas for investors, entrepreneurs and traders

A further US work visa option are the E visas. Aimed at entrepreneurs and those wanting to set up business in the US, there are two types of E visa – the E-1 visa and the E-2 visa.

Among the qualifying criteria , the investor applicants must own at least 50% of the shares in the US company.

The United Kingdom is a treaty country, therefore UK nationals satisfy the requirement that applicants must hold the nationality of a Treaty Country.

The E-1 Treaty Trader visa may be available where more than 50% of a UK company’s existing international trade is with the US, its principal investors, executives, or key employees may be able to apply for an E-1 visa

Under the E-1 visa, you will be permitted to work lawfully in the US but only for the petitioning company ie your sponsor. You can travel freely in and out of the US and you can apply to extend your visa with unlimited two-year extensions, provided you maintain your E-1 eligibility.

You can also bring dependents with you to the US.

The E-2 Investor Trader visa is for nationals of Treaty Countries (such as the UK) to either invest in an existing or start up a business in the US. The applicant’s investment must meet be deemed ‘ substantial ’, which will be assessed in the context of the particular type of business and/or investment at hand.

E-2 visa holders can also make unlimited applications to extend their visa where they continue to meet the eligibility criteria, and can also bring their dependents and key employees .

More on the E-1 & E-2 visas >>

The O-1 visa category is for individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their professional field. This could include for example scientists, athletes, performing artists, artists as well as business people. The bar is set incredibly high to be eligible , and the application must be robust and compelling in evidencing that you have met the required exceptional status in your area.

Importantly, the O visa also requires the applicant to have a sponsor .

The O-1 visa can be granted for up to three years and can be extended provided there is a clear showing of ongoing activities in the United States. O-1 visa holders may be joined by key individuals under the O-2 category where they assist in “the artistic or athletic performance” of the O-1 visa holder, and dependents under the O-3 visa. 

More on the O visa >>

Need advice on a US work visa? NNU Immigration can help!

These are just some of the possible work visa options for foreign nationals looking to enter the US for work or on business.

Given the range of visas and various eligibility requirements, the choice of visa will depend on your situation and the type of activity you intend to carry out. It is important to note that even if pre-conditions have been met, you must go above and beyond providing basic evidence in order to gain visa approval as the standards are extremely high in today’s restrictive climate. Taking advice from an experienced US immigration attorney will help ensure you make the correct selection.

Also bear in mind that visa fees and US immigration policies do change, sometimes with little notice.

NNU Immigration are specialists in US immigration, helping non-US nationals to make successful visa applications. Contact us for expert guidance on securing the permission you need to work in the USA.

US work visa options FAQs

How can i get work visa in usa.

The requirements depend on the type of work visa you apply for. The primary route for skilled foreign workers is the H1B visa, which requires you to have a US sponsor/employer and a job offer in a ‘specialty occupation’ role. This route is, however, typically oversubscribed and selection is managed through an annual selection process using a lottery system.

Which US visa allows you to work?

The US offers many work visa routes, catering for different types of workers and skillsets. The L1 visa, for example, is for employees of overseas companies who are transferring to a US branch or subsidiary, while the H1B visa is for highly skilled workers with a US sponsor/employer. Take advice on your circumstances to understand your visa options.

Can UK citizens work in the US?

Yes, UK citizens can work in the US provided they have authorization, either through their visa or by obtaining a Green Card.

Is it difficult to get a work visa for USA?

The prospects of obtaining a US work visa depend in large part on your skills, the type of work you intend to do and the type of visa you are applying for. The H1B visa, for example, is competitive since it is typically oversubscribed each year, while Blanket L1 applications tend to have a high success rate since the employer has pre-approval for intracompany transfers.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

  • Last updated January 31, 2024

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Nita Nicole Upadhye is the Founder & Principal Attorney at NNU Immigration. A recognized leader in the field of US immigration law, Nita successfully acts for individuals and companies from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications.

Need legal advice?

Book a fixed-fee telephone consultation with one of our us immigration attorneys., recent articles, expanding schedule a shortage occupations: public consultation extended, us visa application fee increases from april 1, 2024, uscis confirms changes to h1b program in 2024, see all blog posts, h1b visa interview questions, share on social, need assistance.

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Ukrainians offered 18-month visa extension to stay in UK

The new scheme will mean Ukrainians who had to flee their home due to Russia's invasion almost two years ago will be able to stay in the UK until September 2026.

Sunday 18 February 2024 00:41, UK

A young girl from Ukraine holds her dog as she waits with her mother for a bus to refuge accommodation after they crossed the border point from Ukraine into Medyka, Poland. Picture date: Saturday March 19, 2022.

Ukrainians who sought sanctuary in the UK after Russia's invasion will be granted an 18-month visa under a new extension scheme.

The first visas which granted people three years' leave in the UK under programmes such as Homes for Ukraine , the Ukraine Family Scheme and the Ukraine Extension Scheme are set to expire in March 2025.

But the Home Office has said individuals under one of the visa schemes will now be able to apply to stay until September 2026 and have the same rights to access work, benefits, healthcare, and education.

Russia-Ukraine latest: Follow live updates

"This new visa extension scheme provides certainty and reassurance for Ukrainians in the UK on their future as this war continues, and we will continue to provide a safe haven for those fleeing the conflict," Tom Pursglove, border minister, said.

"Families across the country have opened their homes and their hearts to the people of Ukraine, showing extraordinary generosity, including offering shelter to those fleeing from the horrors of war."

A 'refugees welcome' banner attached to a bicycle by a small flotilla of boats leaving Bristol harbour in support of Ukrainian refugees during a day of national action showing support for refugees. Picture date: Monday March 21, 2022.

More than 283,000 Ukrainians have been offered or extended sanctuary since the beginning of the invasion on 24 February 2022.

Within months of the beginning of the conflict, many British people offered to open up their homes to refugees who were fleeing the conflict.

For those that successfully registered to become a sponsor and were matched with a Ukrainian guest or family, they receive £350 a month for the first year their guests are in the UK and £500 for the second year.

Housing and Communities minister Felicity Buchan said she wanted to pay tribute to those sponsors across the country who have shown "extraordinary generosity", but added more will need to come forward.

Read more: Russia 'outmatched' by Ukraine's allies Mother of Putin critic searching for his body Ukraine's army chief says forces have pulled out of frontline city

"The government continues to provide them with 'thank-you' payments in recognition of their support," she said.

"As more families arrive, we will need more sponsors to come forward. I encourage anyone interested in hosting to check their eligibility and apply as soon as they can."

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temp work visa uk

The UK also has an £11.8bn package of military, humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine in place.

Those who are in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine, the Ukraine Family Scheme, the Ukraine Extension Scheme and Leave Outside the Rules will be eligible to apply for the extension within the last three months of an existing visa.

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