Arranging a UK Visa

You’ve got a few choices when it comes to visas and immigration to the UK, so it’s worth knowing what’s available. Depending on how you fit different eligibility criteria you may be able to stay for longer periods, or have different conditions attached to your stay. Let’s explore your options.

The GOV.UK website is your go to resource for all government information and services in the UK. It’s here you’ll find the many different visas available, as well as their eligibility criteria.

I’m conscious of the fact I’m addressing an International audience, but I do write from the perspective of an Australian. As Aussies we are able to stay in the UK for tourism purposes for up to 6 months without applying for a visa (as long as your haven’t been denied entry before, and don’t have a criminal history – can’t help you if this is the case sorry!)

But if you want to do any sort of work in the UK, even if it’s for less than 6 months, you’ll need a valid work visa, and you’ll need to apply for this before entering the UK.

Disclaimer #1: I’ve summarised the info here to give you a quick overview, but make sure you read all the fine print on the gov.uk website yourself. I’m not the immigration department!


Option 1: You have British blood in your veins

All you lucky people in this category probably already know that you’re able to live and work in the UK with very few restrictions – you may not need a visa to visit or work, and you can stay as long as you like.

Right of Abode: if you’re a Commonwealth citizen and one of your parents was a British citizen when you were born you won’t need a visa to live or work in the UK. Just waltz right in an make yourself at home.

UK Ancestry Visa: if you’re a Commonwealth citizen, planning to work in the UK and one of your grandparents was born in the UK, you can apply for a 5 year visa. Plus, you can apply to extend your stay or to settle permanently in the UK afterwards, bonus!


Option 2: You’re not from good British stock

No invitations to any royal weddings for us common folk, and they don’t want us dallying around too long either.

Most short term job seekers will come over on a working-holiday visa, more formally known as the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, so the rest of this post will focus on the ins and outs of applying for one of these.

If you don’t meet the eligibility criteria (e.g. you just turned 31 – I’m so sorry for your loss haha) then your next best option may be the Tired 2 General Work visa.

Disclaimer #2: The requirements change all the time, so for the most up to date info be sure to head to the gov.uk website. Don’t rely on this post alone.


What is the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa?

It’s a visa that allows you to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years. During that time you can come and go from the UK as many times as you like, perfect for jet-setting around Europe!

You can’t get public funds (so no bludging on social benefits), can’t bring someone with you (any friends or family will need to apply for their own visa), can’t work as a professional sports person (gotta stick to your day job unfortunately), and can’t extend your stay, no matter how much you love being here. You can however apply for “sponsorship” via the Tier 2 General Work visa to stay and work longer after your 2 years, but this is a separate process not covered here. Check the gov.uk website for more details.


Am I eiligible for the Youth Mobility Visa?

This visa works on a points based system. You need at least 50 points to be eligible to apply:

  • 10 points if you’re aged 18-30 years (you’re allowed to turn 31 while you’re away, just get the visa application in before your 30th birthday)
  • 10 points if you have £1890 in savings (you need to factor in the exchange rate at the time of your application, but at the time of writing this equals about $3700 Aussie dollarydoos)
  • 30 points if you’re from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea or Taiwan.

Basically, this is a complicated way of saying you’re eligible if you’re from one of the above listed countries, fit the age bracket, and have the money in the bank.

You’ll also need a current passport with at least 1 page blank on both sides for your visa.

You can’t apply if:

  • You have children who live with you
  • You have children you’re financially responsible for
  • You’ve already been in the UK on some sort of working holiday visa
  • You’re in the UK


When should I apply for my Visa?

The process doesn’t take too long, but I made it the second job on your list as it’s kind of important to be able to enter the UK to be able to work there (could really muck up the rest of your plans if you’re not approved!)

The good news is that you can set the date you wish your visa to start, which is a really handy idea if you’d like to get some travel in before you start working. However, the earliest you can apply is 6 months before you intend to enter the UK.

For example, I planned to do a bit of travel around Europe before I started working, but didn’t want to waste my precious 24 months. I completed my application in September, arrived on a tourist visa in London in December, did some travelling, then re-entered the UK in February on my work visa.

If, on the other hand, you’re a last minute kind of person, you should allow 15 working days for your visa to be processed.

You can check the waiting times on visa applications here.

You can also pay extra for a priority processing service if you’re really in a hurry. Supposedly this takes 3-5 days.


How much does the visa cost?

Be prepared to fork out a fair bit of cash:

  • £235 application fee
  • £300 healthcare surcharge – this contributes to the National Health Service (NHS), the public health system in the UK, in case you end up in hospital while you’re here
  • A few other sneaky little fees here and there that I’ll outline on the next page


Where do I start?

If after reading through all of this and the uk.gov website you think you’re still up for it, head to the next page where I’ll walk you through step-by-step what you will need to do to get permission to enter the UK on a Youth Mobility Visa.


> A step-by-step guide to applying for your youth mobility visa.

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