I’m going to speak frankly this week, expat to expat, in case you’re making a UK relocation and could face similar issues. As the title “Visa Realities for a UK Relocation” would imply, my topic relates to visas, which has every bit as much to do with working in the UK as it does moving there to begin with. Whether you’re relocating for your own work or with a spouse or partner, however, impacts the nature of the issues you could face. Today, let’s look at the profile of the Tier 2 visa holder…
Student visas are one matter, work-permit ones another. With the now effectively nonexistent Tier 1 visa, the reality for making a UK relocation happen for most expats pretty much hinges on finding a job here that will sponsor you. Easier said than done. If you’re being asked to transfer or want to and can possibly negotiate it with your employer, great—pursue that, and your company will sponsor your Tier 2 visa. There are no limitations to such. There is a finite amount, however, allocated to corporate-sponsored visas not related to employee transfers; that is, if you are hired for a new job in the UK.
In the case of finding new work in the UK, to start, be aware that you’re effectively being hired as a local so likely won’t benefit from much of an expat package—the art of negotiation will determine what perqs you could get, but you might have a bit less leverage (see my earlier post “Relocating to London: Negotiating an Expat Package with Your Employer” for some considerations—though, mind you, there could be some benefits to not getting that support! See link here).
Beyond that, it’s also critical to understand that UK employers face the burden of proving to the UK government that the position was also open to UK and EU candidates and that such candidates were legitimately deemed less qualified for the position than you. You can understand, then, why employers might be reluctant to hire outside of UK and EU citizens when there’s a talented pool of professionals locally and it’s the path of least resistance. There’s no fast and easy answer to this. My best advice is to network like mad and register with recruiters in your field, if not approach relevant companies directly. Take some time to visit the UK to arrange meetings as well; good face-to-face impressions could ultimately lead to interviews that could ultimately lead to a UK relocation.
When you’ve proven to that UK employer that you are indeed that rare and unique snowflake deserving of the role, first of all, congrats! You can now initiate your UK relocation. If you’re hoping to be in for the long haul, note that you must live in the UK five years in order to apply for permanent residency, and then another year for citizenship (which requires passing an examination as well that isn’t for the faint of heart). Regardless of your goals, the short-term stretch of a UK relocation for all non-EU expats is all about the visa. So if you want to stay on at least a couple years or so, hold on to that job and hope the position (or company itself) will remain stable, or else ensure you can find another employer willing to sponsor you, as your Tier 2 visa is contingent on that sponsorship.
Take nothing for granted in those first five years, folks. A UK relocation is a beautiful thing, but there are a lot of variables involved that could make it less than a sure thing, especially now that the safety net of the Tier 1 visa is a thing of the past. Stay tuned tomorrow when I speak from the perspective of those involved in a UK relocation as a spouse or partner.