UK Tier 2 visas

To live and work in the UK, South Africans need a UK Tier 2 visa. From 31 December 202 this will change to a Skilled Worker visa. There are three types of visas in this category – the Tier 2 (General) visa, Intra-company Transfer visa or a Sole Representative visa – the one you need depends on your circumstances. To be eligible for any of them, you must first secure a job offer for skilled position in the UK and satisfy the strict requirements.

Work in the UK

What is a UK Tier 2 visa?

South Africans with a job offer from a UK-based company must apply for a UK Tier 2 visa to move to the UK. This visa lets you live and work in the UK for up to five years. There are a few requirements and restrictions that you must meet to qualify for a work visa.

UK work visa requirements

You can apply for this visa if you’ve been offered a short- or long-term skilled job in the UK and your employer is willing to sponsor you. You must also be from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

Getting a job in the UK

You can find a list of all the occupations that are in demand in the UK on the UK Shortage Occupation List. Certain jobs in industries such as engineering and healthcare are in such high demand that these applications are often fast-tracked.

It is possible to get a job even if your occupation is not on the shortage list, but before your employer can offer you the job, they must show that the role cannot be filled by a qualified UK resident. The post must also be advertised for no less than 28 days. Once these requirements have been met, your employer can offer the job to you.

Keep up to date on how Brexit is going to affect these work visa requirements, and how this could benefit South Africans looking to work in the UK

How does the application process work?

The Tier 2 visa works on a points-based system

You’ll earn points for the following criteria:

Tier 2 visa application for South Africans

Applying for your Tier 2 visa is a three-step process:

  1. Your employer applies for a Tier 2 sponsorship licence
    Your employer will apply for a sponsorship licence with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Your employer must also show that there isn’t a suitable UK resident worker eligible for the position.

  2. Certificate of sponsorship
    Once your UK employer has a sponsorship licence, they must apply for a certificate of sponsorship (COS). You can apply for your Tier 2 visa when a COS has been assigned.

  3. Apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa
    Your visa application must include your COS number and evidence that shows you meet the requirements of the Tier 2 visa.

Other types of work visas

UK Sole Representative visa

South Africans who hold a senior position in their company can apply for a Sole Representative visa. This visa lets you act as the sole representative of a UK-based company and apply for the Representative of an Overseas Business visa. It is valid for three years.

How it works

To be eligible for this visa, you must prove that the company you wish to represent requires a sole overseas representative. 

You must also:

Depending on which passport you hold, you may need to prove your knowledge of the English language. 

This is done by:

Any family member that wants to join you in the UK must apply for a visa in the UK Family visa category. This can be a UK dependant visa or a UK spouse visa or partner visa.

Extending your Sole Representative visa

If you want to remain in the UK after your initial Sole Representative visa expires, you will need to apply for an extension. This will allow you to live in the UK for a further two years.

You must include your dependents on your visa extension application. Your spouse or partner will need to apply for an extension before their visa expires.

Once you’ve lived in the UK for five years and been employed by the same company, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residency.

Intra-company transfers

This visa allows senior executives from an overseas-based company to transfer to their UK office.

To qualify for this visa, you must: