How Can an IT Professional Relocate to the UK? Visas Leading to Indefinite Leave to Remain Under Review

The UK is taking pains to become a world’s high-tech leader. All spheres, from healthcare to commerce, from oil industry to police, are being digitalised. In the medium term, the UK has ambitious plans to rival the Silicon Valley and turn into a mecca for IT professionals from all over the world.

One of the challenges that the British government is currently facing is to make immigration into the UK comfortable and attractive for highly qualified professionals and experts from around the world. The UK immigration laws are constantly advancing to achieve this goal. If you work in IT and have long been thinking about relocating to the UK, the time has come to leave aside the dreams and begin to act.

Visa Categories for Immigration of IT Professionals into the UK

This article looks at the ways an IT professional may choose to immigrate in the UK. At large, they can be divided into two groups: employment and setting up your own business (a start-up). The latter includes studying in the UK followed by getting a job.

Here is the list of visa categories for relocation and work in the UK:

  1. UK Skilled Worker visa;
  2. UK Intra-company visas;
  3. UK Global Talent visa;
  4. UK Student visa;
  5. UK Business visas;
  6. UK Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

UK Skilled Worker Visa

Obviously, the first thing to cross your mind is to get a UK company operating in IT or any other flourishing business area for an employer. Rather conveniently, job interviews can be held online and you only have to attend the final one. By the way, it is a good idea to consider not only London, but also other cities as a destination.

For example, in 2020, Manchester became the fastest-growing tech hub in Europe. Obviously, they are in constant need of subject matter specialists. IT professionals might also have a glance at Dublin, Bristol, Belfast and other agglomerations.

UK Skilled Worker Visa Details

The most important thing you need to know about the UK Skilled Worker visa is that first you find an employer and only then you apply for the visa. In other words, if you are going to visit the UK to look for a job, you will not be able to get this visa.

You can apply for a UK Skilled Worker visa provided you have a job offer. Besides, your employer must be authorised to hire foreign specialists and have a UK sponsor licence. They will issue a certificate of sponsorship for you with your salary, which must be equal to or higher than the minimum one for your job, on it.

Later on you can only work for the business that has sent you a job invitation. If you want to get a job with another company, you must inform the Home Office and update your visa.

How Long You Can Stay in the UK on a UK Skilled Worker Visa

A UK Skilled Worker visa is valid for up to five years depending on the term of your contract. You can extend it provided there still are legal grounds for this. But if you have lived in the UK throughout the five years, you can pass to the next immigration step and apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). And in a year you may be eligible for UK citizenship.

UK Intra-company Visas

There is a little more serpentine way of relocating to the UK for an IT professional: to get a job with an international company in their home country, prove yourself and get an intra-company transfer. With the specific nature of the area, you can work remotely. What you need is to be on the staff. Besides, there are branch offices of nearly all large international companies, not to mention a great number of smaller ones.

There are two types of UK Intra-company visas:

  • Intra-company Transfer visa – for permanent employees. You need to have worked at least 12 months in the company to be eligible for it. You are an exception if you are paid over £73,900 per year. Thus you can be transferred more quickly;
  • Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa – for interns at the head office. You can apply for it if you have worked for the company just for three months.

Similarly to the UK Skilled Worker visa, an employer must have permission to hire foreign specialists and issue a certificate of sponsorship – the latter is an electronic record, not a physical document.

UK Intra-company Visas Details

On a UK Intra-company visa, you must work at the company that sent you a job invitation. However, you can take on additional work for up to 20 hours a week in the same job or in a job from the shortage occupations list.

How Long You Can Stay in the UK on UK Intra-company Visas

A UK Intra-company Transfer visa is issued for up to five years. You can extend it provided you are paid over £73,900 a year. A UK Intra-company Graduate Trainee visa is a short-term visa and is issued for up to a year.

These UK work visa categories are not for immigration and do not lead to ILR. In other words, they will not give you the right to settle in the UK. However, you will get a nice opportunity to come to the UK, take a look around and find a suitable option.

UK Global Talent Visa

As we have already mentioned, the UK government is putting a lot of effort into attracting highly qualified talents to the country. Those are who the UK Global Talent visa is aimed at. You can apply for a Global Talent visa to work in the UK if you’re a leader or potential leader in one of the following fields:

  • Academia and research;
  • Arts and culture;
  • Digital technology.

The last point is exactly what is useful for IT professionals. A UK Global Talent visa is divided into two categories:

  • Exceptional talent – for recognised leaders in the field;
  • Exceptional promise – for emerging leaders.

In order to obtain this visa, you must prove that you are a leader or a potential leader in the digital technology field. You may include your diplomas and awards, evidence of your participation in recognised conferences, teaching your own courses, any innovation you have created etc. in your package of evidence. Besides, you will need to provide letters of recommendation from UK and international companies.

UK Global Talent Visa Details

Unlike a UK Skilled Worker visa, a UK Global Talent visa will give a much wider range of opportunities. You can work wherever you want – or nowhere, study, run a business and even rely on public funds, which is prohibited for nearly all the other visa categories.

How Long You Can Stay in the UK on a UK Global Talent Visa

A UK Global Talent visa is issued for up to five years and can be extended as many times as you like. Moreover, you can apply for ILR in three years, instead of the standard five-year period. The next step may be UK citizenship.

Upon the whole, this visa category is among the best for an IT professional to immigrate into the UK.

UK Student Visa

A UK Student visa is not a very obvious way for an IT professional to relocate to the UK and settle here, but still a quite workable one. Sometimes this roundabout way is more promising than the obvious, but complicated UK Skilled Worker visa route. What is meant here is obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or a PhD in the relevant field in the UK.

In order to get a UK Student visa you need to have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor authorised to accept foreign students. As a rule, there is a tuition fee.  However, under certain circumstances you might get a grant or a scholarship, which will cover the expenses.

UK Student Visa Details

You cannot work full-time while you are studying – only part-time jobs are permitted. Thus, at the beginning, you will need funds anyway: to pay for your course and/or cover your living expenses.

How Long You Can Stay in the UK on a UK Student Visa

A UK Student visa is issued for the period of your course. It is not an immigration category, meaning it is not a route to settlement in the UK. However, the time you spent in the UK on this visa is counted if you apply for ILR on the grounds of having stayed in the UK for 10 years. But this is not the reason why we have mentioned it here.

The point is that the British authorities are willing to keep promising young people educated in the UK within the country. This is what the UK Graduate Route visa was designed for.

On this visa you will be able to stay in the UK for two more years to find a job. Obviously, it is much easier to do that from inside the UK, especially with a UK degree. During all this time you can be self-employed or work as a volunteer. Once you have found an employer, you will have to get through the stages described above to get a UK Skilled Worker visa.

UK Business Immigration – UK Start-up Visa, UK Innovator Visa

Not only highly qualified professionals, but also entrepreneurs having viable business ideas are welcome in the UK. Innovations and start-ups related to computer technologies are favoured.

This is why we consider UK business visas a lovely opportunity for foreign IT professional to immigrate into the UK. Not everyone can work as an employee because of their nature; there are a lot of people who would love to develop their own products. And it is wise to do this in the UK well-developed, stable and resilient business environment.

UK business visas are of two types:

  • UK Start-up visa – for newcomers;
  • UK Innovator visa – for experienced entrepreneurs who have established a flourishing business.

In both cases you are supposed to have a business plan, which is submitted to an endorsing body. If your business plan is approved, you will get an endorsement letter, which is fundamental for obtaining a UK business visa.

Your business plan must meet the following criteria:

  1. Progressive – whether the product or service makes use of modern technologies and digital solutions that have not been presented in the market before;
  2. Profitable – whether there are any evidence that the product will be competitive enough and in demand;
  3. Viable – whether an entrepreneur is planning to develop their business in the long run, open new offices or shops, create jobs and convert their business into a regional, national or even international company.

Besides, it will be useful to collect evidence that you can actually live your ideas out. Even if you are applying for a UK Start-up visa and have little experience, you might provide evidence of your successful projects at school or at university.

UK Start-up and Innovator Visas Details

Since we are talking about UK business visas, you will have to make investments. What is meant here is the money necessary to set up your business. It is usually calculated and stated in the business plan.

There is one important difference: the minimum invest for a UK Start-up visa does not exist, but the one for a UK Innovator visa is £50,000. You do not necessarily have to invest your own funds though – you may find an investor or a venture capital fund to support you.

Besides, if you are establishing a big enterprise that requires a lot of investment at the first stage, other investors may participate. In this case each of them must invest at least £50,000.

How Long You Can Stay in the UK on UK Start-up and Innovator Visas

There is also a great difference between the time you can stay in the UK on each of the two UK business visas. The UK Start-up visa is issued for two years, cannot be extended and is not an immigration route, so you won’t be eligible for ILR. But when it is expired, you can switch to the UK Innovator visa, provided your project has proved successful.

As for a UK Innovator visa, it does not only make you eligible for ILR in the UK, but also gives you the right to apply for it in three years, instead of the standard five-year period. If this is not your goal, you can just extend it for three years more – provided that your company keeps operating successfully.

UK Representative of an Overseas Business Visa

A UK Sole Representative visa is an ideal solution for top managers and minority shareholders of foreign IT companies, which is going to enter the international market and therefore set up a branch in the UK. An office in the UK is not just a way to scale your business, but also a toehold for the head of the subsidiary.

You will need to submit a set of constituent instruments of the parent company. No endorsement letter is required, and a minimum investment does not exist.

One of the top managers of the parent company is supposed to establish and run a new subsidiary. Actually, this person is going to be the sole representative for whom a visa will be issued. When it comes to the IT, logically, it will be a senior responsible for big projects.

UK Representative of an Overseas Business Visa Details

To apply for a UK Sole Representative visa you cannot be the sole owner of the parent company or hold more than 50% of its shares. At the same time you must have decision-making rights. This is ideal for large holding and limited companies with a lot of top managers.

Processing of a UK Sole Representative visa is full of intricacies, so it would be a good idea to get in touch with experienced immigration advisors, who will help you to develop the right strategy and collect the necessary documents.

How Long You Can Stay in the UK on a UK Representative of an Overseas Business Visa

First UK Sole Representative visa is valid for three years and can be extended for another two years; then you can extend it every two years. You can apply to settle once you have been in the UK for five years and you comply with all the requirements. In a year you can apply for UK citizenship.

Immigration into the UK for IT Professionals: What is the Best Option?

We have covered all the main UK immigration routes for IT professionals. Of course, this does not only apply to developers, but also to related specialists: product managers, project managers, systems analysts, business analysts, database engineers, web designers and so on.

At the end of the day, these tips might be useful even for those whose jobs have nothing to do with digital at all. IT-related background is supposed to be the most convenient for relocation: speaking English by default, working for foreign clients, good financial terms. Nevertheless, other specialists also might be interested in relocating abroad and be able to find nice options. Anyway, immigration into the UK is a matter of commitment, which is necessary to achieve any goal.

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