Moving to the UK: Relocation Guide

While moving or relocating employees to the UK may seem like a significant challenge, armed with the right information, the relocation process can be surprisingly manageable. This is where our guide to the UK comes into play, offering insights and practical advice to navigate UK visa and work permits, as well as settle in the country, and more.

With Brexit impacting the job market, skilled workers are in high demand in the United Kingdom, particularly in industries like Fintech and E-commerce. From a cultural perspective the UK's cultural diversity is a cornerstone of its society. Expats can enjoy the country’s world-class museums, art galleries, and theatres, ensuring there's always something exciting to explore.

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Moving to the UK: Relocation Guide
Moving to the UK employee relocation guide - visa extempt

Who is exempt from a UK visa?

Do your employees fall into these categories? If yes, they don't need a UK work visa and they can focus just on settle-in admin after arrival).

  • Swiss Nationals

Citizens in Switzerland have the right to work in the UK without needing a work visa.

  • Irish Nationals

Irish citizens enjoy a special status in the UK due to the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangement, which allows them to live and work in the UK without restrictions.

  • Certain Overseas Territories Citizens

Citizens of British Overseas Territories with a connection to the UK, such as Gibraltar, may have special provisions allowing them to work in the UK.

  • Dependents of UK Citizens or Residents

Certain family members of UK citizens or individuals with settled status in the UK may be exempt from work visa requirements.

  • Individuals covered by International Agreements

Some individuals may be exempt from work visa requirements under specific international agreements, such as diplomats, representatives of international organizations, and certain foreign government officials.

  • Certain categories of short-term workers

Some short-term work activities, such as certain types of business visitors, entertainers, athletes, may be exempt from the need for a work visa depending on the specific circumstances and duration of the activity.

Further useful resource: International employee relocation checklist for UK employers

What are the types of work visas in the UK?

Moving to the UK: Sponsorship license

Sponsorship license

The UK Sponsorship License system is designed to regulate and monitor the employment of skilled workers from outside the EEA and Switzerland, ensuring that UK employers meet certain standards and that sponsored workers are employed in accordance with UK immigration laws.

Having this license enables employers like yours to issue to prospective employees Certificates of Sponsorship (CoS) through the online Sponsorship Management System (SMS). CoS are necessary for migrant workers to apply for a work visa to come to the UK. To obtain the UK Sponsorship License, organizations must apply to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), which is part of the Home Office. What the application process involves can be found here.

Further useful resource: UK Sponsor Licence Checklist

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How to apply for a UK visa?

Before making a visa appointment, it is important that the organization has done due diligence and can provide evidence of the employee’s right to work in the UK. Doing this beforehand ensures employees and organizations prepare all the right documents for a smoother application process. Many UK work visa applications require evidence of the applicant’s right to work in the UK and this may be part of the appointment process.

To complete a right-to-work check, employees need to follow this link and generate a share code with your organization on the UK government website. This will give you information on what work they are allowed to do, and how long they can stay in the UK.

Moving to the UK: Booking UK visa appointments

Booking UK visa appointments

After submitting their application, employees will need to provide ‘biometrics’ and supporting documents. The appointment provider will offer a range of additional paid services — including document reviews. These are completely optional. It is important to note that the processing time of their application will start from the date of this appointment. This is because their application is only validated once their biometric information and documents have been submitted.

What language skills do you need for a UK visa?

For all visa applications from outside  the UK, it is good practice to be aware of the UK’s document requirements. For some visas, your employees may be required to meet the English language requirements. On the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale, they must be able to prove they can read, write, speak and understand English to at least level B1. They can prove their knowledge by:

  • Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider.
  • Having a GCSE, A-Level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that employees began when they were under 18.
  • Having a degree-level academic qualification that was taught in English. If your employees studied abroad, they’ll need to apply through Ecctis for confirmation that their qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or PhD.

Citizens of some countries are exempt from proving their knowledge of the English language. The full list of exemptions can be found here.

What language skills do you need for a UK visa?
Translation  & certification of documents

Translation & certification of documents

All documents which are submitted as part of any visa application should be in English. If, for any reason, any document is not in English, then to validate the application, they need to be translated into English alongside a certified verification of a true copy of the original. This copy needs to be signed and dated by a professional, such as a solicitor.

As part of the UK visa process, documents must be certified by a professional or someone well respected in the community. For example:

  • Bank official
  • Solicitor or notary
  • Professional individuals, such as accountants or medical practitioners
  • Post office officials

To save time and prevent delays, it’s important for the individual certifying the document to provide full details of their full name, professional capacity, contact details and date of certification on each page of the document. Individuals who do not qualify to certify documents include anyone related to the applicant, living at the same address or in a relationship with them.

Recognizing qualifications

Depending on the type of UK visa being applied for, employees will need to verify their qualifications with you as their employer. This includes:

  • Documentation to verify qualifications, including academic transcripts, diplomas, certificates or professional qualifications. All of these must be genuine and relevant to the job role.
  • Verify that the qualifications held are recognized by relevant authorities or professional bodies in the UK. Certain professions may require specific accreditation or recognition for the qualifications to be accepted.
  • The document verification process is important to maintain a record of the qualifications reviewed and any steps taken to verify their authenticity and recognition. This is particularly important for the visa application process and compliance purposes.
Recognizing qualifications
Is health insurance mandatory for a UK visa?

Is health insurance mandatory for a UK visa?

Individuals applying for a work visa in the UK are typically required to have health insurance in the UK. However, the specific requirements vary depending on the type of work visa and individual circumstances. For most work visas, as part of their application, employees are generally required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). The IHS grants access to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK during their stay. 

For the Temporary Worker Visa, health insurance requirements do vary depending on the subcategory and circumstances. While health insurance is not always explicitly required, it is recommended that your employees consider getting additional cover or insurance.

It is important to note that while the IHS provides access to the NHS healthcare in the UK, it may not cover all expenses and all treatments are not always available on the NHS.

Moving to the UK with family

How can you bring your family to the UK?

How can you bring your family to the UK?

The ability to bring family members to the UK depends on the specific visa category and the circumstances of the visa holder. For most working visas, not including the Temporary Worker Visa, individuals can bring their spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, and dependent children with them to the UK. These family members would typically need to apply for a dependent visa, which allows them to live and work in the UK for the same duration as the main visa holder. There are some exceptions depending on the type of working visa and the profession talents are undertaking. More detailed information can be found here.

For the Temporary Worker Visa, certain categories may be eligible to bring their family members as dependents. However, this does depend on the specific subcategory of the visa.

It is important to note that family members applying for dependent visas must meet certain criteria, including:

✅ Having a relationship to the main visa holder

✅ Evidence of financial support

✅ Meeting English language requirements

For more detailed information, particularly regarding the sub categories of visas, your employees should go to the UK Visas and Immigration guidance website.

Can you move your pets to the UK?

It is possible for employees to bring their pets with them to the UK. However, there are specific requirements and regulations that need to be followed. The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows dogs, cats, and ferrets to travel into the UK without quarantine, provided they meet certain criteria:

  • Microchipping: All pets traveling to the UK must be microchipped with an ISO 11784/11785 compliant 15-digit pet microchip. This must be implanted before the pet receives its rabies vaccination.
  • Rabies vaccination and antibody test, particularly for dogs. The test must be done at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination. There is a ‘wait period’ of 21 days after the blood sample is taken before entering the UK. 
  • Dogs traveling to the UK must be treated for tapeworms by a vet 24-120 hours before entering the UK. The treatment must be administered by a licensed veterinarian and documented in the pet’s health certificate.
  • Pet Health Certificate: all pets must be accompanied by an official health certificate completed by a licenced vet in the country of origin within 10 days of travel to the UK.
Can you move your pets to the UK?

How do you get settled in the UK?

Once your employee arrives in the UK, they’re required to register with the police, get a BRP card, and a National Insurance number. Below we share more information on each.

Register with the police

As per the Home Office’s policy guidance, they can request that your employees register with the local police force when they are in the UK. When receiving their visa your employees will know if they need to take this step if, they have one of the following in their passport and on their visa stamp:

  • Pol Reg
  • Pol Registration
  • Police Registration within 7 days of UK Entry
  • Police Registration within 7 days of arrival in the UK

For employees to find the police force responsible for their local area, they can find them on the police website by inserting their UK postcode.

What is a BRP card

A BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) card is an essential document issued by the UK Home Office once employees are granted permission to stay in the UK for more than 6 months, either as part of their visa application or as an extension of their existing visa or immigration status. It serves as evidence of an individual’s immigration status, as well as their right to reside, work, or study in the UK. It includes biometric information. 

Your employees will be issued their biometric card within 10 days of arriving in the UK from a designated post office branch or a specified location. If an extension is applied for from within the UK, people usually receive instructions on how to collect this after the application has been approved.

The BRP card plays a crucial role in confirming the individual’s immigration status. It is up to the employee to keep the BRP card safe and up-to-date, as it may be required for various purposes, including employment, travel, and accessing public services in the UK.

National Insurance

Everyone who wants to work in the UK must have a National Insurance (NI) number. To obtain one, they must be over 16 and resident in Great Britain or Northern Ireland. The NI number in the UK is made up of two letters, six numbers, and a final letter, and it is unique to the individual throughout their life. This number is for the UK Social Security and helps HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) make sure that your employees' tax and NI contributions are recorded against their name.

How to get a UK National Insurance number

Once employees have their BRP card, they should have details of their NI number and should not have to reapply for one. If there are issues with obtaining a NI number or if employees are traveling with their partner or spouse who does not have one, they can go to the government website and apply.

Finding accommodation when moving to the UK

Finding accommodation when moving to the UK

Having suitable accommodation arranged in the UK is an important aspect of the application process for work visas. While it is not explicitly required to have this whilst applying, your employees will need to provide an address where they will be staying in the UK during the process. 

Employers sponsoring individuals for work visas may sometimes provide assistance or guidance in finding suitable accommodation. You may also provide a letter of support confirming that accommodation arrangements have been made or assisting in securing housing. 

After arriving in the UK, individuals are required to register their address with the relevant authorities, such as the local council or police. This is a legal requirement and may be necessary for certain visa categories.

In order to support housing search in the UK, we partner with a selected group of providers offering both furnished and unfurnished rental options. Our recommendation would be to start with a furnished apartment for the first 2-4 months after arrival. That way employees can deal with the required paperwork of the last steps of their process, and find out in which area they would like to live.
For a full list of our partners – not just for housing, but also banking, insurance, and more, please check this resource. Global Mobility teams working with us have the option to offer these services to their talent directly in the Localyze platform.

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