Comprehensive Guide to UK Visa Types in 2022

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The UK immigration system has changed a lot in recent years and the rules for getting a UK visa have become more complicated. In our comprehensive guide to UK visas, we’ll go through all the different UK visa types and how the new system works!

Coming to the UK

The UK has always been very open to immigration from all over the world. According to the Office of National Statistics, around 6 million people living in the UK are of non-British nationality. People from all over the globe have managed to make a success of moving to the UK and achieving their goals! So if you’re planning on moving, read on to find out what’s changed and how the UK visa system works!

Read our Settle in the UK Guide!

UK Visas: What’s Changed?

Since the UK left the European Union, a lot of the immigration rules and regulations have changed for those coming from Europe. Unlike before where EU and EEA citizens could come to the UK and work legally with just their passport, now people coming from Europe will require a visa to be able to work or study.

What is the EEA? The EEA is the European Economic Area, or sometimes referred to as the Single Market. It is a free-trade area that includes both European Union members and EFTA members (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein). Within the EEA, there is free movement of labour but greater restrictions on residence. The UK left the EEA along with leaving the EU.

What Is the Points-Based System?

question mark

One of the major changes that has been made to the UK visa system was the introduction of a points-based system. This means that people coming to the UK from abroad will need to have a minimum number of points in order to enter the UK for work.

The points system awards a number of points to certain qualifications and your English level to determine whether you have a right to work in the UK. Some of the characteristics are mandatory while others are tradeable to build up to the minimum number of points.

You need to have at least 70 points in order to have the right to work in the UK:

UK Points-Based System
Characteristics Mandatory? Points
Job Offer Yes 20
Job at Skill Level Yes 20
English at B1 Level Yes 10
Salary £20,480 to £23,039 No, tradeable 0
Salary £23,040 to £25,599 No, tradeable 10
Salary £25,600 No, tradeable 20
Job in Shortage No, tradeable 20
PhD in a Relevant Subject No, tradeable 10
PhD in a STEM Field No, tradeable 20

Source: UK Government

Do I Need a UK Visa?

man thinking

In general, if you are only going to visit the UK for less than 6 months, you will not need a visa in order to enter. However, it is possible if you come from certain countries that you will need to get a Standard Visitors visa in order to stay in the UK.

If you are planning on staying longer than 6 months for either work or study, you will most likely need a visa in order to enter the UK. You’ll need a UK visa if you want the right to rent and the right to work in the UK.

Do EU Citizens Need a Visa?

Before Brexit, people with EU citizenship were able to live, work or study in the UK without restrictions. Since the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, European and EEA citizens now face the same system as people coming from the rest of the world. If you are only coming for less than 6 months, you will not need a UK visa.

What UK Visa Types Are There?

magnifying glass over visa

There are many different UK visa types available for all sorts of different circumstances. The type of UK visa you’ll need will depend on three main factors:

  • Where you’re coming from
  • What you plan on doing
  • How long you want to stay

Here’s a list of the common UK visa types that are available:

  1. Skilled Worker Visa
  2. Student Visa
  3. Standard Visitor Visa
  4. Family Visa
  5. Transit Visa

Skilled Worker Visa

man holding a spanner

If you want to come to the UK to work, you’ll need to get the Skilled Worker visa to legally have a job. With a Skilled Worker visa, you can stay in the UK for up to 5 years after which you can apply to extend it.

If you have at least 70 points on the points-based system, you’ll be eligible to apply for the visa. The Skilled Worker visa favours mostly highly skilled workers or workers coming to help with a labour shortage.

The most important requirement in order to apply for a Skilled Worker visa is to have a job offer from a licensed sponsor as well as a certificate of sponsorship, and your employer will need to send the final application at least four weeks before you begin working.

To complete the process you’ll need:

  • A valid passport from your home country.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Proof of B1 English Knowledge
  • Documentations of all degrees, references and qualifications.
  • Previous work permits if applicable.
  • Your entry visa.
  • Any documents should be officially translated into English.

You will also need to fulfil the minimum salary requirements. This can be a little complicated since the minimum salary depends on the type of job offer you get. In general, the minimum salary requirement are:

  1. £10.15 an hour
  2. £25,600 a year
  3. At least the ‘going rate’

What is the ‘going rate'? The going rate is the standard annual salary that is paid in a given profession. The government sets the going rate for each industry, calculated from a 39-hour work week. Your job offer will need to be at least the going rate for you to be able to work in the UK.

For example, if you want to work as an Electrical Engineer, you will need to have a salary either equal to or more than £37,000 (£18.24 per hour). If the job offer is under this going rate, you won’t meet the minimum salary requirements.

You can look up the requirements using the occupation code that is set to each job role.

Student Visa

female student using laptop

If you want to pursue your higher education in the UK as a student, either for a long-term degree or a postgraduate course, you will need to get a Student visa. With a Student visa, you’ll be able to stay in the UK until your course ends but if you are over 18, the visa is normally valid for 5 years.

Firstly, you have to apply to the course you want to study through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Do research on the courses you’re interested in before applying so you know for certain that’s the one you want to complete. You should also get a recommendation from a teacher or professor who knows you.

To get a Student visa, you will need to also have:

  • Place offered at a university
  • Money to support yourself and for your course
  • B1 level of English

You can apply for the Student visa up to 3 months before your course starts and it usually takes around 8 weeks to get a response.

Renting as a foreign student If you get a student visa, you will be able to legally rent a property in the UK without any issues. However, some landlords might ask you to have a guarantor who will cover your rent payments in case you fall short one year.

Check out our full Guarantor guide to find out more!

Standard Visitor Visa

man with backpack

Many people around the world won’t need a visa in order to visit the UK. If you’re only coming for under 6 months, you should double check the requirements on your nationality as to whether you need a Standard Visitor visa.

You will need to have the following information ready in order to apply for the Standard Visitor visa:

  • Dates of your visit
  • Where you’ll be staying
  • How much your trip will cost
  • Passport information

You might also need to have your fingerprints taken at a visa application centre in your country. You will usually get an answer on your Visitor visa application within 3 to 6 weeks.

A few of the Gulf countries, such as Kuwait, Oman, UAE and Qatar, can pay for an electronic visa waiver for only £30. This is all that’s needed for visits of less than 6 months.

Family Visa

world in hands

A Family visa is necessary if you want to join a family member in the UK for longer than 6 months. A Family visa can be used to join your spouse, partner, parent or child who is currently living in the UK.

In order to qualify for a Family visa, you will need to prove:

  • Your relationship to the person living in the UK
  • Your level of English
  • That you have enough money to support yourself

Once your application is approved, you’ll be able to work and study in the UK but you will not usually be able to receive benefits.

Transit Visa

If you’re passing through the UK in transit and not intending to stay, you might need to get a Transit visa. You can apply for a transit visa if you’re only going to be in the UK for a short period of time of 48 hours or less.


How Much Is a UK Visa?

The fee for a UK visa depends a lot on the type of visa you’re applying for and for how long you want to stay in the country. The fees can be quite steep so you should make sure you have enough money before deciding to apply for a visa.

UK Visa Fees
UK Visa Type Fee Period
Skilled Worker Visa £625 to £1,423 5 years
Student Visa £363 5 years
Standard Visitor Visa £100 to £837 6 months
Family Visa £1,048 to £3,250 Varies
Transit Visa £35 - £64 48 hours

Source: UK Government

The UK visa fee varies depending on whether you are applying for a visa inside or outside of the UK. In most cases, it is cheaper to apply from inside the UK than it is from outside, however sometimes it isn’t as straightforward. For example, if you are applying to switch to a Student visa inside the UK, you can expect to pay a higher fee of £490.

first aid kit

What’s the Healthcare Surcharge?

In some cases, you might need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge for your time in the UK. This is a fee that you have to pay for each year of your time in the UK to cover the costs of healthcare and to use the NHS.

The standard amount you’ll have to pay is around £624 for each year. This means if you are staying on a 5 year Skilled Worker Visa, you will need to pay £3,120 in order to start using the NHS.

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