Getting your UK working visa: 10 things you need to know

Getting your UK working visa: ten things you need to know

One of the first things to consider when planning to live and work in the UK is your Visa.  Working holiday Visas are an exciting rite of passage for many young Australians and New Zealanders, with over 35,000 visas available each year.   Choosing and applying for the right Visa for you can feel like a daunting task, with the constantly changing legislation and seemingly endless red tape and bureaucracy  – but it really doesn’t need to be if you do your homework, or get well-informed help.

Here are the 10 key things you should know:

1.  Working out which UK visa to choose.


In order to work legally in the UK, you need to get yourself a current UK work visa.  There are a variety of different working passport-dependent visas and work permits that will enable you to legally work in the UK,  each with its own eligibility requirements and restrictions.

You can find the full list of the different Visa options in our MyOE handbook.  You can also do this via the easy visa checker questionnaire on the website.

Probably the most common visa used by Australian and New Zealand visitors for a working holiday to the UK is the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) Visa.  This visa is for people aged 18-30 (up to the day before your 31st birthday), who want to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years and who have at least £1890 in savings.

2.  When should I apply?


For the Tier 5 YMS Visa, you can apply up to 6 months before your intended travel date. For the other UK visas, you can only apply 3 months before your travel date. You must provide an accurate and viable proposed travel date as part of your application, so you need to know this before you apply. You will be given a 30-day travel window that you must stick to if you don’t want to have to reapply for a change in circumstances.

3.  How long does the visa turnaround process take?


Most applications (YMS, Ancestry, Spouse etc) will be processed within six weeks in a Commonwealth country, but there is no guarantee. The sponsorship process is lengthy so, if you are applying for sponsorship, you should allow several months for the entire process to be complete.

It is strongly recommended that you don’t buy your plane ticket (however much you are itching to) until you have sorted out your visa if a working holiday is definitely your aim.

4.  How much does a UK visa cost?


The cost of visas can change from time to time and so is very much dependent on the date of your application.  There is some pricing advice here from the Home Affairs website, but as a guide:

  • The Tier 5 Visa is currently £235 to apply
  • The UK Ancestry Visa is currently £496 to apply

5.  Is it worth paying for a priority visa service?


All of the visa categories offer the option to pay an additional fee to fast-track the process. This means your visa application will be placed at the front of the processing queue and expedited.

This service does not, however, have any guarantees of success as all applications must meet the requirements of the UK immigration rules – and if your application is refused you don’t get a refund.

If you are going to incur a cost for a service such as this, it’s a very good idea to enlist the help of a visa expert first to make sure your application is in order.

6.  What will I need to have in order to complete my visa application?


  • A valid passport plus any other essential, related travel documents
  • A passport sized colour photo that adheres to the requirements
  • Evidence you can support yourself for the duration of your stay
  • A page in your passport that is blank on both sides for your visa
  • A confirmed appointment to be fingerprinted

7.  Can I apply for the visa by myself without assistance?


Yes, you absolutely can. If you have all your necessary supporting documentation ready, it is possible to do the online application from start to finish in about 30 minutes.

As part of the process you will need to know the start date for when you want the visa to begin, and once you have completed the online form you will be given the option to pick a time to attend your biometric appointment.

Here is the application link to the UK Visas and Immigration website.

8.  What is a biometric residence permit (BRP) and do I need one?


Any foreign national visiting the UK for more than six months, from a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), needs a BRP. This also applies if you start off on a short visa and then extend it beyond six months.

Standard biometric information consists of your fingerprints, a photo of your face and your signature. Your BRP will hold this information, plus your name, date and place of birth, your immigration status and conditions of your stay, and whether you can access public funds such as NHS services or benefits.

You don’t need to apply separately for your BRP, you’ll get one automatically if your visa is approved. To provide your biometric information, you will make an appointment to have your fingerprints and photo taken at a visa application centre. You must provide an accurate UK postcode as part of your application, as you will be designated a specific Post Office branch based on that information.

You will receive a letter with your passport and visa which provides these details. BRP’s must be collected from a post office within 10 days of arriving in the UK and this serves as proof of the right to work, study and access public services in the UK.  The entire appointment takes about 30-45 minutes – make sure you get there 15 minutes early.

9.  Some visa conditions worth a mention….


The Working Holiday visa is a multiple-entry visa so you can enter and exit the country as much as you like,
allowing for unlimited trips around Europe, as long as the visa is valid.

  • Do bear in mind that the Working Holiday Visa doesn’t stop counting down time when you leave the country for however long a period, and your leaving date cannot be changed regardless of how long you were in the UK.
  • Even if you turn 31 during your stay, the exit time does not change.
  • Your visa does not automatically grant you rights to UK public funds like unemployment benefits

10.  What happens when my visa ends and I want to stay?


In our experience this is a very common occurrence – young Aussie and Kiwi professionals come to the UK expecting to perhaps only to stay for a year or so, only to fall in love with UK life and want to stay longer.

One of the conditions of the Tier 5 Visa is that you must leave the UK at the end of the two-year period.  There is, however, the possibility for you to obtain sponsorship for a Tier 2 Visa, from an employer with whom you have already been working on your Tier 5 Visa.

This can be quite a complicated process, particularly for those whose occupation is not on the national shortage list, but is a very common transition for working holiday makers. A Tier 2 Visa limits you to only working for the employer who sponsors you.  Once successful with your sponsorship and after working continuously in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK after 5 years.

Contact us for an informal chat about which visa is right for you, how much it’s likely to cost and how long it will take. You could be in the UK faster than you think.

UK Move Handbook
My UK Move Handbook
Getting the right visa is just one of the many things you need to consider before embarking on a successful OE. This handy little book walks you through all the essential steps you need to get you from your home to your fantastic new job in the UK.
There are 5 comments
  1. Thanks for the terrific manual

  2. Thanks, it’s very informative

  3. Great info. Lucky me I found your blog by accident (stumbleupon).

    I have book-marked it for later!

  4. Thanks, it’s very informative

  5. Julie

    Im applying for tourist visa in uk. i just want to ask, i tried to book an appointment online but the problem is i cannot select the date and time. I dont know why. Is there anyway to help?! hehehe

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