Since moving to London, many people have asked me about the process of getting a visa and moving here. I’m hoping that this blog series that I’m embarking on will give you a good foundation for deciding whether or not this is the right move for you.
Please note that this information is current as of 18/08/2015. Please consult the gov.uk website for the most up to date visa information.
As a Canadian, the easiest path to make a crack into the UK market is through the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Visa. The requirements are none too stringent. You are eligible as long as you:
- are aged 18 to 30
- don’t have any children or dependents
- have £1,890 in savings
- have certain types of British Nationality or are from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong*, Republic of Korea*, and Taiwan*
- meet the other eligibility requirements
*You need to be sponsored if you’re from Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea or Taiwan.
A couple of things you should know about the visa:
- The visa is non-renewable – you can only apply for and be approved for this visa once, even if you have multiple nationalities. Once your 24 months is up, you must leave the country.
- The visa entitles to work or study in the UK.
- If you turn 31 while you’re in the UK, you can stay for as long as your visa is valid.
- Important: Note that the date you state in your application as your intended date of arrival is the date that your visa will begin. Make sure you time this appropriately to maximise the amount of time you’re working / studying in the UK so that you don’t waste time on your visa not in the country.
- It costs £244 to apply, and another £150 per year for students and £200 for all other individuals for the NHS healthcare surcharge. The health surcharge was recently introduced in March of 2015.
- All in, if you’re not using the visa to study, the visa will cost £644.
If you’re still reading, then that’s pretty much all you need to know. The documents you will need to have to apply are:
- a current passport or other valid travel ID
- a passport size colour photograph
- a bank statement showing you have at least £1,890 in savings
- your tuberculosis (TB) test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test
You’ll also need a page in your passport that’s blank on both sides for your visa, and you’ll need to provide a certified translation of any documents that aren’t in English or Welsh.
Finally, some practical notes from personal experience. Note that my application was before the health surcharge was enforced. I applied for the visa online and had to go in to the Toronto UK Visa Office subsequently to give biometrics and submit some of my documents in person – it was quite a bit of a wait during the weekday. Once submitted, it took no longer than 1.5 weeks to get approved. Your passport gets sent to the UK consulate in New York for processing, but they DHL the passport back to Toronto, so it should physically arrive quite soon after your visa is approved. Note of caution – they never notified me by phone or email when my passport had returned from New York. After 4 weeks of furious waiting after my visa was approved, I decided to drop in to the Visa Office in Toronto, and sure enough, my visa was there. Keep this in mind if you’ve already been approved and haven’t heard from the Toronto Visa Office.
I hope this guide helps you navigate the process, and I wish you the very best as you take the first step in embarking on an exciting journey! My own journey began with this step, as getting that visa in my passport made things very real for me. I haven’t looked back since.
Bonus – if you’re 25 or under, do get a 16 – 25 railcard to save 33% on your train journeys (regional trains outside of London; for example, to places like Cambridge, Oxford, Windsor, Edinburgh, etc.).
Share your visa experiences in the comments, or check out the next blogs in the series: So You Want to Work and Live in the UK: Circular Finances or So You Want to Work and Live in the UK: Finding Work on Tier 5.