Find out how the UK visa system works, which kind of visa you will need and what is required of you.

It is worth noting that immigration and entry into the UK is managed by UK Visas and Immigration and is dependent on individual circumstances.

As immigration regulations are subject to change at short notice the information provided is for general guidance only.  You should check the UK Visas and Immigration website for the most up-to-date information.


Do you need a visa?

You can enter and work in the UK without a visa if you are an overseas national from one of the following categories:

  • British citizen,
  • National of the European Economic Area (EEA) except Croatia,
  • Swiss national,
  • Commonwealth citizens given leave to enter and remain in the UK on the basis that a grandparent was born here (i.e. those with a valid UK Ancestry Visa),
  • Overseas nationals given leave to enter and remain in the UK under Tier 1 of the Points-Based System,
  • Individuals with indefinite leave to remain,
  • Individuals who hold an unexpired Tier 1 (general), Tier 1 (exceptional talent), Tier 1 (post study worker) or Tier 4 (doctorate extension scheme),
  • The dependent, husband, wife or civil partner of a UK or EEA national or an individual who has an existing right to work in the UK (dependant or EEA family member visa),
  • A student with a (Tier 4) visa which entitles them to work on a part-time basis.  This is limited to a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time,
  • A holder of a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa.

Some forms of British nationality require permission to live and work in the UK.  These include British Overseas citizens, British Overseas Territories citizens, British Nationals (overseas), British Protected Persons and British Subjects.  There may be an entitlement to register as a British citizen in certain circumstances.

If you are a national from the EEA, which includes all EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, or a Swiss national, or a commonwealth citizen with UK ancestry, visit the EU, EEA and Commonwealth section to find out more about living and working in the UK.

Note that, although Croatia is a member of the EEA, Croatian nationals do not have the right to work in the UK without restriction.  Work must be authorised before commencing employment and you may need to apply for a registration certificate. You can find out more information at Working in the UK as a Croatian National.

If you are a national from countries outside the EEA, you will need a visa to take up employment in the UK.  For more information, please visit Work Visas.

If you are a Turkish national and have legally worked in the UK for at least one year, you may benefit from a European agreement with Turkey.  To find the latest information, please visit Turkish Worker Visa.

To establish whether you need a visa, please visit the Government website and complete the interactive questionnaire.


Points based system

The UK’s visa application process uses a Points Based System, or PBS.  If you want to work in the UK you will need to apply for a visa under the correct ‘tier’ of the PBS.

You will need a certain number of points depending on which visa you apply for.  Points are awarded for different attributes, such as qualifications and earnings, and in the majority of cases you will need a certificate of sponsorship.

As a licensed sponsor, the University of Leeds can issue ‘certificates of sponsorship’ (CoS) to employees.

The tiers applicable to the University of Leeds are listed below.


Tier 1 – High-Skilled Migrants

Highly-skilled migrants are exceptionally talented individuals.  You will be internationally recognised as a world-leader or have potential world-leading talent in the fields of science, humanities, engineering, medicine or the arts.

Tier 1 visas are not job-specific, and therefore, you do not require sponsorship from the University but you will need to pass a points-based assessment.  To be successful you will need to be ‘endorsed’ by a ‘competent body’ such as the Royal Society.  Once granted you can then work anywhere in the UK.

You will need to apply for a Tier 1 visa directly.


Tier 2 – Skilled Migrants

Skilled migrants have been offered a skilled job, requiring at least a first degree and received sponsorship.

If you are from outside the EEA you can only be employed by the University if you hold an appropriate work visa.

For all migrants requiring a Tier 2 visa, the application process involves two stages:

  1. The University will need to gain permission to sponsor and employ you by making an application for a CoS,
  2. You will need to apply for a Tier 2 visa.

You will be required to take up the post within 12 months after the job advert was released.

You will not be able to work in the UK for the subsequent 12 months after your tier 2 visa expires.


Tier 5 – Sponsored Researchers

Sponsored researchers are those individuals taking part in sponsored research who are not filling a genuine vacancy and their work is in addition to normal staffing needs.  They support themselves and their dependents and leave the UK at the end of their visit.  Sponsored researchers can stay in the UK for up to 24 months.

If you are a sponsored researcher at the University of Leeds, you will normally be employed and paid by another University and will not receive a salary from Leeds.

The tier 5 visa application process involves two stages:

  1. The University will gain permission to sponsor you by making an application for a CoS,
  2. You will need to apply for a Tier 5 visa.


Points to consider:

  • It should not be assumed that an application for permission to work or an extension will be granted,
  • It should not be assumed that a visa will be granted even if permission to work has been approved,
  • If you have been granted permission to work, you must not commence employment until the correct visa has been issued,
  • It is your responsibility to obtain and maintain the appropriate visa,
  • If it is not maintained, the permission to work is invalid.

Applying for a visa can take time, so it’s important to apply well in advance of when you intend to travel, so please do check visa processing times in your country.


Police Registrations

You may need to register with the police on arrival to the UK as part of your Visa conditions depending on which country you are coming from.  This requirement can be found on your entry clearance Visa, which is in your passport.  You must register within seven days.  To register you will need to take the following to your nearest police station:

  • Your passport,
  • Two passport sized photographs,
  • The appropriate registration fee,
  • A completed ‘Foreign National Registration’ form.

You can find a Foreign National Registration Form on the West Yorkshire Police website where you will also find more information about the registration process and your nearest police station.


EEA residence card

If you are an EEA or Swiss national, you can apply for a registration certificate.  This is a document which confirms your right of residence in the UK under European law.

Under European law you do not need to obtain documentation confirming your right of residence in the UK if you are a national of a country in the EEA.  However, if you want to support an application for a residence card by any of your family members who are not EEA nationals, you must demonstrate that you are residing in the UK in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 and are ‘exercising Treaty rights’ in the UK.


Leeds and Brexit

The University is keeping its staff informed about the impact of the Referendum held in June 2016 via a dedicated web page, including the latest updates from the Government and other interested parties.

If you would like advice  about your immigration status, please email Caroline Langham.


Financial support

The University now offers two types of financial support to staff relocating from oversees.

If you are an international member of staff who requires a tier 2 visa, you might be eligible to receive a reimbursement for some of the cost of your visa through our Visa Reimbursement Scheme.

International members of staff who would benefit from support to cover the cost of applications to secure a legal right to work in the UK for you and your family might be eligible for one of our interest free loans.