Want to work in London? Here's how Australians can get a UK Work Visa

06 June 2023 Alessyn Hecht

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Working in the UK has long been a right of passage for Australians.  There is plenty of work for lawyers and associated professionals right now, but unless you are a citizen, you will need a work visa. 

Here’s an outline of how to get a UK work visa so you can plan your relocation and job search in London:

What is a work visa for the UK?

You are required to have a work visa if you want to live and work in the UK for any period of time. Since the UK left the European Union, people from all different countries must obtain a visa if they hope to work in the UK. In times past, it was easier for Europeans, but now there are no exceptions, outside of UK citizens.

Citizens from EU/EFTA countries, Australia, Canada, Japan and the US are allowed to stay in the UK for up to six months on visitor or tourist visa, but if you intend to hold a job in the country during that time, you must apply for a different visa.

Youth Mobility Visa

One option to explore is a working holiday visa, which is available for Australians and New Zealanders who want to visit the UK under what’s known as the Youth Mobility Scheme. 

This scheme has recently been updated following the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement with some welcome changes for those looking to make the move across the pond.

As of January 2024, to be eligible you need to: 

  • be aged 18 to 35;

  • have £2,530 in savings;

  • have certain types of British Nationality or be from certain countries or territories listed in the eligibility requirements (Australia is included);

  • if you are an Australian or Kiwi, the two-year visa can be extended for an extra year, making it three years.

There is more information about how to apply for the Youth Mobility Visa here.

Skilled Worker Visa 

With a skilled worker visa, you can work in the UK for up to five years to do an eligible job with an approved employer.  Legal firms tend to work with their overseas applicants to help arrange this visa.. 

There are a few guidelines that you need to meet first. You must: 

  • work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office

  • have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK

  • do a job that’s on the list of eligible occupations

  • be paid a minimum salary — how much depends on the type of work you do

  • know how to speak, read, write and understand English and have to prove that you can when you apply for a skilled worker visa.

There is more information on how to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa here.

How long will it take

You can apply for the Youth Mobility Visa up to six months in advance of your trip.  You can relocate immediately upon the time of approval.  For those seeking to move to the UK this working holiday visa, we recommend that you reach out to a recruitment specialist six weeks in advance of your departure date so that they can advise you on the current market conditions and proactively undertake your job search.  Most law firms will not hire a working holiday applicant in advance of their relocation, but they may arrange a first interview in advance of your relocation with the plan of conducting a second interview upon your arrival.

If you plan to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa, you or your employer can seek approval up to three months before you are due to land in the country.

If you have filled out all the forms properly and provided the right information, you should receive your answer in three weeks or less if you are outside the UK.

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