If you’ve decided that you want to move to the UK then that’s half the job done, but they also need to decide if they want you. However, don’t lose heart: in 2016 Australia were in the top 5 countries for UK visas given to non-EU nationals, so you must be doing something right. In the same year, 25,000 Brits came to live in Australia, making it the most popular country for British emigrants, so it’s only fair that Australians can head in the opposite direction if they want to.

Do you need a visa?

If you’re making a permanent move to the UK and you’re planning on working there then yes, you need a visa. However, it’s worth mentioning that Australians can live in the UK visa-free for up to 6 months if they are going there as a tourist. You can see see all the big buildings in London and wander through the Yorkshire Dales but the moment you get a job, you’re in trouble.

Right of abode

Before you embark on the lengthy process of choosing a visa, applying for it and waiting for it, you should find out if you actually need to bother. Right of abode in the UK means you can live there without having to deal with any kind of immigration restrictions. However, there are three conditions that you need to meet order to have right of abode:

  1. One of your parents was born in the UK (and was still a UK citizen when you were born)
  2. You were born before 1st January 1983 into a Commonwealth country
  3. You have never ceased to be a Commonwealth citizen since 31st December 1982

If you entered the world more recently and both of your parents are proper Aussies then please read on. We’re afraid you’ve got a bit of work to do.

UK immigration points-based system

Funnily enough, the UK’s points-based immigration system was largely based on the Australian one. Before 2008, there were over eighty different kinds of visa available, but it has since become much less complicated (although still pretty complicated). The visas are divided into five tiers and each tier requires the applicant to score a certain number of points before he/she can be eligible. The main score determinants are English language proficiency, age, previous experience, future employment and savings, but these can vary greatly depending on the type of visa you are applying for. Luckily, in most cases, Australians get 10 points on their score before they’ve even started, thanks to their natural English language proficiency.

How to apply

Start off by going on the website for UK Visas and Immigration. On there, you can register, choose the relevant visa, fill out the form and pay any necessary fees. Isn’t the internet wonderful? However, you will eventually have to leave the house. All applications for visas of more than 6 months require you to get a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), and to acquire this you’ll need to go to one of the UK Visa Application Centres. These are situated in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra. You’ll need various documents, such as educational and financial evidence, so don’t forget them, especially if you’ve got a long drive! At the Application Centre, they will scan all ten of your fingerprints and take a photograph of you. This biometric information is an essential part of your visa application. Find out more at the VFS Global website.

How much will it cost?

All visa applications include a fee that will vary significantly depending on the type of visa you are applying for. Each set of individual fees will be explained in more detail further down the page. There is also an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) that applies to all non-EU migrants staying in the UK for longer than 6 months. Once paid, you will be able to use the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), so no need to worry about being torn away from Medicare! The cost of the IHS is per year for all visas, except the Tier 4 Student and Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visas, where it is per year.

Bringing family with you

The vast majority of UK visas allow you to bring your family members with you, because what’s life without family? The UK government classifies a ‘dependant’ as either your partner or your child (under the age of 18). If you have any children over the age of 18 who are already living in the UK as dependants then they can also join you on your visa. Normally, each dependant needs to hold a specific amount of money before they can move to the UK, but this figure varies from visa to visa. You also need to demonstrate you will be able to financially support any dependants who will be joining you. Every dependant needs to submit their biometric information and pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. Full guidance on dependant applications can be found here.

Which visa do I need?

Despite the relatively simple five-tier system, the number of different UK visas on offer is still pretty overwhelming, what with all the subcategories and special classifications. Hopefully you’ll soon work out which one you need with the help of our handy guide, where we’ve singled out the most useful and important visas for living and working in the UK.

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Tier 1

Tier 1 can be divided up into two different types of visa.

Exceptional talent visa

This one caters specifically to very highly skilled migrants who have been endorsed in their respective field as someone with either ‘exceptional talent’ or ‘exceptional promise’. Only 1000 places are released each year (500 on 6th April and another 500 on 1st October) so there is a limit. With this visa, you are allowed to work in the UK, travel in and out of the country and bring your family with you, but you are prohibited from working as a professional sportsperson or as a doctor/dentist in training.

Duration

The visa lasts for a very specific 5 years and 4 months, although extensions of up to 5 years are possible.

Requirements

You have to apply to the UK Home Office for endorsement and it must be in one of the following industries: science, medicine, engineering, humanities, digital technology or the arts. The score on your application must reach a minimum of 100 points, which is based on a combination of your English language proficiency, financial maintenance, previous earnings, age, qualifications and past UK-based experience.

Processing time

Your application should be approved or rejected within 3 weeks. Also, you can’t apply any earlier than 3 months before you intend to move to the UK.

Fees

The application for endorsement costs and the visa application costs a further . All dependants who you intend to bring with you will have to pay per person. The Immigration Healthcare Surcharge, which is per visa year, also applies to yourself and each dependant.

Entrepreneur visa

If you want to start your own business in the UK then you’ll need one of these. You can even start running multiple companies on this visa if you’re feeling particularly entrepreneurial! Family members can come with you, too. However, you’re not permitted to start working for anybody else while you’re there.

Duration

This visa lasts for 3 years and 4 months, and further 2-year extensions are possible.

Requirements

You need a score of at least 95 points on your application but, more importantly, you need to have a minimum of £50,000 (68,852 AUD) in funds for investment. Go big or go home. Specifically, the money must come from a UK venture capitalist firm. You can also secure the visa if you have £200,000 (275,406 AUD) in savings, but it must be your own money rather than investment from elsewhere. You will have to pitch your business plan to the Home Office in order to acquire approval, reinforced with accurate market research and a demonstration of its financial viability.

Processing time

Your application should be approved or rejected within 3 weeks. Also, you can’t apply any earlier than 3 months before you intend to move to the UK.

Fees

To apply online or by post costs , whereas to apply in person from outside the UK costs a bit less at . The same charges apply to each family member (or ‘dependant’) coming with you. The Immigration Healthcare Surcharge, which is per visa year, will also apply to yourself and each extra person.

Tier 2

There are two types of visa within the Tier 2 classification.

General (skilled worker) visa

If you are able to line up a skilled job offer in the UK all the way from Australia (it’s not as hard as it sounds) then the Tier 2 General visa is your best route into the UK. Your future employer must be registered as a licensed sponsor so that they can give you a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), as you’ll need this for your visa application. However, finding a company that’s a licensed sponsor is easy; the UK register of licensed businesses is massive (nearly 2000 pages long). With this visa you are also able to study, travel in and out of the UK, do some voluntary work and bring your family along with you.

Duration

The visa time length is generally the specified duration on your Certificate of Sponsorship plus one month, but this cannot exceed 5 years and 14 days. You’re allowed to move to the UK up to 14 days before your new work begins. It is possible to apply to extend your visa by up to 5 years, but the total length of your stay cannot exceed 6 years.

Requirements

As the tier number increases, the number of points required decreases. For the Tier 2 General visa, the applicant needs to score a minimum of 70 points in order to be eligible. The Certificate of Sponsorship adds 30 points, but you need sufficient English language proficiency, enough personal maintenance funds and an ‘appropriate salary’ in order to score the remaining 40 points. An ‘appropriate salary’ must be at least £30,000 (41,311 AUD), but for some highly skilled jobs the minimum appropriate salary is even higher. Check out all the relevant salary guidance here.

Processing time

Your application should be approved or rejected within 3 weeks, and you can’t apply any earlier than 3 months before you intend to move to the UK.

Fees

There are four different sets of fees depending on the type and duration of your move. The cost of the visa is determined by a) whether you’re filling a shortage occupation and b) whether you’re staying in the UK for more than 3 years.

  • No more than 3 years: .
  • No more than 3 years (filling a shortage occupation): .
  • Over 3 years: .
  • Over 3 years (filling a shortage occupation): .

The Immigration Health Surcharge also applies, which is per visa year. Both the application fee and the IHS apply to any dependants who are accompanying you.

UK shortage occupations list

The easiest way for you to secure a Tier 2 visa is to target the occupations that are currently experiencing a shortage of personnel in the UK. If you take a look at the UK Shortage Occupations List (SOL), you will find a huge number of different skill sets that are required in the UK, ranging from engineering and mathematical roles to more artistic ones. As you can see in the fees listed above, helping the UK with an occupation shortage also makes the visa a little cheaper. Here is an example of just some of the jobs listed on the SOL at the moment. You can read the full list here.

OccupationEntry level wage (minimum)
Civil engineer

22,800 ()

Electrical engineer

24,800 ()

Maths teacher

20,800 ()

Social worker

21,478 ()

3D animator

20,800 ()

Classical ballet dancer

20,800 ()

Pipe welder

20,800 ()

Experienced chef

29,570 ()

Intra-company transfer visa

If your current employer is sending you abroad to start working in the UK branch of their business, then you should be looking at this visa. It allows you to fill the overseas post and start working in the UK, along with being able to bring family members with you and travel in and out of the country. There are two types of intra-company transfer visa, one for long-term staff and the other for graduate trainees.

Duration

The length of time on the visa varies depending on the type. Long-term staff roles earning over £120,000 (165,244 AUD) per year allow applicants to stay for 9 years, whereas a salary under £120,000 only permits a stay of 5 years and 1 month. Graduate trainee visas last for just 12 months. For any of the three classifications, the applicant can move to the UK up to 14 days before they start their new role. Extensions of 9 years or 5 years are possible for long-term staff (depending on their salary), while graduate trainees can only extend their stay by a maximum of 12 months.

Requirements

To take up a long-term staff position in the UK, you must have at least one year’s experience with your current employer and your company must be unable to fill the role with a UK recruit. However, a UK-based salary of at least £73,900 (101,763 AUD) would mean that you don’t need to have worked for your current employer for any minimum amount of time. On the other hand, graduate trainees require just 3 months’ experience with their company before they can perform an intra-company transfer.

In terms of other requirements, you need a Certificate of Sponsorship (easily acquired if your company is a licensed sponsor), at least in savings and an ‘appropriate salary’, which at the very least means a minimum of for long-term staff and for graduate trainees.

Processing time

Your application should be approved or rejected within 3 weeks, and you can’t apply any earlier than 3 months before you intend to move to the UK.

Fees

Long-term staff applicants looking to stay for over 3 years must pay , but if the duration of the stay is 3 years or less then the fee is only . Graduate trainee applicants are charged . Applicants must also pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is per visa year. The same set of fees applies to each dependant that accompanies the applicant.

Tier 3

Ah, the visa that never was. When the UK’s immigration system was split into 5 tiers in 2008, the third tier was intended for filling unskilled labour shortages with people from outside the EEA. However, it was never used and in 2013 it was completely shut down. We thought we should tell you about this one, just in case you were wondering where tier 3 was.

Tier 4

If you’re temporarily relocating to the UK for educational reasons, then the single fourth tier visa might be the one for you.

General (student) visa

This is the main option taken by international students who intend to study in the UK. If you are at least 16 years old and have been offered a place at a university then you’ll need this visa to make things happen. You can bring dependants with you but there are some pretty specific requirements that change on a case-by-case basis, so do your research here.

Duration

Naturally, you’re allowed a bit of time to settle in before the beginning of your course. If the course is shorter than 6 months then you’re given an extra week at the start, but if you’ll be studying for more than 6 months then you can arrive up to one month before. There is also allowance made for time in the UK after the end of your course:

  • Less than 6 months of study: One week of extra stay allowed
  • Between 6 and 12 months of study: 2 months of extra stay allowed
  • At least 12 months of study: 4 months of extra stay allowed

The overall length of the visa is determined by the length of the course, which can vary depending on your field of study and institution. It is possible to extend your visa in order to continue further with your existing course or even start a new one.

Requirements

Along with an unconditional offer for a place at a university in the UK, you also need enough personal funds to support yourself for the duration of your course. This amount varies and it depends on several factors, so it is normally determined once you have first submitted your application. Obviously proof of your English proficiency is also essential.

Processing time

You know the drill: your application should be approved or rejected within 3 weeks, and you can’t apply any earlier than 3 months before you intend to move to the UK.

Fees

Irrespective of the course or subject, it costs each applicant , and the Immigration Health Surcharge is per visa year. Any dependants must also pay these fees.

Tier 5

Two different kinds of visas make up the fifth tier.

Youth Mobility Scheme visa

This is the jack-of-all-trades visa, allowing you to study, work, set up your own business or just travel, combining the features of tiers 1, 2 and 4 but with a few more strings attached. Most crucially, you’re not able to apply if you live with (or are financially responsible for) any children, and family members cannot come with you as dependants on your application. Instead, they need to apply separately. As you can see, this kind of visa is more appropriate for a lone wolf. Furthermore, you have to be within the 18-30 age range.

Duration

You can live and work in the UK for a maximum of 2 years. Also, don’t worry about applying if you’re nearly 31; if you hit your 31st birthday while you’re in the UK, you can stay until your visa runs out. However, no visa extensions are possible.

Requirements

Not every nationality is allowed to apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme. It’s limited to eight countries, and luckily Australia’s in there: Canada, Monaco, Hong Kong, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Republic of Korea and New Zealand. You also need to be able to support yourself while you’re in the UK, so you must have at least £1,890 (3,273 AUD) in your bank account. Your application must score a minimum of 50 points, but your Australian nationality, adequate funds and age between 18-30 will give you the points required.

Processing time

This one’s a little different from the previously mentioned visas. The waiting time for a decision is the typical 3 weeks, but you can submit your application for the visa up to 6 months before you move to the UK.

Fees

Applications cost along with the additional fee for the Immigration Health Surcharge, which is per visa year.

Temporary worker visa

This visa, also known as a Government Authorised Exchange, is similar to the Tier 2 visa in that it allows you to work in the UK as long as you have a sponsor, but this visa is only short term. Once you get the Certificate of Sponsorship, you can come and work in the UK as long as the job isn’t permanent. You are also able to study, have a second (temporary) job and bring family members with you.

Duration

The maximum duration is the length of time stipulated on your Certificate of Sponsorship plus 28 days, although the overall period of time cannot exceed 2 years. Visas can be extended multiple times by up to 2 years on each extension, but the overall time spent in the UK cannot exceed 6 years.

Requirements

Your application must score at least 40 points, with two key determinants being your valid Certificate of Sponsorship (worth 30 points) and sufficient financial maintenance (worth 10 points). You need at least £945 (1,301 AUD) in savings.

Processing time

Your application should be approved or rejected within 3 weeks, and you can’t apply any earlier than 3 months before you intend to move to the UK.

Fees

Applicants must pay along with the Immigrant Healthcare Surcharge, which is per visa year.

Non-tier

The 5-tier system is a nice way to divide up the different visas, but unfortunately there wasn’t space on the ladder for everything. A few special types of visa sit on their own, the most important and useful being the ancestry visa.

UK ancestry visa

Most importantly, this is only available to Commonwealth citizens, so if you’re Australian then you’ve passed the first hurdle. The visa allows you to live and work in the UK solely on the merit of who your grandparents are, and you can bring family members with you too.

Duration

You can stay in the UK for exactly 5 years, although you can apply to extend your visa by a further 5 years if you submit your request before the expiry date.

Requirements

The chief requirement is, unsurprisingly, your ancestry. You need to have at least one parent or grandparent that was born in the UK, and you need to be able to prove it with birth certificates. Alongside this, you must be at least 17 years old with enough personal savings and evidence of your intention to work in the UK.

Processing time

Your application should be approved or rejected within 3 weeks, and you can’t apply any earlier than 3 months before you intend to move to the UK.

Fees

An ancestry visa costs , and there is also the Immigration Health Surcharge of per visa year. Any dependants coming with you will have to pay the same set of fees.

Life after visas

For some people, visas just aren’t long enough. If you’re planning on moving to the UK permanently then you’ll probably be thinking about how to make things genuinely long term.

Indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is another term for permanent residence. It is permission from the UK government to stay in the country forever, as long as you intend to stay there. You can’t acquire ILR without holding some kind of visa first, but after a certain period of time the majority of UK visas permit a transition into ILR. Once you have become an official ‘settled person’, your family members are able to apply for the ‘family of a settled person’ visa, or UK Family Visa.

Duration

ILR does what it says on the tin – permitting indefinite residence – providing you don’t leave the UK for more than 2 years at any time.

Requirements

The requirements range hugely depending on what type of visa you hold when applying for ILR and how long you have lived in the UK. For example, if you have a Tier 2 General visa then you need to have had 5 years’ continuous UK residence and be earning at least £35,000 (48,196 AUD), but if you have a study visa then the requirements are rather different. It’s best to use this tool on gov.uk to work out your personal requirements for ILR. The one universal necessity is that you must complete the ‘Life in the UK’ test, which consists of 24 questions about various British traditions. You can complete this test at one of the many centres dotted around the UK.

Processing time

In the majority of cases, the waiting time after applying is a maximum of 6 months.

Fees

The fees are fairly consistent, irrespective of which visa you hold when you make your application; applicants must pay to apply by post and to apply in person. The Life in the UK test costs a further .

British citizenship

The next (and final) step up after ILR is citizenship: full, bona fide citizenship. The journey to acquiring it is fairly lengthy but it’s doable. There are two routes: by naturalisation or by registration. If you’ve lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years and also held ILR for at least 12 months then you can apply to be naturalised as a British citizen. Registering as a citizen is more simple, but you need to have been born to at least one British parent or born in the UK on or after 1st January 1983. Currently, the fees for citizenship by naturalisation or registration are and respectively.