Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Working in the UK: What Visa Should You Get?

The photo above is of Amie & Morgan, and was just posted this morning on Amie's facebook account with the update "Visa Baby!" I asked if I could use it to inspire me to write this blog post about visas and teaching in the UK and Amie agreed. Thanks Amie!

That sense of relief when your visa finally arrives in the post and you can officially book your flights & prepare for the journey to the UK is amazing. I love the photo and just know these two will have a blast teaching & traveling in the UK.

So, on to the visas. There are a few different options for visas to work in the UK.

  1. UK Ancestry Visa - If you are a commonwealth citizen and are lucky enough to have a grandparent born in the UK, this is the visa for you. It gives you 5 years in the UK and you have to jump through a few hoops to get the correct paperwork, but it is by far the best visa for Canadians to get. No, it can't be a great-grandparent, and yes, it can be a parent. Although if your parent was born in the UK, you should just go for a UK passport. It takes a few months, mostly just for you to get your paperwork in order.
  2. Youth Mobility Visa aka Tier 5 and formally known as the Working Holiday Maker Visa - Again for commonwealth citizens, but this time with a few restrictions. You have to be under 31 years old when you apply and have 1600 GBP in your bank account. It gives you 2 years in the UK. This visa can take a few months to get, but most of our teachers & teaching assistants find they get their visas in hand (like Amie & Morgan above) within about 2 weeks of applying.
  3. If you don't qualify for either of the two above, then your only other option is the Highly Skilled Migrant Visa. This is for people who are very serious about being in the UK and requires you to jump through plenty more hoops. It's a points based system, which means that you get points for certain skills, education, language & age. Just do the calculator and work out if you qualify and then apply online. If you don't qualify, figure out what you can do to earn more points (ie - you can study in the UK and that will get you points for earning UK qualifications).
  4. Sponsorship (aka Work Permit) - If you can't get a Visa, then you can try to get sponsored by a school. Be warned though - it's near impossible these days & if you're not in the UK, the schools are highly unlikely to even look at your CV, let alone sponsor you. If they do, I would make the assumption that they can not get any of the thousands of teachers already in the UK to take the job. Read between the lines and then decide if that's the kind of school you want to work in.
If you have an EU passport, you don't need a visa. Lucky you!

Any other questions about visas? Please ask below. Also, if you have any advice for other Canadians or Americans applying for their visas, please let us know in the comments section.

If you'd like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please sign up for our newsletters & apply through our website. Be sure to read the Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London.


  1. Hey Victoria,

    I wrote out step by step instructions on how to get a Youth Mobility Visa, because some of my friends were having a hard time on the website. I posted the instruction on my blog: http://whereiskirbie.blogspot.com/2009/06/visas-visas-visas.html

    This might help some of your readers! :)

  2. With any luck, I should be getting my UK passport any day now. It's so nerve-wracking, waiting for it to arrive. I totally understand the glee on Amie & Morgan's faces in that photo.

    I have to wait til Maggs gets back from Korea until we book our flights, but things are falling into place!

  4. Victoria, do you mean the Tier 2 sponsorship visa is near impossible to get because the government's not granting them, or because schools aren't willing to do it? I'm actually being sponsored by a brilliant private prep school in Surrey and am flying home to make my application, and your comment is making me worry!

  5. Hi Anon,
    It sounds like you already have UK experience and are in the UK, so your case is different than most of my readers I think. If you have UK experience, and your school shows that they advertised the post & couldn't find anyone else, then yes it should be fairly simple to get sponsored. The fact that you have a school that is willing to do this is better than most.

    Many Americans apply to me hoping to get sponsored, but are still in the USA. It's more for those people that I mean it's near impossible, as schools are not likely to sponsor someone that has no UK experience & that they haven't met in person, and yes, the government will be even less likely to grant those permits as well. It was much easier a few years ago, so there is a lot of confusion about this.

    It's complicated, but don't stress by what I say here - You're already ahead of the game compared to most as you have that school who wants to sponsor you.

    Why do you have to go "home"? That's news to me - you used to be able to get the paperwork done while still in the UK.

    Thanks for the comment!

  6. Hi Victoria,

    Thanks, that makes me feel a lot better :). My new school has jumped through the appropriate hoops and already gotten me a sponsorship certificate - they interviewed 6 other candidates on the day they interviewed me, so I'm not really sure how they proved that they couldn't find a UK citizen who could do the job!

    As for having to go home to Canada, as far as I know, it's not possible to get the visa done while I'm still in the country. Maybe they changed the rules last year...or I missed something and could actually have had this done while in London! In any case, it's a good excuse to go home for a nice long holiday :).

    Thanks again!



Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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