In most cases, you will need to find a job in the UK first, and only after that will you be able to apply for a visa and come to the UK.
Some IT companies that hire foreign nationals offer free relocation packages for staff and their families. Those packages may include all or some of the following:
- Visa support.
- Compensation of relocation costs.
- Accommodation, including temporary accommodation for 2–4 weeks, home search, and assistance with the rental agreement.
Here are the main steps to follow along the relocation process in the UK.
1. Gathering documents
You don’t need a visa to the UK if you’re a Swiss national or a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA). EEA countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.
However, Swiss nationals and EEA citizens need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to live and work in the UK beyond 30 June 2021.
Others, to start working in the UK, need to obtain a work visa. Before you apply for a visa, you need to gather all the essential documents. Below are documents you need to gather to apply for a Tier 2 Visa. You don't need a job offer or proof of proficiency in English if you're applying for a Tech Nation Visa.
- Valid passport, as well as expired passports or travel documents to show your travel history over the past 5 years.
- Job offer in the UK.
- Certificate of sponsorship reference number obtained from your employer in the UK (if you're going to apply for a Tier 2 Visa). A certificate of sponsorship is an electronic record stating your personal details and information about your job in the UK. It should not be older than 3 months.
- Information on your salary offer. You must show you’re being paid at least £30,000 (for the Tier 2 (General) visa) or £41,500 (for the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa) per year or the “appropriate rate” for the job you’re offered — whichever is higher. E. g. appropriate salary rates for programmers and software development professionals are £25,000 for new entrants and £32,600 for experienced workers.
- Proof of your knowledge of English (unless you’re a native speaker from an English-speaking country). The minimum level for an IELTS test is 4 in all four language abilities (Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening). Alternatively, you need to have an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognized by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or Ph.D.
- Bank statement showing you have at least £945 (plus £630 for each dependant) in your bank account for 90 days before you apply (to show you can support yourself and your family when you arrive in the UK). For example, if you want to bring your partner and one child with you to the UK, you must have £2,205. You don’t need to show the bank statement if your certificate of sponsorship states that your sponsor will give you enough money to cover costs for each family member.
- Payslips or bank statements to prove you’ve worked for your employer outside the UK for more than 12 months, unless they’re going to pay you £73,900 or more a year to work in the UK — for the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) visa.
- Biometrics (fingerprints and photo) taken at a visa application center, if you’re applying outside the UK.
- Tuberculosis test results if you’re from a listed country.
- Certified translations of all documents into English.
2. Applying for a visa
IT specialists normally apply for one of the following visas:
- Tier 2 (General): visas for foreign workers who are sponsored by eligible UK employers and have a job offer.
- Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer): visas for employers of international organizations who are transferred to a British branch office within the same organization.
- Tech Nation (Global Talent) Visa: visas for tech workers or tech business founders who are industry leaders or emerging leaders. You don't need a job offer to apply for this visa. Read more: How to get a Tech Nation Visa and immigrate to the UK as an IT worker.
The Tier 2 Visa allows you to live, work, and study in the UK, bring your family members with you, travel abroad, and return to the UK. However, you must work only for your sponsor. Your spouse or partner can apply for the Tier 2 (Partner) visa, and your child under 18 for the Tier 2 (Child) visa. The Tier 2 (Partner) visa allows working in the UK, except for regulated occupations that need a special qualification (e. g., medical workers).
To be eligible for the Tier 2 Visa, you must provide documents specified in Section 1 of this article and score a minimum of:
- 50 points for having a sponsor and a valid certificate of sponsorship stating an appropriate salary.
- 10 points for English language skills (except for Intra-Company Transfers).
- 10 points for funds (a minimum of £945).
The process of application and follow-up procedures are as following:
1. You get a job offer from a licensed sponsor.
2. Your sponsor checks whether you can do the job they’re hiring you for and whether it qualifies you for a visa. They assign you a certificate of sponsorship to prove this.
3. You can apply for a visa online 3 months before you’re due to start work in the UK. The starting date will be listed on your certificate of sponsorship.
4. You get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK.
5. After your visa application is approved, you will automatically get a biometric residence permit (BRP). There may be a National Insurance Number (NIN) printed on the back of your BRP. You need this number to work in the UK, claim benefits, and make insurance contributions. If you don’t have this number, you need to send your application to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
6. You can start your stay in the UK up to 14 days before the start date on your certificate of sponsorship. For example, if your start date is October 15, the earliest you can start your stay is October 1.
The processing time is about 3 to 6 months.
Fees you need to pay when applying for the visa are the following:
- Tier 2 (General): £464 for up to 3 years or £928 for a visa that is valid for more than 3 years.
- Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer): £610 for up to 3 years or £1,220 for a visa that is valid for more than 3 years.
- Dependent person fees: the same as visa fees, for each person.
- Healthcare surcharge: about £800 for each person (the sum depends on your nationality, number of dependent persons, and visa terms). You can use an online calculator to calculate your healthcare surcharge.
For example, if you have a spouse and a child and if you’re coming for more than 3 years, you will pay £5,184 in total. Note that there is a chance that your employer in the UK will compensate for all expenses related to the visa.
The maximum stay for the Tier 2 (General) visa is 5 years and 14 days, or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 1 month, whichever is shorter. You can apply to extend this visa for up to another 5 years, as long as your total stay is not more than 6 years.
The maximum stay for the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa is 9 years (if you earn more than £120,000 a year) or 5 years and 1 month (if you earn less than £120,000 a year).
After your visa expires, you can apply for a permanent residence permit (see Section 7 for more information) or leave the UK for at least one year and then apply for a new visa.
3. Registering with the police
You need to register with the police within 7 days after arriving in the UK (if you applied for a visa outside the UK) or after getting your BRP (if you applied to stay for longer from inside the UK).
To register, you need to go to the nearest police station:
Here are the documents and information you need to provide:
- 2 recent passport-size color photographs.
- Visa vignette (sticker in your passport), if you applied outside the UK.
- Letter you got from the Home Office when your application was approved (if you applied inside the UK).
- Biometric residence permit (BRP), if you have one.
- Your address in the UK. You can give your temporary address and inform the police later after your address details change.
- Address of the last place you lived outside the UK.
- Your employer’s name and address.
- Other personal details.
4. Opening a bank account in the UK
To get your salary in the United Kingdom and pay for your rental home, you need to have a bank account in the country. Many other payments may also require a British bank account.
Here are the most popular banks in the UK:
- Barclays (barclays.co.uk)
- HSBC (hsbc.co.uk)
- Lloyds Banking Group (lloydsbankinggroup.com)
- Royal Bank of Scotland, RBS (rbs.com)
You can book an appointment online and then apply to a bank branch that is closest to you.
To open a bank account in the UK, you will need the following:
- Photo ID (your valid passport or a biometric residence permit).
- Proof of address in the UK (utility bills, a UK credit card, UK bank statements issued within 3 months). Some banks allow using a temporary address.
- Completed and signed application form.
A bank account can be opened within several minutes. Your bank card and security number (PIN) will arrive in the post to the address you indicated in your application.
5. Finding a place to live
As it may be hard to find a permanent apartment or house at once due to the high rental demand and the need to gather all the necessary documentation, allow 2 to 4 weeks to hunt for a home. Remember that summer is the worst season to look for an apartment in major cities as there is too much student demand.
Temporary accommodation can be offered by your employer for 2 to 4 weeks. If not, you can find it on Airbnb or similar websites before you arrive in the UK.
A permanent home can be found on one of the real estate websites:
If you rent a property through a letting agent, be sure to check whether they are accredited through a professional body like ARLA Propertymark, Safeagent, RICS or UKALA.
It’s not recommended to start looking for a rental home before arriving in the United Kingdom. Unless the housing market is in the state of crisis, most agents won’t even discuss options with you since houses and apartments are normally quickly leased out and can’t wait for 2–3 months until you come to the country.
The rental price indicated in a property listing may not be final. There is a chance you can offer a landlord a lower amount and save about 10% of the price offered initially.
It’s also recommended to choose an apartment with individual gas heating and double glazed windows. For example, most London homes don’t have central heating: they are heated either by individual gas or electric systems; and if you live in an apartment without gas, then you need to lay extra costs for heating in winter.
To rent a house or apartment in the UK, you will need the following:
- Documents confirming your immigration status (a copy of your UK visa and associated documents).
- Tenancy application form with personal information.
- References from your employer, former employers or landlords with their contact information.
- Good credit rating in the UK or a guarantor (a person in the UK with a stable income and their own property) or documents proving that you earn 2–3 times the rent.
- Proof of income: payslips for the last 3–6 months, a letter from your employer confirming your salary, employment contract, the latest tax return. Note that your monthly rent should not be more than 35% of your salary after taxes.
Before you move in, agree to an inventory with your landlord, take photos, and meter readings to make sure there will be no disputes about the security deposit and you don’t pay for the previous tenant’s bills.
Your rental agreement can be of any duration between 6 months and 7 years. Usually, it’s 6 or 12 months. You need to agree on the term with your landlord. You can find a model agreement on the government website.
When signing the rental agreement, you need to pay the following:
- Rent for the first month.
- Refundable holding deposit to reserve a property (1 week’s rent).
- Refundable security deposit (5 weeks of rent if your annual rent is less than £50,000 (rent per month × 12 / 52 × 5) or 6 weeks of rent if your annual rent is above £50,000 (rent per month × 12 / 52 × 6)).
Many long-term rentals in the UK come unfurnished, so you may need to buy furniture and other essential things. You can buy stuff in Ikea or online stores, such as Amazon.co.uk or Gumtree.com.
6. Buying a SIM Card in the United Kingdom
To live and work in the UK, you may also need a local SIM card. You can buy it in one of the major retailers (such as Asda or Tesco), convenience stores, in kiosks at major airports or from one of the retail stores of mobile phone service providers (EE, Lebara, Lycamobile, O2, Three, and Vodafone).
EE is believed to have the best network, trailed by O2 and Vodafone. And Three has the least coverage.
Unlimited calls and texts are common on most plans. Unlimited data costs £34–39 for EE plans, £35 for O2 plans, and £11–37 for Vodafone plans.
7. Obtaining a permanent residence permit
If you or a family member are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you usually get permanent resident status automatically after living in the UK for 5 years.
If you’re outside of those countries, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) — an equivalent to permanent residence status — if you’ve lived in the United Kingdom with a Tier 2 visa for at least 5 years.
And you can apply for British citizenship after living in the UK with ILR for 12 months.