🇬🇧 A Detailed Guide and Cost to UK’s Visa for Architects

You just graduated from a postgrad Part 2 architectural course and need UK visa so that you can continue working here to complete your Part 3 architect qualification? Or you’re an architect outside the UK who wants to find employment in the UK? Whatever the reason, you’re not a British Citizen or PR and you need a visa to practice in the UK. What you need is a Skilled Worker Visa. It used to be known as the Tier 2 General work visa but it has been renamed. Is there a specific UK visa for architects? No, but they have fulfil special conditions which make it slightly easier to qualify for a visa.

Note: If you’re a Part 1 architectural assistant and wondering what visa route you can take, I would recommend the Tier 5 Government Authorized Exchange visa. Click here to check out our guide. 

Now that Brexit is done, this guide is for most people around the world, including EU citizens. However if you’re from the EU and have some connections to the UK, you may be eligible for the EU settlement scheme

Skilled Worker Visa process summarized

Step 1

 

Your employer applies for a Sponsor Licence. It should typically take 3 to 8 weeks but it can take up to 16 weeks.

*Your employer might already be a visa sponsor. Click here to search the Register of Sponsors.

 

Step 2

 

Your employer issues a Certificate of Sponsorship to you. This is where they pay for the Immigration Skills Charge. They can access this via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS).

 

 

Step 2

 

You make your Visa Application with the number of your Certificate of Sponsorship. You can apply for the visa up to 3 months before your employment start date.

 

 

Step 4

 

You pay for Immigration Health Surcharge for the number of years your visa is for.

Step 5

 

Wait 3 weeks for those already in the country and 8 weeks if you’re applying from outside UK to get a decision.

Step 6

 

You can start working on the date on your letter. If you’re switching, you can continue working until a decision. 

How much does the Skilled Worker Visa cost for architects?

It matters what the size of the organisation you are working for is. The costs are bigger for larger companies. An organisation will be considered to be a small company if, two out of the following three requirements must be met:

 

  • The company must have a turnover of no more than £10.2 million.
  • The company must have a balance sheet total of no more than £5.1 million.
  • There must be no more than 50 employees.

 

In this guide, I will look at the UK visa costs for small organisations as they are usually ones that do not have an established protocol for hiring foreign employees. Medium or large organisation often have HR teams or immigrant lawyers to assist them with these matters. 

 

How does it vary? 

 

It varies a lot. For example, the Sponsor Licence costs £1,476 for medium or large sponsors and £536 if the organisation is a charity or defined as a small entity. For the Immigration Skills Charge medium or large sponsors pay £1,000 for the first year while small entities pay £364 for the first year. 

Scenario 1: You are applying from outside UK (not switching from a Tier 4 student visa) and would like a 3 year visa.

 

For a 3-year visa, you can expect you or your employer to spend: 

 

Sponsor Licence


£536 (One-off)

 

Certification of Sponsorship


£199 (One-off)

 

Immigration Skills Charge


£364 p.a or £1,092 total

 

Visa Application


£464 (Up to 3 Years)

 

Immigration Health Surcharge


£642 p.a or £1,926 total

 


£4,217

 

As for a 5-year visa, you can expect you or your employer to spend £928 on your visa application and an extra £364 per year for the Immigration Skills Charge as well as an extra £642 per year. That totals to £6,693 for a 5-year visa. 

Scenario 2: You are applying from within UK (Switching from a Tier 4 student visa) and would like a 3 year visa.

 

In this case, you are exempt from the Immigration Skills Charge. For a 3-year visa, you can expect you or your employer to spend: 

 

Sponsor Licence


£536 (One-off)

 

Certification of Sponsorship


£199 (One-off)

 

Visa Application


£464 (Up to 3 Years)

 

Immigration Health Surcharge


£642 p.a or £1,926 total

 


£3,125

 

As for a 5-year visa, you can expect you or your employer to spend £928 on your visa application and an extra £642 per year. That totals to £6,693 for a 5-year visa. 

Who pays for what?

In some situations, employers will pay for the whole visa package for you.

However, it is more typical that your employer pays for their Sponsor Licence, Certificate of Sponsorship (and Immigration Skill Charge) while you fork out for the Visa Application Fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge. There are some benefits to splitting it in this manner. This means that you are not tied to one company for your whole visa period (You only need to update your visa details with UKVI when you change employers). You would have the flexibility to change jobs without feeling that your current employer has invested a lot of money in you. 

Sponsor Licence

£536 (One-off)
Certification of Sponsorship

£199 (One-off)
Immigration Skills Charge

£364 p.a or £1,092 total
Visa Application

£464 (Up to 3 Years)
Immigration Health Surcharge

£642 p.a or £1,926 total

Getting 70 points in the Points-Based Immigration System

You need 70 points to be eligible for the Skilled Worker Visa. The first 3 characteristics are mandatory. As long as you have a job offer as an architect or architectural assistant (with relevant educational qualifications), a Certificate of Sponsorship and can speak English, you already have 50 points covered. The next 20 points comes from the fact you work in the Architecture industry or earn a certain amount of income to get the points. 

 

uk visa points based immigration requirements
70 Points are needed for the Skilled Worker visa.

Special visa conditions for architects: Points for Shortage Occupation

As an architect or architectural assistant, you are in the list of jobs in shortage occupation. This immediately qualifies you for 20 points in the points based system. So also long as you meet the Mandatory characteristics and you have a job offer in Architecture, you already have 70 points to pass the points-based system. 

 

uk visa for architects: shortage occupation
Entry for Architects in the Skilled Worker visa: shortage occupations guidance

 

If you’re in other occupation, you can search if your job is a Shortage Occupation here. Whether you qualify is dependent on your annual income. If your job is on the list, you need to be paid 80% of the job’s usual going rate to gain 20 points in the Points-Based Immigration System to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa. For Architects that means a minimum wage of £28,000 (£13.81 per hour). This is considered 80% of going rate.

My employer does not have a license, what should I do? How do I talk to them if I need a UK visa? 

There are two things that are most important for your employer to know

 

  • The completed costs and timeline of the sponsorship and visa application.
  • What privileges does a sponsor licence allow them in the future (not only for you)
  • What is your level of commitment to the company? What are your future plans? 

 

It takes typically 8 weeks for the sponsorship application to be decided and 3 months for you to make your visa application. It is probably best to start the whole process at least 6 months before your start date.

 

I would suggest preparing a document with all the information regarding costs and timeline – plain and simple – so that they can make a decision as soon as they read it. This is what this guide is for – present these steps and costs to your employers. Sit down with your supervisors and have a honest conversation about how much you can afford to contribution to the visa fees and ask what is their comfort level spending this extra money on you. Let them know how long you can see yourself working in this company and you would be a valuable and committed member for the years to come.

 

 

 

Check out our other guides for architects and architecture students in UK here.

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