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The UK has long been a prime relocation destination for skilled South Africans, but they have faced staunch competition from EU nationals for positions. Complex immigration rules and strict work visa requirements for non-EU citizens mean they have had the upper hand with many work opportunities. These visa and immigration rules will be changing after the UK leaves the EU, and the post-Brexit landscape will likely be far friendlier for South Africans looking for work in the UK.
Currently, moving to the UK as a South African is a complex and lengthy process. If you do not have any family links to the UK and you want to live and work there, you can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa. To be able to apply for a Tier 2 General visa, you first need a job offer from a UK-based company that is licensed to sponsor migrants. Your employer will also need to demonstrate that the job cannot be filled by a suitably qualified UK resident before they can offer you a job. This is known as the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT).
EU citizens have it a lot easier as they don’t need a visa to live and work in the UK. It’s much easier for UK employers to hire EU citizens as the process is a lot simpler and there are fewer requirements. This makes them an attractive choice for employment and gives them the edge against non-EU candidates.
The good news for South African job seekers
We’re still waiting for clarification as to how UK visas and immigration will look post-Brexit; however, from 2020, EU citizens will no longer have priority over non-EU citizens when it comes to skilled work visas in the UK. Both EU and non-EU citizens will have to apply under the same skilled workers route and all applicants will have to have sponsorship from a UK employer before they can apply for a visa. As a South African applying for a job in the UK, this places you on a far more equal footing for potential positions.
These are not the only changes South Africans can benefit from. The other changes the government has proposed include:
The removal of the Resident Labour Market Test
The RLMT was designed by the Home Office to ensure that UK citizens have the opportunity to apply for available positions. This means that to fill a position via a Tier 2 (General) visa, employers are required to first advertise a job for 28 days before it can be offered to a non-EU citizen. Under the new law this process will be abolished, making it easier for employers to hire you.
Skills threshold to be lowered
To be eligible for the Tier 2 work visa, your post will need to be at the right academic or skill level for sponsorship. This means only specific jobs at a minimum RQF level 6 can be made available to workers outside of the UK. Jobs at level 6 usually require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in the related field.
Under the new immigration laws, the required skills level will be lowered to include intermediate level skills at RQF level 3-5. To be eligible for these types of jobs, you’ll need to have obtained a certificate or diploma in the related field or have equivalent work experience. This widens the job pool significantly.
Cap on Tier 2 visa to be scrapped
At present, the UK only allows 20,700 work visas to be granted per year. Tier 2 applications are no longer accepted once they hit that cap. Last year, the government lifted the cap on the number of work visas issued to doctors and nurses.
This is set to be removed across the board with the Post-Brexit immigration plan. This means that South Africans will be able to apply for any job without limitations or restrictions.
What if you want to move to the UK before 2020?
If you want to move to the UK before these changes come into effect, you will need to meet the current requirements. To be eligible for a Tier 2 work visa, you must:
- Be sponsored by an employer who holds a specific licence
- Be from outside the EEA
- Have adequate English language skills
- Have £945 in your bank account
You’ll also need to get the required points
The Tier 2 visa works on a points-based system, and you will need to obtain 70 points to be eligible. Here is a breakdown of the required points:
- 30 points for having a valid job offer from a registered Tier 2 sponsor (certificate of sponsorship)
- 20 points for an employment offer with a minimum salary of £30,000 (depending on your occupation)
- 10 points for having at least £945 available to you
- 10 points for meeting the English language requirement
One of the biggest benefits of the Tier 2 work visa is that you can bring your family with you to the UK as dependants. To do this, you will need to show that your dependants can be financially supported while in the UK. To prove this, you must hold an additional £630 in your account for each dependant applying with you. These funds must be in your account for 90 days.
It’s easier if your skills are in demand
The UK Shortage Occupation List details the jobs for which a shortage of workers has been identified. If your occupation is on this list, it’s far easier for you to find a position and get a work visa. Professions on the list include engineers, IT and communications professionals, nurses and teachers – to name a few.
It is still possible for you to get a work visa even if your occupation is not on this list. The process is just a bit more complicated as your employer will first need to demonstrate that the job cannot be filled by a suitably qualified UK resident as noted above.
Make your move a success
The best way to ensure your application has the greatest chance of success is to use an experienced immigration advisor who can assist you throughout the process. They will ensure that the visa you are applying for is the right one for you that will allow you to achieve your long-term goals.
If you’re considering making the UK your new home, simply get in touch with our registered immigration experts on [email protected] or give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7759 5330.