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Guide

Tier 5 International Agreement Visa

Temporary work visas for the UK can cater to many different individuals, and the different visas that comprise Tier 5 cover a wide range of candidates. The Tier 5 International Agreement visa is designed to allow those who will be working on behalf of their home countries into the UK, which provides a pathway for many different applicants.

This form of visa differs significantly from other visa applications, even from other Tier 5 applications, and in this article we’ll cover the different aspects that set it apart. Before applying, candidates must read through the Government’s own documentation on the visa, as this covers the application in great detail.

Who is the International Agreement Visa For?

International diplomacy creates a tangled web of relationships, which often leads to confusion and muddied waters. The International Agreement visa has been created to provide entrants to the UK on missions covered by international agreements - this includes working for a foreign government, or as a member of staff at a diplomatic household. It also permits workers in service industries to enter the UK under the World Trade Organisation’s “General Agreement on Trade in Services” (GATS), which encourages international cooperation throughout the services industry. The following fields are eligible for application

  • Work covered by the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
  • Work covered by a similar agreement between the UK and another nation
  • Work for an overseas government or international organisation
  • Work as a private servant in a diplomatic household or in the household of an employee of an international organisation.

Summary of a Tier 5 International Agreement Visa

  • Provides entry for up to 2 years (or the length of employment plus 28 days, whichever is shorter)
  • Applicants who are employed in a GATS role may only be permitted to stay for 6 months of any 12 month period
  • May be applied for 3 months before beginning work
  • Takes around 3 weeks to process
  • Costs £235 plus a healthcare surcharge (usually £200 per applicant per year)
  • Requires a “Certificate of Sponsorship” to be submitted by the organisation for which the applicant will be working

Staying in the UK under an International Agreement Visa

As with any visa, the International Agreement visa places certain restrictions on what can be done once the applicant enters the country. In this case, the visa terms are fairly liberal, and candidates will be able to pursue many different activities during their time in the country. However, it’s important to understand what can and can’t be done

Applicants can

  • Study in the UK, though some fields will require an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate
  • Work in their main role
  • Perform a second job in the Shortage Occupation List, for which there is a shortfall of talent in the UK for up to 20 hours per week
  • Perform a second job in the same field as their main role for up to 20 hours per week
  • Travel abroad and return to the UK
  • Bring family members into the UK

Applicants cannot

  • Begin working without having received their visa, even if they’re in the country already
  • Access public funds
  • Perform a second job if they are a private servant, an independent supplier or a contractual service provider

Length of Stay

Visas are never open-ended, and all come with a closing date. However, the Tier 5 temporary worker visas are only designed to permit entry to allow the applicant to perform a specific job for a limited time; once the job expires, the visa does too. This means that although leave can be granted for up to 2 years on an International Agreement visa, the time which applicants can spend in the country is determined by the length of their employment. Applicants are given 28 days upon expiration of their visa to leave the country, but this total time cannot exceed 24 months.

For example, a private servant entering the country to work for 18 months will receive a visa which permits them to remain for 18 months plus 28 days. If their job was to last for 2 years, their visa would not grant them an additional 28 days to remain; they would have to leave the country immediately.

It’s also important to note that entrants who are working in a GATS field, providing international services, may only be permitted to remain in the UK for 6 months of any 12 month period. This reflects the nature of their employment, which should require that they not reside primarily in the UK and instead travel regularly between countries.

Applying for a Tier 5 International Agreement Visa

The International Agreement visa is applied for by submitting the necessary documents to the UK Immigration services. These can be submitted up to 3 months before the applicant intends to begin working in the UK, and take around 3 weeks to process (though this is only a guideline, not a guarantee).

The central document which applicants must supply is their “Certificate of Sponsorship” reference number. This allows immigration officials to cross-check the applicant’s intended employment against their database, which supplies information on the length of employment, salary and type of work. This must be obtained from the organisation providing employment, and can be sought at any time prior to applying. The reference number only remains valid for 3 months, and may only be used one time.

Finances

The standard International Agreement visa costs £235, with a “priority service” available for an extra £500 - this reduces the processing time from 3 weeks to 10 days, but is only available to applicants within the UK.

In order to demonstrate that they can support themselves initially within the UK, applicants will also need to hold at least £945 in their bank account. If they can prove that their living needs will be taken care of by a sponsor (as a live-in servant, for instance), then this requirement is waived.

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