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Tier 5 Visa Overview

Many of the UK Immigration visas are designed to permit workers in certain fields to enter the UK. The criteria for these visas specifically target certain types of applicant, and the rigid requirements for each visa make them unsuitable for other candidates. Tier 5 visas are used to provide a pathway for applicants who do not meet the criteria of Tier 1 or Tier 2 visas, but still offer valuable skills to the UK. Rather than forcing these individuals to meet the requirements of other visas, the Tier 5 system provides short term entry for applicants who wish to undertake charity work, internships, exchanges or to participate in a Government skills exchange scheme.

Most of the Tier 5 visas are aimed at “temporary workers”, who aren’t intending to make the UK their home in the long term. This overarching theme defines the Tier 5 visa; few applicants are intending to stay in the UK for long, and are only visiting for a specific purpose. As a result, these visas must cater for the different types of applicant they will receive, from charity workers to athletes and musicians.

Tier 5 visas differ from both Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas in a number of fundamental ways. In this article we’ll look at some of the core concepts inherent to all Tier 5 visa applications and how these differ from other options. We’ll highlight what makes the Tier 5 visa appropriate for some applicants, and outline what should be taken into consideration. However, applicants should make sure to visit the Home Office’s own website for full details of the Tier 5 application process.

Who is a Tier 5 Visa For?

The Tier 5 visa is divided into numerous subsections, each of which is targeted to a specific type of applicant. The application procedure for each one of these visas will differ, depending upon the type of proof required from the candidate. The fields which the Tier 5 visa covers are listed below:

  • Charity Worker
  • Creative and Sporting
  • Government Authorised Exchange
  • International Agreement
  • Religious Worker
  • Youth Mobility Scheme

These visas generally only grant a short stay of up to 12 months (though some are longer, or can be extended), and the work which will be carried out usually has a defined end date. Entrants on this form of visa do not have an “open-ended” stay in the UK, which they can choose to extend at any time; instead, they have a specific role to carry out for a given amount of time, after which the visa expires.

Basic Outline of a Tier 5 Visa

Although each section of the Tier 5 visa scheme deals with a different type of applicant, and thus has different requirements, there is a certain set of criteria common to all of them. Though these may vary according to the specific requirements of each visa, applicants will need to satisfy the following criteria for their chosen visa.


Regardless of their reason for entering the country, an immigrant will not be permitted to take advantage of public funds. This means there is no welfare provision for them, should they need help, so they’ll need to be able to stand on their own two feet immediately upon entering the UK. A common requirement of Tier 5 visas is for the candidate to hold £945 in their bank account upon application, and be able to prove they’ve held it for at least 90 days. This shows that the applicant will be able to support themselves initially in the country, and will be able to afford food, transport and somewhere to live.

This requirement is sometimes waived if it can be shown that the applicant will be supported by their employer, or a sponsor. This varies from visa to visa, so applicants must ensure that they are properly prepared to meet this requirement.

Certificate of Sponsorship Reference Number:

Entrants on a visa must be able to prove their reason of entry, and as with most other types of visa application they are not simply allowed to enter the country speculatively; applicants need to show that they’ve been offered a role in a qualifying UK organisation. This is achieved by providing a reference number from their employer, which details the exact work they’ll be carrying out; it will show the salary they’ll be paid, the role they’ll be filling and the length of time their employment will last.

Healthcare Surcharge

The UK National Health Service is heavily subsidised by taxpayer money, and since immigrants haven’t been contributing to the cost of running the NHS, they are also not entitled to use its services for free. Therefore a contribution is required from visa applicants to cover any medical issues that might arise during their stay; this costs £200 per year per applicant, but is sometimes offered at a reduced rate of £150 per year for certain visas. Because most Tier 5 visas only last for a year or so, the healthcare surcharge in these cases is usually fairly low, but applicants should use the Government’s online calculator to check how much they’ll need to pay.

Timeline and Costs of a Tier 5 Visa

Like most other visa applications, a Tier 5 visa can be applied for up to 3 months in advance of when the candidate intends to begin work in the UK. However, decisions on this type of visa are offered much more quickly than for other types; most Tier 5 applications are processed in three weeks, rather than the eight weeks common to most other tiers.

The cost of a Tier 5 application varies according to the role that’s applied for. However, most applications cost around £200. If a decision is required quickly, a ten-day “priority service” is available, but comes at a cost of an additional £500. This can be invaluable if an application must be cleared quickly, but it may only be used by applicants who are already within the UK (i.e. students at a UK university, or those who are switching from another visa).

Tier 5 Visa guides

  • Tier 5 Charity Worker Visa

    Tier 5 Charity Worker Visa is for migrants who want to come to the UK to work as an unpaid volunteer for a charitable organisation.

  • Tier 5 Creative and Sporting Visa

    Tier 5 Creative and Sporting Visa is aimed at a small number of highly skilled people looking to work as sportspeople, entertainers or creative artists.

  • Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange Visa

    Tier 5 government authorised exchange visa is for people coming to the UK through approved schemes that aim to share knowledge, experience and best practice.

  • Tier 5 International Agreement Visa

    Tier 5 International Agreement Visa category is for people coming to the UK under contract to do work that is covered under international law.

  • Tier 5 Religious Worker Visa

    Tier 5 Religious Worker Visa category is for people who want to come to the UK in order to undertake temporary religious work.

  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme

    Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa is for youths who wish to live and work in the UK from participating countries.


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