If you are planning to visit, study or work in the UK in 2024 or beyond, you need to be aware of the latest changes in the UK visa application process. The UK has introduced a new points-based immigration system that will affect many travelers, students and workers from different countries, including the EU, the US, Australia and Canada. Here is a summary of what you need to know and how to apply for a visa now.
Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)
One of the most significant changes is that all travelers to the UK who currently do not require a visa will need to apply for digital pre-approval before arriving. This includes EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, as well as US, Australian and Canadian citizens. This new scheme is called Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) and will be implemented by the end of 2024.
To apply for an ETA, you will need to fill out an online form and pay a fee of €7 (around £6). You will also need to have a valid passport, bank statements or current account, and other documents depending on the purpose and duration of your visit. The ETA will be valid for multiple entries for up to three years.
British and Irish citizens and those with settled status will be exempt from the ETA scheme.
Skilled Worker Visa
Another major change is the new route for skilled workers who have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor in the UK. The job you are offered will need to be at a required skill level of RQF3 or above (equivalent to A level). You will also need to be able to speak English and be paid the relevant salary threshold by your sponsor. This will either be the general salary threshold of £26,200 or the going rate for your job, whichever is higher.
If you earn less than this – but no less than £20,960 – you may still be able to apply by ‘trading’ points on specific characteristics against your salary. For example, if you have a job offer in a shortage occupation or have a PhD relevant to the job.
To apply for a skilled worker visa, you will need to have a certificate of sponsorship from your employer, prove your identity and provide your documents, pay the visa fee and the immigration health surcharge, and provide your biometric information.
The visa fee depends on the type and length of your visa, and whether you are applying from outside or inside the UK. The immigration health surcharge is £624 per year for most applicants, and £470 per year for students and youth mobility scheme applicants.
The skilled worker visa will allow you to stay in the UK for up to five years, and you can extend it or apply for settlement if you meet the eligibility criteria.
Student and Graduate Visa
The UK has also opened up the student visa routes to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens. You can apply for a visa to study in the UK if you have been offered a place on a course, can speak, read, write and understand English, and have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course.
To apply for a student visa, you will need to have a confirmation of acceptance for studies from your education provider, prove your identity and provide your documents, pay the visa fee and the immigration health surcharge, and provide your biometric information.
The visa fee is £348 if you are applying from outside the UK, and £475 if you are applying from inside the UK. The immigration health surcharge is £470 per year for students.
The student visa will allow you to stay in the UK for the duration of your course, plus some additional time depending on the length and level of your course. You can also work or look for work during your studies, subject to some restrictions.
A new graduate visa is also available to international students who have completed a degree in the UK. This visa will allow you to stay and work in the UK for two years after your studies, or three years if you have a PhD.
To apply for a graduate visa, you will need to have a valid student visa, have successfully completed your course, prove your identity and provide your documents, and pay the visa fee and the immigration health surcharge.
The visa fee is £700 and the immigration health surcharge is £624 per year for graduates.
The graduate visa will allow you to work or look for work at any skill level, and switch to another visa route if you are eligible.
How to Apply for a Visa Now
If you are eligible and interested in applying for any of the above visa routes, you can apply and pay for your visa online. You will also need to provide your biometric information, which is a digital photo of your face using a smartphone app for most visas, or your fingerprints and a photo at an overseas visa application centre for some routes.
You should apply for your visa well in advance of your planned travel date, as the processing times may vary depending on the type of visa and the country you are applying from. You can check the current processing times on the UK government website.
You should also check the latest travel advice and entry requirements for the UK, as they may change due to the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors. You can find the latest information on the UK government website or the website of your nearest British embassy or consulate.
The UK visa application process has undergone some significant changes that will affect many travelers, students and workers from different countries in 2024 and beyond. The new points-based immigration system aims to attract the brightest and the best to the UK, while reducing net migration and ensuring that migration is highly skilled and beneficial. If you want to visit, study or work in the UK, you should familiarize yourself with the new visa routes and requirements, and apply for your visa as soon as possible.