Contractors’ Questions: Who’s eligible for a Tier 5 visa?

Contractor’s Question: I’ve heard that a Tier 5 visa could be the way for someone special I met pre-lockdown to come over to the UK for a while. I did look at my contractor limited company taking her on, but that not’s feasible. So what hoops to jump through for a Tier 5?

Expert’s Answer: The following is just an overview of the UK’s Tier 5 visa but should address the most obvious queries.

You can apply for a Tier 5 Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange Visa, if you:

  • want to come to the UK for a short time for work experience or to do training; an Overseas Government Language Programme, research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme
  • have a sponsor
  • are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
  • meet the other eligibility requirements


You need to have a certificate of sponsorship from a licensed sponsor before you can apply to come to the UK to work.

Your work, training or research in the UK must relate to the work of your sponsor organisation.

Your sponsor can be any of the following:

  • an organisation running an approved exchange scheme
  • a higher education institution (if you are a sponsored researcher, visiting academic or examiner)
  • a government department or agency

How long it will take to get a Tier 5 visa?

The earliest you can apply for a visa is 3 months before the date you’re due to start work. This date is on your certificate of sponsorship.

You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK.


How much you pay for your visa depends on where you are.

Who you’re applying for Apply (outside the UK) Extend or switch (in the UK)
You £244 £244
If you’re a citizen of Turkey or Macedonia £189 £189
All dependants £244 each £244 each

Healthcare surcharge

You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. 

You’ll need to pay £19.20 to have your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) taken.

Get a faster decision on your application

It may not apply to the person you’re enquiring about but if she’s applying to extend or switch in the UK, the applicant can pay an extra £500 for a ‘priority service’ and get a decision within five working days.

You can pay an extra £800 for the super-priority service to get a decision:

  • by the end of the next working day after providing your biometric information if your appointment is on a weekday
  • two working days after submitting your biometric information if your appointment is at the weekend

Working days are Monday to Friday, not including bank holidays.

Once you’ve got your decision letter, your biometric residence permit will take up to 10 working days to arrive.

How long can Tier 5 holders stay?

You can stay in the UK for up to 12 or 24 months (depending on the scheme you’re applying for), or the time given on your certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days, whichever is shorter.

You can enter the UK up to 14 days before the start date of the job.

What you can do as a Tier 5 holder

You can:

  • study (although please note, for some courses you’ll need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate)
  • work in the job described in your certificate of sponsorship
  • do a second job for up to 20 hours per week
  • do a job on the Tier 2 shortage occupation list for up to 20 hours per week as well as your main job
  • apply to change (‘switch’) into a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa if you’re in the government authorised exchange scheme for sponsored researchers
  • bring family members with you

However, please note, Tier 5 holders cannot take a permanent job in the UK and they are not allowed access to public funds. Good luck!

The expert was Kevin Austin, managing director of Access Financial, a specialist in contracting overseas.

Tuesday 16th Jun 2020
Profile picture for user Kevin Austin

Written by Kevin Austin

Kevin is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, a Fellow of the Association of International Accountants and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.

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