Navigating UK Visas and Permits: A comprehensive guide for South Africans

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The United Kingdom has long been a destination of choice for individuals seeking new opportunities, world-class education, and a high quality of life. 

For South Africans, the UK offers a range of visas and permits that provide avenues for business investment, expansion, work, and residence. This article will shortly explore the prominent visa routes available, shedding light on the Innovator Visa, Expansion Worker Route, and Skilled Worker Visa. 

Overview of the UK Immigration Landscape 

The UK immigration system has undergone significant reforms recently, aiming to attract the best overseas talent and facilitate economic growth. The country’s strong economy, cultural diversity, and renowned institutions make it a hotspot for ambitious individuals. 

Recently, there have also been significant changes and developments in British Nationality law. Historically, there were many injustices and discrimination in British laws and regulations. The changes to the Nationality legislation brought into the 1981 British Nationality Act hope to redress these historical injustices and discrimination. The aim of the new amendments is thus to put persons in the position who would have automatically become British citizens had the past laws been just and fair. South Africans with British roots would be well advised to contact our Nationality department, as they could qualify for a British passport. 

Innovator Founder Visa Route – Pioneering Entrepreneurship 

For South Africans with a creative and entrepreneurial spirit, the Innovator Founder Visa route beckons. This pathway is tailored for individuals seeking to establish innovative UK businesses. Applicants need a viable and innovative business idea endorsed by an approved endorsing body to qualify. This visa grants the flexibility to work on the business and bring family members to the UK. Successful applicants are granted a stay of up to 3 years, with the possibility of extension and settlement.

One of the most significant advantages of this route is that it offers expedited settlement in certain circumstances. Holders can also take up secondary employment within specific parameters. 

Expansion Worker Route – Seizing Professional Opportunities

The Expansion Worker Route is an enticing option for South African businesses looking to expand to the UK. It accommodates individuals transferring from their existing employer’s organisation to a newly established UK branch, ensuring a seamless transition for both the employee and the employer into the UK markets. This route is proving popular with businesses looking at diversifying risk and expanding into new, untapped markets. 

Skilled Worker Visa Route – Tapping into Expertise

The Skilled Worker Visa route is a cornerstone of the UK’s immigration framework, designed to attract skilled individuals across various sectors. Applicants must have a job offer from a UK employer with a valid sponsorship license. The job must meet specific skill and salary requirements. This visa offers a pathway to settle in the UK permanently, making it an attractive option for those looking for stability.

Certain professions in the UK face a shortage of skilled workers, prompting the country to establish shortage occupation lists. These lists encompass roles in healthcare, engineering, construction, and technology. South Africans with expertise in these areas can benefit from a streamlined visa process and reduced eligibility criteria. 

Excitingly, a paradigm shift is also taking place in the UK post-Brexit. A post-graduate degree or a high-skilled professional label is no longer necessary to meet the requirements. The Shortage Occupation List is constantly being broadened to include eligible occupations requiring a matric certificate alone. Jobs like secretaries, personal assistants, butchers, florists, bar and restaurant managers, and more also find them on the welcoming roster. 

While an array of occupations could potentially qualify you for the Skilled Worker visa, it’s imperative to consult with Breytenbachs to navigate the labyrinth of eligibility requirements before embarking on a job search. 

A Timely Approach – Navigating Rising Fees 

Prospective UK visa applicants should be aware that the UK government has announced a significant increase in immigration fees and the immigration health surcharge. Unfortunately, no specific dates were provided so that it could occur anytime. Based on the timing of previous fee increases, Breytenbachs expect it to take effect in October 2023. Still, it is possible that it could be implemented earlier with very little prior notice. 

To mitigate financial concerns, Breytenbachs thus recommended initiating the application process as early as possible, ensuring that you lock in the current fee structure.

Breytenbachs, the Trusted Name in UK Immigration 

Navigating the UK immigration landscape can be intricate, with various pathways and evolving requirements. For South Africans seeking clarity, guidance, and a smooth application process, partnering with seasoned UK immigration consultants is paramount to ensure a successful outcome. Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants has offered tailored solutions to fit our client’s unique circumstances for over 25 years. We stand ready to assist our clients of all walks of life however we can. 

JP Breytenbach 

Director of Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants Ltd

Admitted as Solicitor of England and Wales in 2008, now specialising in UK Immigration Law as OISC Registered Consultant