Want to Visit and then work?


We understand that getting a UK work visa is not as simple as one would have hope. Not easy for South Africans (without birth rights or marriage ties to the UK) that is.

Often applicants consider the thought of getting a visitor visa first and then going to the UK to find work opportunities.

It is important to note that UK visitor visas permit attending of interviews. Attending interviews is therefore not a breach of visitor visa conditions.

To help manage expectations though, we have put together information to help motivate the job interview process:

How to get a UK job offer What happens once you get a job offer


Changing status from visitor to employment based (whilst in the UK) however is a breach of the visitor visa conditions.

The British government expect applicants (who have UK job offers), to apply for employed based visas in their country of residence. 

Therefore South Africans are permitted to attend interviews in the UK but once a job is offered, they are expected to fly back to SA to change their visa status.


Prior to the 2008 recession, South Africans only needed a signed employment contract to qualify for the UK’s work permit.

These were the days where South Africans did not require to apply for visitor visas prior to departure. They were granted visitor status upon arrival.

South Africans were permitted to arrive as visitors, get UK job offers and whilst in the UK, they could apply for work permits.

Those days are gone and the British government is on a drive to control its borders (and the intent of travelers). 


We also find that applicants consider these longer term visitor visas as a means to better enable them to be in the UK longer (which isn’t the truth – based on the permitted 180 day entry into the UK annual restriction).

We have put together an explanation of the difference between visa validity and permitted time to stay in the UK. More information can be found on our visa duration page.


Unfortunately the 2 year Working Holiday Maker is no longer available to South African passport holders.


What happens often is that South Africans get caught out by UK solicitors. UK solicitors say: “there is a chance to change status and we can help lodge this request. It is high risk and we cant guarantee a successful outcome“.

They are UK practicing lawyers and we expect them to operate in our best interest. In these cases, they are not operating in our best interest though – only theirs. We can’t fault them for they are being honest about their offerings.

The make it known it is high risk, that there is no guarantee and that they can help lodge the application. All of that is true and South Africans just land up paying high legal fees only to find out permission is not granted and they have to return to SA.

It lands up being an expensive and time consuming defeat.

A typical “trap transaction” looks like this:

    1. South African decides they want to go the UK.
      • South African thinks it will be easier to deal with requirements once in the UK.
    2. South African applies for UK visitor visa (and demonstrates false intent to visit for 3 weeks).
    3. South African then arrives in the UK (with visitor status).
    4. South African then reaches out to UK solicitor – asking for immigration advice.
    5. UK Solicitor often says there is grounds to apply for permission to remain, on compassionate grounds for a claim of human rights.
      • South African pays solicitor high fees to do so.
    6. Solicitors lodge the case in the UK. South African waits around (not permitted to work).
    7. Case gets declined and South Africans is asked to leave the UK. Refused application is captured on their Home Office database (record is made – impacting future visa applications).
      • South African has to return to SA with no rights to remain in the UK.
      • Future UK visa applications factor in the false visitor intent and the prior request to remain in the UK. Future visa applications face compromise on this ground – seen as compromised character. 


It is important to note the the UK governments thought process. It helps understand their reasoning.

Every year, they process 11 Million visitor visa applications. Demonstrating false intent is a factor that concerns them.

To help visa applicants, the UK government have set up quite a comprehensive and technical visa system.

They continually update their guidance and immigration legislation. They make this content publically available for South Africans to read up on.

Upfront, their rules state that visitor visas no longer permit change of status whilst in the UK. 

It is important to note that the British government has setup these terms and conditions upfront. Therefore, there is no room for argument for applicants who try and say “but I didn’t know it wasn’t possible”.

There rules are quite clear in this regard.


The reality is that South Africans can apply for visitor visas and South Africans are permitted to attend interviews in the UK with their visitor visa. The key though, is that they have to acknowledge that they are aware of the terms of their visitor visa (accepting that a change of status in the UK is not permitted and that paid or unpaid work in the UK will not be pursued).

Should South Africans secure a UK job offer, the next logical step is that the South African has to negotiate Tier 2 sponsorship. The prospective UK employer has to issue the applicant with a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship in order for their case to be feasible (assuming the South African does not have a UK born grandparent).

The expectation is that South African have to fly back to SA to apply for the Tier 2 visa.

In country (ie in the United Kingdom) visa status change, from visitor to settlement or employment category visas is strictly not permitted.


What we find though, is that UK employers love South Africans. They easily offer UK jobs to South Africans with a very specific condition (that gets overlooked often): “job offer is subject to the applicant having independent working rights in the UK”.

In laymen terms this simply means “I will give you a job offer if you are permitted to work in the UK. If you are not permitted to work in the UK (with your own visa), we are not willing to offer Tier 2 sponsorship”.

Hence, it is important that South Africans find out if the UK employer is willing to offer Tier 2 sponsorship.


Our recommendation for South Africans looking to work in the UK is that they should first conduct a “Market Related Assessment”.

This will help them understand the feasibility of their case.

To do market research, applicants need to go online and research the available UK jobs (applicable to their current equivalent skill set).

Applicants need to be realistic though when they conduct the research. To keep themselves in check, they can only consider positions that they have been paid for in the past.

After researching the amount of positions currently available, applicants can draw two conclusions:

The first relates to the demand for their skill set. If there are more than 10 positions available in one area, it is a good sign. The second relates to the average wage that the UK pays (or is willing to pay).

The second aspect (average expected wage) can be used to determine Tier 2 sponsorship feasibility. In the Tier 2 visa, UK employers have to offer a minimum salary of £20 800 per annum.

If the Market Related wage is below the minimum required salary, then applicants can conclude that Tier 2 is not feasible.

If however the Market Related wage is way above the £20 800 pa salary, they can negotiate their starting salary (as a means to attract prospective employers).


Only once the applicants has been offered a Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship can we step in.

At present, Move Up does not provide recruitment services. Our expertise lies in UK immigration legislation.

We trust this insight is valued and that viewers remember Move Up for their pro-South African expertise.


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