The quick way South African techies can get a UK visa

South Africans who want to move to the UK could qualify for its Global Talent visa, provided they work in a digital technology field.

The UK is a popular destination for South Africans who wish to work abroad temporarily or emigrate permanently.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has interrupted many people’s plans to move to other countries, Sable International reports that there were still 4,012 applications for work visas granted to South Africans in 2020.

This is much lower than in previous years, likely because South Africans are prohibited from travelling to the UK as South Africa has been placed on the country’s red list for travel.

However, the South African government has been lobbying the UK government to remove it, so the situation could change in the coming weeks, particularly given that the vaccination rollout has picked up the pace and daily infections have gradually declined.

The Global Talent visa affords South Africans who are leaders or potential leaders with technical or business skills in the digital technology sector the opportunity to get a work visa faster than using conventional approaches.

Examples of fields that qualify for the visa are financial technology (fintech), gaming, cyber security, and artificial intelligence.

This visa offers those looking to work in the UK many benefits, including:

  • No job offer is needed to get the visa.
  • Choose how long your visa is valid for, up to 5 years.
  • Be an employee, self-employed and a director of a company.
  • Change or stop doing your job without telling the Home Office.
  • Bring your partner and children with you as your dependents, if they’re eligible.
  • Travel abroad and return to the UK.
  • No language or minimum salary eligibility requirements.

Should your visa be approved and you move to the UK, it can be renewed as many times as you like if you meet the eligibility criteria.

In addition, you can apply to settle permanently after three years if you are applying as a leader or five years if you are a potential leader.

To get the Global Talent Visa, you will first have to apply for an endorsement, which costs £456 (R8,938).

Tech Nation will review your application and will usually provide a decision within 5-8 weeks. Special applications that qualify for a “fast track” will get a response in three weeks.

In addition, you will have to apply for the Global Talent visa, which costs £152 (R2,980) and takes around 3 weeks to process.

To save time, you can do this in conjunction with the endorsement application.

Should you apply for both simultaneously and your endorsement is refused, you will get your visa application fee back, minus £25 (R490).

For each partner or child in the application, an additional £608 (R11,920) will have to be paid.

In addition to these costs, a healthcare surcharge of £624 per year per person will apply.

The table below shows the total cost of the application for two people on a three-year visa.

Cost in pounds Cost in rand
Endorsement application £456 R8,938
Global Talent visa application £152 R2,980
Additional visas £608 R11,918
Healthcare surcharge £3,744 (£624 x 2 x 3) R73,357
Total £4,960 R97,193

The earliest you can apply for a visa is three months before you travel.

To ensure you don’t pay these costs without meeting the required criteria, it is best to consult the full list of qualifying skills, which is shown below.

Technical skills

  • Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning experts (AI, NLP, ML)
  • CTO or VP engineering experience managing teams of in-house employees at a growing digital business
  • Cybersecurity experts
  • DevOps / SysOps engineers
  • Experienced back end developers leading the development of or contributing heavily to major new technologies or open-source projects (for example, blockchain, Scala, Golang, Elasticsearch and so on)
  • Experienced data scientists/data engineers
  • Experienced front-end developers
  • Experienced Mobile App developers
  • Experienced UX/UI designers
  • Experienced video game developers
  • Hardware engineers
  • Operating systems engineers
  • Principal software engineers/developers
  • Virtual and augmented reality developers

Business skills

  • Experience as a commercial/business lead (P&L, growth, sales and distribution strategy) in a digital business
  • Experience as C Suite in a SMEs + (CEO, CMO, CIO) or head of operations for a digital business
  • Experienced and senior VC or PE analysts with track records of leading investments in digital businesses
  • Experience in expanding or growing a significant product-led digital technology business
  • Experience in leading substantial VC investment over £25 million
  • Experienced Product Manager
  • Performance marketing experts, performed in house for digital businesses
  • SaaS or enterprise sales leadership for digital services
  • Sector-specific experience, for example, payment infrastructure in FinTech / international expansion in EdTech and so on.
  • Solution sales experts
  • Solution sales skills performed for a growing B2B digital business (i.e. not big-company experience)

Now read: Digital Covid-19 vaccine passport for South Africa — How it will work

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The quick way South African techies can get a UK visa