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Guide to Obtaining a Work Visa

Guide to Obtaining a Work Visa

by Mark Johnstone of Global Visas

Perhaps you worked hard to earn a promotion abroad with your current employer? Or maybe you’ve just landed that new dream job overseas. Whatever the situation, you are about to embark on an exciting short-term move abroad to further your career and enhance your lifestyle.

Moving overseas can be a complicated as well as daunting prospect. If there is one factor that can scupper any move, it’s failing to obtain that all-important work visa. Here are six steps to ensuring you give yourself the best chance to get the visa application process working for you.

Step 1: Give yourself plenty of time

Just because you have a job offer doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a visa. Most countries have a Critical Skills Shortage List which details the types of jobs most eligible for a work visa. When your employer decides that you fit a gap in the employment market, allow them time to prepare your visa application and ensure you are able to produce all the documents required to prove your case.

Step 2: Regard your references

Securing the right references to support your job offer is all important. These are cornerstone to your case. Your references must cover off all the important salient information required by the immigration office to make a decision on your case. Make sure they cover everything you have achieved with your former employers and that the employers are happy to take a call to confirm the facts.

Step 3: Submit all relevant documents

To obtain any visa you must make a formal application and this means filling in paperwork and attaching copies of the required documents. Beyond proof of employment, there are certain documents you must provide, which vary from country to country. In all cases, make sure you have a valid passport and that it is not close to expiry. Other proof of qualification may include educational certification, biometric data, a valid marriage certificate, bank statements, salary slips, tax returns, investments, health report, police check and more. There is potentially a lot of paperwork for a visa application, so be organized and keep a paper trail in a file.

Step 4: Moving abroad comes at a cost

Some host countries charge nothing for a work visa and some do. Fees vary from country to country. Ask your visa specialist how much the cost of a temporary work visa is for the host country required. Most immigration departments do charge for processing a visa application and have an issuance charge on top. All expats also have to show they have an amount of money which will prevent them from becoming a burden to their host country. This money can be provided from independent wealth or sponsorship. Finally, take out personal insurance to cover any unexpected medical costs that may come your way.

Step 5: Wait for your visa to arrive

Getting a visa takes time. Filling in the necessary paperwork, providing the relevant documents and proof of identity, plus waiting for immigration authorities to process your application – it all adds up. Securing a work permit can take anything from a few months to a few years. Be prepared to wait and note that most immigration departments are notoriously slow. Unless you know someone who can push it through a fast-track route.

Step 6: Keep your visa application up-to-date

While on a temporary work visa your circumstances may change, or the work visa you are on may expire. It is you who must keep on top of your work visa. Do not expect a phone call or letter from an immigration official. Instead keep on top of your case as it is your personal responsibility. Your employer may be able to help if they have an international HR team looking after you. Under no circumstances remain in the host country beyond the expiry date as stated on your visa. You may face arrest, deportation and, in extreme cases, be banned from entering the host country for a number of years. In short, it pays to know and obey the visa laws.

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.