Internships in the United Kingdom: what’s the immigration procedure?

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It’s important to remember that for professional immigration, it’s not the assignment duration that determines the type of procedure, but instead the nature of the assignment.
In the United Kingdom, an “internship” assignment is considered to be a work assignment and therefore it’s necessary to obtain a suitable work permit.
Since the 1st of January 2021, EU nationals are now subject to the same immigration conditions as foreign nationals. Therefore, it’s essential to obtain a visa in order to complete an internship in the United Kingdom.



To complete a fully compliant internship in the United Kingdom, it’s necessary to obtain a “Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange route” (GAE) work visa.
This visa is designed to allow students (who have not yet graduated) and also new graduates to gain work experience as part of the British workforce as an intern. This procedure is equally applicable to your employees on a work-study programme.



Obtaining the GAE visa is a lot more than a simple visa application and is part of a comprehensive immigration procedure due to the nature and complexity of the procedure. Therefore, as with all immigration procedures, there are a certain number of conditions applicable to the obtention of this type of visa:

→ The assignment must be part of one of the programmes approved by the British Government

​​​​The programmes approved by the British authorities aim at sharing knowledge, experience and good practices. The British authorities have authorised 58 types of programmes.


→ The visa application must be sponsored by an organisation accredited by the British authorities

The visa application must be sponsored by one of the following organisations accredited by the British authorities:
An organisation managing one of the 58 type of programmes mentioned above
A higher education institution (for researchers for example)
A ministry or governmental body
Each of these sponsor organisations must have a level 5 “Sponsorship Licence” allowing them to act as a general sponsoring organisation. Therefore it’s these sponsor organisations that will determine if the internship meets the criteria for the “GAE” visa and if your candidate has the necessary skills for the assignment.

The host company will then be able to contact one of the organisations mentioned to secure their sponsorship as well as the granting of a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS).


→ The assignment must be temporary 

As its name implies, this visa is reserved to those completing a temporary assignment and is not designed to meet a permanent work requirement in the United Kingdom.

The maximum duration allowed for the “Work Experience” programme is 12 months. Certain programmes have the possibility to request a renewal, but only in very rare cases.


→ Contract and salary location: outside the United Kingdom

The contract and payroll must be maintained outside of the United Kingdom. Your candidate will only be able to receive “reasonablecompensation in-country, covering travel and accommodation expenses.


→ Minimum salary: £24,800 annually (gross) 

The minimum basic salary is £24,800 annually (gross). However the salary rates in the United Kingdom depend on the sector of activity and the post. It’s possible to add the salary and the daily allowances to meet this rate; however total accommodation allowances must not exceed 40% of the gross salary.


→ Level of study: Bachelor’s degree

Your candidate must either already have a “Bachelor’s degree” (bac+3), or be a student on a course that will lead to the obtention of a Bachelor’s degree (bac+3) or higher.


→ Your candidate must have sufficient funds to prove that they can withstand the cost of living in the United Kingdom 

Your candidate will need to provide evidence of funds of at least £1,270 in their bank account in the 28 days preceding their visa application, in order to withstand the British cost of living during the first month of the internship.

The British “sponsor” organisation can also act as a guarantor if they have a class A “Sponsorship Licence” by certifiant in the sponsorship application that they’ll be supporting and providing accommodation for the candidate until the end of the first month of the internship, to the sum of at least £1,270.


→ Your candidate must be outside of the United Kingdom when making the visa application

In fact, it’s not possible to obtain a “Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange route” visa through a change of status from “tourist” to “student”.

The change of status is only possible when your candidate has a student visa (formally Tier 4) and only after the attainment of a degree within a “young professional” training programme.



If you’ve already received a COS (Certificate of Sponsorship) from a sponsor:

The visa application must be submitted in the 3 months before the start of the internship.

In our experience, collecting the necessary documents for the visa application can take a bit of time, so it’s recommended to start the formalities 3 months before the start of the internship.

Once the visa application application has been submitted, the authorities state that it usually takes 3 weeks to obtain the visa allowing travel to the United Kingdom and a start to the internship that’s fully compliant.
However, it’s important to note that once the visa has been granted, your candidate will have to go to the United Kingdom in the 30 days that follow, at the earliest 15 days before the internship start date, and at the latest 4 weeks after the internship start date.


→ If the host company is not yet registered with a sponsor:

In this case, it’s recommended to add an additional period of 2 to 3 months in order to complete the formalities beforehand.



Since Brexit, sending an intern to the United Kingdom now requires a comprehensive and complex immigration procedure.


Our experts are available to help, so don’t hesitate to get in contact with them!

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