“How can I migrate to the UK?” is a question asked countless times by people who have the dream to live and work in one of the best countries in the world. There are several factors that make the UK an attractive destination for migrating and living in. You can find jobs, get a great education, and get solid qualifications in the UK. You can also find a great life if you are willing to look for it, and the UK is one of the best countries to find it.

Umair Baig is one of the thousands of Pakistanis who have applied for the Highly-Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). In this article, I interview Umair about his experience from the start of his journey as a migrant through to obtaining UK citizenship.

Note: The HSMP is now called “Skilled Worker Visa.”

To prepare yourself fully for your UK job search, check out my “UK Success Course,” on Udemy Course platform here, taught together with Bianca Praino of Praino Careers, and specifically designed for international job seekers in the UK.

Cheryl: What initially led you to apply for the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme?

Umair: In our part of the world, everybody wants to try the first world country technologies, try to improve their career path and excel in what they’re doing. So at that point in time I had three options: one was Canada—which was very famous for immigration, the second was Australia and the third was the UK.

Canadian immigration takes about two years from the start of the application all the way to the end where you can fly to Canada, and it’s a big country so you have to decide which province you want to go and things like that.

Australia, again a massive country and it takes about 11 to 14 months to get the immigration process done.

Whereas the UK, at that time back in 2007-8 when I applied, it used to take six months to get the highly skilled migrant programme visa. So with my previous history with the UK—my family friends used to live there, making it an easier option and the faster option for me to apply for the UK.

Cheryl: Did your career track and path have something to do with your decision to go to the UK?

Umair: I got my degree from Karachi, Pakistan in chemical technology back in 2003 and I started [working] in the oil and gas sector within Karachi. I think it has a lot to do with luck, the time when your career is growing, etc. For example, back in 2007-8 when I applied for UK migration, the oil prices were really going up to 150 plus dollar a barrel and the economy was booming. So there were a lot of jobs all around the world, in Middle East, in Europe, and all other places.

Cheryl: Can you tell us a little bit about the process for applying for the highly skilled migration program at that time?

Umair: I think the UK copied it from Canada; it was a point-based system and the critera was very simple:

 

  • Your age – you should not be very old. The younger you are, the higher your points
  • Academic qualification – if you graduate, [or have a] master’s [degree] your points go up in the point system.
  • English language
  • Points for how much tax money you earn in your own country, in your own field – if you’re earning 1000 in Pakistan that has an equivalency rate in terms of UK currency.
Umair Baig

Umair Baig

Cheryl: How did you prove your English language level? Did you have to take an exam?

Umair: When I applied for it there was nothing like this, all you needed to do is to demonstrate that the university you studied at has English as the medium of instruction.

However after one year, they changed it to IELTS. (Now you need to include your IELTS exam scores with your UK visa application.)

Cheryl: Once you applied, what were the next steps in the process?

Umair: There was a quite comprehensive form and you had to prove that your points are above a certain level. Then there were fees required (500 pounds or something). You have to provide your credit card details with your application. As soon as they receive your application, they deduct that amount through your credit card, and as soon as you see that amount has been deducted, that means your application process has been started.

Also you have to demonstrate that you have a certain amount in your bank account. I think back then you had to show three thousand pounds in your account for the last six months or something, to prove you have enough to support yourself at the beginning when you’re going to the UK.

Cheryl: So for the connection with the company you eventually work for, how does that connection work between the UK government and the employer?

Umair: The HSMP visa gives you the same rights as a British national [to apply for jobs and work in the UK], except you’ve got no access to the benefits. Once you get this HSMP approval you can then apply for an EC visa (entry clearance) visa based on this HSMP approval letter.  

Cheryl: Let’s say you get the approval for the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme but you don’t get an offer—then what? Do you lose your opportunity to enter or how does that work?

Umair: You can enter into the UK with your visa and then look for a job. I’ve seen a lot of people who got the HSMP but they wanted a job in hand before they go to UK.

It’s a big risk if you don’t have a job in hand. You go there, you have to find a place to live, and UK is not a cheap country so you have to spend a lot of money to support yourself while you’re searching for a job.

UK visa

Cheryl: In your case, did you have a job before leaving Pakistan or did you go there and then search?

Umair: Somehow it worked well for me because as soon as I got the HSMP, I sent my HSMP approval to many recruiters and I told them that I’m gonna get my entry clearance visa in a month time or so. They started to look for a job for me, and I landed on a couple of good opportunities and interviews.

Cheryl: How would you describe the interview process?

Umair: Back in 2008-9 there wasn’t a big concept of video conferencing (Zoom and Skype) at that point in time, so it was mostly done from landline to landline and sometimes it was difficult to hear what they were saying. Then there are different accents as well, but it works because they know how to conduct an interview.

To prepare yourself fully for your UK job search, check out my “UK Success Course,” on Udemy Course platform here, taught together with Bianca Praino of Praino Careers, and specifically designed for international job seekers in the UK.

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UK Success Course

Cheryl: You took a course a cross-cultural training course with Richard Lewis of Lewis Communications in the beginning of your time in the UK. Would you like to tell us about that, and how it affected you or helped improve your experience there in the UK, especially in the beginning?

Umair: As soon as I joined my UK employer, Foster Wheeler, at that point in time they sent me for a course called “When Cultures Collide.” In that specific course, I understood different types of British cultures from south to midlands going all the way to north and the different cultures in Europe, in Italy and Spain and France and how they interact.

With this course, you’re able to continue applying this knowledge even many years later. In the oil and gas world you have to work with different people and with this kind of course, you’re blending with different values, lifestyles, and cultures. These courses help you in seeing the culture from a neutral perspective.

Cheryl: Do you have any advice for the audience about getting employed in the UK and continuing to stay employed—like maintaining a steady career in the UK, as someone who came from another country?

Umair: The UK market has a specific character and it’s very difficult to explain it, you have to experience it and you have to be in it. There is a job for everyone, it’s one of the fair trade/fair merit places where you can get a job if you’ve got the talent.

Once you’re in the market, you have to understand that everybody’s evaluating you and you have to play your best game. It’s an individualist country but when you’re working for a corporate organization you need to be a seamless team member and try to find the solution rather than problems in the solution.

Cheryl: Can you tell us about the path to citizenship then?

Umair: There is a two-step process to apply for and extension, after three years of your first entry clearance visa (EC). So once you’ve got the HSMP, you get three-year visa, entry clearance visa and in that three years, there are certain protocols that you have to follow. You have to stay in the UK for a specific amount of time per year.

I think it’s 270 days per year and you have to earn a certain amount of money per year taxable income in your own field, not doing odd jobs and things like that. It should be the field that you were originally given the visa for.

If you prove that after the end of three years, you’ve got those things in place then you get an extension for two more years which they call “Leave to remain in the UK.

Leave to remain in the UK for another two years, and after that two years you apply for

“indefinite leave to remain,” where you have to prove that in five years, there was not even a single time when you had a holiday more than a certain number of days. You earn a certain amount of taxable money that you contributed towards the UK society and finances in a certain way and if you tick all the boxes, you can apply for a permanent resident card. They call it “LFR”.

Cheryl: How did you feel when you received your British passport?

Umair: It’s a big achievement because I can see that throughout this path, the British system is very accommodating. There will be no bureaucratic glitches that stop you from doing certain things. There is always a way through which you can prove yourself if you don’t fulfill certain criteria. 

If you can rationalize why your case is exceptional, with proper reasoning and backup documents, they’re very open to hearing them out.

“Thank you so much Umair for all of this very valuable advice today. I’m sure that all the young people out there who are also aspiring to pursue a similar path will find this very enlightening and also very inspiring. Thank you so much once again for your time and wish you all the best of luck.”

Cheryl Obal

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The points outlined above are intended to give you a general understanding of the UK immigration process and the requirements you need to fulfill in order to be able to live and work there.  We hope that our article has been helpful. If you have any other advice or questions, please comment below. I would love to hear from you.

To prepare yourself fully for your UK job search, check out my “UK Success Course,” on Udemy Course platform here, taught together with Bianca Praino of Praino Careers, and specifically designed for international job seekers in the UK.

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