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International Agreement Visa | Temporary Work Visa

The visa category under the International Agreement which is classed as a temporary work visa, allows a person to come in the UK covered by international law.

You will need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to work in the UK and this will need to be issued prior to the visa application is lodged under the International Agreement. The visa can be applied 3 months prior to your travel to the UK and the start date of your visa will depend on the Certificate of Sponsorship.

Who are allowed to come under the International Agreement

The visa category allows a person to come in the UK under international law and can work in the following capacity:

  1. Private servants in diplomatic households.

  2. Employees of an overseas governments or international organisations.

  3. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) or similar trade agreements.

The Home Office will usually publish lists of international agreements where a migrant can qualify under this visa category and is published under the immigration rules. Transfers of employees from an overseas international organisation will need to apply under the Tier 2 ICT program.

How to meet the requirements under the International Agreement

At the time of lodging your visa application to enter the UK under the international agreement, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. Must hold a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) which is issued by your sponsor in the UK.

  2. You must be aged 18 years old or over.

  3. You must hold an agreement to work in a capacity allowed by the immigration rules which includes being a member of staff at a diplomatic or consular mission. The governance of the diplomatic privileges and immunity are defined by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

  4. Your employer or sponsor, as defined by the immigration rules, must provide the terms and conditions of your employment in the UK.

  5. You must intend to work full time for the named organisation and must not hold any other posts not defined by the Certificate of Sponsorship.

  6. You must be paid in accordance to the UK’s legislation and employment laws.

  7. You must not be related to your sponsor or have any family ties. Home Office will make relevant checks to ensure that the international agreement is not being abused.

  8. Prior to your visa is to expire, you will need to leave the UK unless your contract is extended, a new Certificate of Sponsorship is issued and an application for an extension is lodged prior to the visa is to expire. All relevant requirements of the immigration rules must be met at the date of application under the International Agreement.

  9. You must not fall for refusal under the general grounds of refusal.

If you are a domestic worker and intend to work for your employer in a private household for less than 6 months, then you should apply for the domestic worker visa instead. You will not need to hold a valid Certificate of Sponsorship.

Where you will be employed by an international organisation, the immigration rules contains further requirements to be met, which are as follows:

  1. Must hold a valid contract of employment, which sets out the conditions of the employment as well as other terms, which is required by UK’s employment laws.

  2. Must not intend to switch into other immigration categories whilst holding this visa under the International Agreement.

  3. You must not work or intend to be employed by someone else even if that is on the same role you are currently working under.

Trade agreements and trade services

As part of this agreement, when a Certificate of Sponsor is issued and assigned, under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) or another similar trade agreement, your employer or sponsor, will need to make sure that you are either a contractual service supplier who does not have any commercial presence in the UK, or you are an independent professional, possibly self-employed, who must also not have any commercial presence.

As part of the application, there will be a requirement to provide specified evidences to support the visa application. For example, as a contractual service supplier, you must have been employed by the overseas company for more than 12 months and hold a professional qualification including degree or above, and must have 3 years work experience unless you qualify for an exemption.

Where you are an independent professional, the Home Office will expect you to hold a professional qualification, technical experience, degree or above qualifications and more than 6 years of work experience.

Visa valid period of the International Agreement

The visa category allows a migrant to remain in the UK for a maximum period of 24 months or the period given on the Certificate of Sponsorship. However under the International Agreement, there is an exception to the policy which is set out as follows:

  1. A private servant in diplomatic households can apply for a maximum period of 6 years leave in the UK but will need to apply for leave every 2 years. This would apply only if you entered the UK prior to the changes on the 6th of April 2012.

  2. A private servant, who has entered on a visa issued post 6th April 2012, can remain in the UK for a maximum period of 5 years.

  3. Where you are an employee of an overseas government or international organisation, a maximum period of stay is 6 years and can be renewed every 2 years.

Switching to the International Agreement program

The visa category permits switching from a valid work permit if you are currently working for the same employer. It may not be possible to switch into the visa from another visa category.

Frequently asked questions about the International Agreement

You will find some useful information below regarding the international agreement and its visa process.

How to lodge an application for a International Agreement

The visa application under the international agreement is usually made from outside of the UK. Unless you are permitted, switching in the UK to the visa category may not be possible.  

How long does a International Agreement visa take to be decided by the Home Office

A decision for a visa under the international agreement usually take around 15 working days, however due to security checks, this may delay the visa application decision.

Dependants under the International Agreement scheme

The visa category allows your dependants including your partner, civil partner or children under the age of 18 years to join you in the UK or can extend their leave to remain if they already hold a valid dependant visa. If your dependants hold other type of leave to remain in the UK, they may be able to switch into the dependant visa.

Your family members must apply for a visa to either join you or extend their leave to remain in the UK and must meet the requirements of the immigration rules which include the financial maintenance as specified.

If an International Agreement visa is refused, can the decision be appealed?

An application that is refused under the international agreement visa cannot be appealed before the First Tier Tribunal against however you can lodge a review of the decision. You must identify case working errors and demonstrate that the decision was unlawful.

Taking legal advice on the International Agreement visa

We at ICS Legal will provide guidance and correct advice on how to apply under the international agreement visa category and we find this is essential when considering working in the UK. You can speak to one of our UK Immigration Lawyers on 0207 237 3388 or you can email us at

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