Work in the UK

Essential Information to help You make your move.

Working in the United Kingdom

Britain is open to individuals who want to come and actively participate in the economy as skilled workers, entrepreneurs or investors.

As the fifth-largest economy in the world after the US, China, Japan, and Germany, it continues to attract foreign nationals across all sectors.

Non-UK nationals must have permission to work in Britain.

For non-EEA nationals, this means applying for a UK work visa or permit and, unless you are investing or have your own business, having a job offer from a sponsoring employer.

EU citizens are free to come to the UK without restriction until 31 December 2020. From 2021, any EU citizen not living in the UK will also have to apply for a visa to work here.

New UK visa rules

The UK’s immigration system is notoriously complex. Visa requirements differ between routes and adding to the complexity, the rules are undergoing considerable change following Britain’s departure from the EU on 31 January 2020.

From 1 January 2021, all non-UK nationals coming to the UK for work, both EEA and non-EEA citizens, will need to apply for a work visa or permit under a new points-based immigration system.

Points-based work visas

The majority of workers will from 2021 need to apply for a visa under the points-based system. This means visa applicants have to show they have attained enough points by meeting various eligibility criteria.

UK points-based work visas include:

  • Tier 1 Investor Visa for foreign nationals investing £2 million into qualifying UK investment activities.
  • General skilled worker (Tier 2) Visa for skilled workers from outside the EEA with a job offer in the UK from an approved sponsor.
  • Tier 2 (Intra Company) Visa for skilled workers who are transferred to the UK by an international company.
  • Tier 4 Visa for international students to study at a registered UK educational establishment. The Tier 4 visa permits restricted work activities.
  • The Tier 5 Visa comprises sub-tiers of temporary workers including creative and sporting, charity, religious workers, and the youth mobility scheme which enables about 55,000 young people every year to work in the UK on working holidays.

Finding a job in the UK

To search for employment opportunities and visa sponsorship as a foreign national, you should be prepared to dedicate a lot of time to online research.

Employers can only sponsor a skilled worker if they are on the Home Office
register of licensed sponsors. Searching this list can help to narrow your focus. If you are offered a skilled job from an employer that is not on the register, they will have to apply for a sponsor licence to be able to hire you.

Roles that are on the UK Shortage Occupation List can usually offer better chances of success as the visa criteria and application process are less strict than for other jobs. The roles on the list are diverse and subject to change. Currently included are scientists, engineers, IT professionals, medical practitioners, science teachers and chefs among many others.

Other UK work visas & permits

A number of work visas sit outside the points-based system. Each has specific eligibility criteria and application requirements:

  • Start-up route for entrepreneurs to set up their first UK-based business.
  • Innovator route for experienced business owners with a viable business idea.
  • Global talent route for individuals who can evidence exceptional talent or promise in their professional field.
  • Sole representative of an overseas business visa enables non-UK businesses to deploy a senior employee to set up new operations in the UK.
  • Turkish businessperson visa for Turkish nationals to start a new business in the UK or come to the UK to help run an established business.
It’s important to consider all of your options to understand which visa is best for your circumstances. You can then start to look at what you need to do to make your application.

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