Britain is open to individuals who want to come and actively participate in the economy through employment or running a business.

As a non-UK resident, you will however need permission to work here. This means applying to the Home Office for a UK work visa and meeting the requirements under the specific immigration route.

Some work visas are sponsored while others require neither sponsorship nor a job.

In this guide, we summarise the main work visa routes for foreign nationals looking to make the move to the UK,

Points-based work visas

Most UK work visas are governed by the country’s points-based system. This means visa applicants have to show they have attained enough points by meeting the eligibility criteria.

UK points-based work visas include:

  • Skilled worker visa for those with a qualifying job offer in the UK from an approved sponsor.
  • Health and Care Worker visa for those with a qualifying role in the UK care sector.
  • UK Expansion visa for non-UK businesses to deploy senior employees to set up new operations in the UK.
  • Innovator Founder visa for entrepreneurs to set up a business in the UK.
  • Temporary work visas such as the seasonal worker and creative worker visa, which are for workers in specific industries or roles to come to the UK for short-term work.

Unsponsored work visas

Some visas do not require sponsorship by a UK employer. These include:

  • Global talent visa – for those who are established or with recognised potential as leaders in their field. Applicants must secure endorsement before they can apply for the visa.
  • High Potential Individual visa – for graduates of non-UK universities.
  • Youth Mobility visa for 18-25 year olds of certain countries to come to the UK to work for up to two years.

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 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.

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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Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing & Content Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

Legal disclaimer


The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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