How to Obtain a Work Visa in the United Kingdom
There is a lot to love about the United Kingdom: the arts and culture, its storied history, and a gorgeous landscape — from dramatic seaside cliffs to the rural countryside to lush forests. And do not forget the cheeky sense of humor, friendly people, free health care, and the appeal of global cities like London and Glasgow.
It is no wonder, so many foreign workers flock to the UK. At the end of 2019, 5.81 million immigrants were working in the United Kingdom, and 3.65 million were not UK nationals.
The United Kingdom’s economy is booming, even with Brexit looming and the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Forecasting suggests the UK’s gross domestic product will grow 7.2% by the end of 2021 — the fastest GDP growth since 1941.
This growth means a wide range of industries are hiring, including health care support staff and specialized medical professionals, e-commerce, finance, construction and real estate, digital content creators, customer service, social media and digital marketing.
As you get ready to make this professional move abroad, we will walk you through the process of obtaining a UK work visa and teach you about UK immigration law. Through Relocate — an independent marketplace for global migration — you can also connect with qualified Advisors in the UK who can answer any questions you might have about moving and working there as a foreigner.
Who Needs a United Kingdom Work Visa?
Travelers from many countries can enter the United Kingdom for up to six months for certain business activities, tourism, and other reasons. Entry via this method does not permit you to work in the UK, though.
Before moving to the UK for a new job, you should first determine if you need a work visa. The process varies by country, so before filling out an application, check to see if you need a work visa based on your nationality. You can check work visa requirements by country on the official UK government website.
European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) residents and those from Switzerland, who arrived in the United Kingdom by or before Dec. 31, 2020, do not need to obtain a work visa.
The EU consists of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. The EEA consists of EU countries in addition to Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. Swiss nationals fall into a separate category.
Non-EEA nationals with indefinite leave to remain/settlement in the UK also do not need a work visa. However, anyone falling within these categories needs to provide employers with the legal documents proving they have the right to work.
The UK also has a Common Travel Area arrangement with Ireland, allowing residents of both areas to travel freely and work without visas.
United Kingdom Work Visa Requirements
The United Kingdom’s Immigration Services offer visas through a points-based system that falls under different tiers. There are various types of UK work visas provided for foreigners looking for work abroad. (Commonwealth citizens and British nationals overseas have a separate work visa process.)
Not sure which work visa is best for your situation? In that case, browse qualified advisors and connect you with an Immigration Solicitor in the United Kingdom to guide you through the process.
Here are some of the UK work permits you might consider applying for and some of their eligibility requirements.
Skilled Worker Visa
This visa, which replaced the Tier 2 General Work Visa, allows foreign workers to come to the UK to take an eligible job with an approved employer. You need to work for a UK employer approved by the Home Office and be paid at least the minimum salary for your job. To check if you’re eligible for a Skilled Worker Visa, find your four-digit occupation code using the ONS occupation coding tool.
Post-Study Work Visa
International students who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree from a UK institution of higher education have the opportunity to work there after their studies for up to two years. This visa is also known as the “Graduate Route,” and was launched in July 2021.
Youth Mobility Scheme Visa
This Tier 5 visa, similar to a Working Holiday Visa in other countries, is designed for those aged 18 to 30 and allows them to live and work in the UK for up to two years. You will need to have €2,530 saved before making a move and have certain types of British nationality or be from certain countries or territories. The earliest you can apply is six months before you travel.
Intra-Company Transfer Visa
An Intra-Company Visa allows you to come to the UK through your current employer to work at one of their branches. You will need to have worked for your employer for at least 12 months before making this transfer unless they are paying you €73,900 annually to move to and work in the United Kingdom. you will also need to receive a certificate of sponsorship from your employer and take on a job from a list of eligible occupations.
Minister of Religion Visa
This type of visa is for religious workers offered a position within a faith community in the UK.
This visa is for those who want to launch an innovative business — meaning one that is wholly unique from anything else currently on the market — in the UK. you will need to be endorsed by a higher education institution in the United Kingdom or an organization supporting entrepreneurs. This visa allows you to stay up to two years.
Like a Start-Up Visa, the Innovator Visa is for those starting a unique business in the UK. An approved body must endorse it. This visa allows you to stay for up to three years.
The focus of this Tier 1 visa is to draw well-funded investors to the UK. The Investor Visa requires an investment of €2 million or more in the United Kingdom, and you need to prove that you have access to these funds. The earliest you can apply is three months before you travel. The visa allows you to stay for up to three years and four months, with the possibility of extending the visa another two years. It also paves a path for permanent settlement status depending on how much you invest in the UK.
The Sportsperson Visa is for elite sportspersons and qualified coaches endorsed by their sport’s governing body. You can stay for up to three years through this visa, with the possibility of a three-year extension.
Temporary Worker Visa
Also known as the International Agreement Visa, this Tier 5 visa is for short-term contracted work covered by international law or treaty in the UK. The types of work included in this visa are working for a foreign government, working as a private servant in a diplomatic household, or providing a service under contract as an independent professional. Those working for a foreign government or in a diplomatic household can stay for up to two years. Contracted independent professionals can remain for six months out of any 12-month period.
If you are 16 or older, you can apply for a Student Visa, allowing you to study in the UK. You can only work in specific jobs under this visa.
How to Get a United Kingdom Work Visa
If you are applying for a UK work visa, here is a closer look at the application process for most situations. If you have any questions about your specific situation, let Relocate, an independent marketplace for global migration, connect you to qualified Advisors in the United Kingdom who can answer any questions you have.