Sometimes immigration rules can be a complicated matter. Below you will find a general overview of the type of visa which will allow you to work in the UK. (The eligibility requirements and procedures vary considerably according to the route).
Check if you need a visa to work or study in the UK.
A “visa” or entry clearance, is a document (in the form of a vignette on your passport, at the point of entry or a Biometric Residence Permit onceyou have arrived in the UK) issued by the UK immigration authorities which is evidence of your permission to enter or stay in the UK for a visit (e.g. to visit family or to study, work, to join family on a long term basis). Whether or not a visa is required depends on the purpose and proposed length of your stay, as well as your nationality. EU nationals are “non-visa nationals” which means for the purpose of a visit only they do not require a visa. For all other purposes EU nationals now require a visa.
UK Visas & Immigration website contains information about which type of visa is required to enter the UK and, if so, how to apply for one. To check if you need a Visa go to: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa .
Because of the intricacies of immigration law we would recommend that you seek the advice of a specialist adviser.
Permission to work in the UK
There are different type of visas depending on where you come from, the purpose and proposed length of your stay, as well as the personal circumstances and skills.
Your application needs to be approved before you travel.
Permission to work in the UK
To have permission to work as a skilled worker under the Points Based System (this is a kind of “work permit”), a UK-based employer must issue you with work authorization known as a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS), if they wish to employ you. There is no provision within the current arrangements for individuals to apply on their own behalf. Since CoS are issued for a named person to do a particular job for a specific employer, in order to change jobs the new employer will need to get approval from UKVI by applying for a new CoS followed by a change of employment visa application before you can start working for the new employer.
There are different routes available for people wishing to live (and work) in the UK. Some other visa types which permit work in the UK are mentioned below. For other schemes and more detailed information check the UK Visas & Immigration website.
Other options open to individuals
EU nationals living and working in the UK (and their family members) for five continuous years may be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain. NB: Even those who may have acquired Permanent Residence under the EEA regulations must apply under the EUSS 9even if applying late.
If you resided in the UK before 31 December 2020, it may still be possible to make a late application under the EU Settlement Scheme if there were reasonable grounds for not applying by the deadline of 30 Jun2021. You may wish to seek advice from a specialist immigration lawyer.
Frontier Work Permit
This is designed for individuals whose main home is outside the UK but who come to the UK to work. There must have been an established patter before the UK left the EU. To qualify, workers must spend less than 180 days total in the UK over the course of any 12-month period.
Permits are valid for five years and can be continuously renewed with no Home Office fee.
Global Talent visa
This visa is designed for ‘leaders or potential leaders’ in the fields of academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology. Individuals must first gain an endorsement from a relevant body. This is a very flexible visa and if you can qualify well worth having. You are not tied to any employer and it leads to settlement.
This category is aimed at people wanting to set up an ‘innovative business’ in the UK. They must be endorsed by either a British higher educational institution or an organisation supporting entrepreneurs. It is a “bridge” to Innovator visa.
This is for more experienced entrepreneurs and the category leads to settlement provided you have an innovative business idea that can be scaled up and move to international markets.
High Potential Individual visa
At the end of May 2022, the government announced a new High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, giving individuals with qualifications from top global universities the right to stay in the UK for at least two years. There are 37 universities on the list in total, with only just one of them in France (Paris Sciences et Lettres).
Scale-Up visa: a new development
In August 2022, the government brought in a new Scale-Up visa. It is expected to give companies experiencing rapid growth the ability to hire global talent more easily. It will be relevant for large and established companies.
Other visa categories that permit work
Besides all these options, employers can draw upon other pools of talent, including settled EU citizens, Ukraine scheme migrants and the dependents of UK citizens or the dependents of most other categories such as PBS and a number of others such as the temporary work categories such as T5 Government Authorised Exchange.
Some students are permitted to work (up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time although sometimes fewer hours). Specific restrictions on working hours will normally be printed on your visa.
Visitors are not allowed to work. As a visitor however a visitor may carry out certain business activities, including negotiating contracts and attending trade fairs, but you are not allowed to conduct any actual work paid or unpaid.
After 12 months of holding Indefinite Leave to Remain/ acquiring permanent residence you may be eligible to apply for British Citizenship (subject to satisfying all other current applicable eligibility requirements). The position of children born in the UK depends on the status of their parent(s) at that point (some children will be British automatically whereas others may acquire the right subsequently to register as British). British Nationality Law is complicated and advice should be sought by reference to specific circumstances.
Check the Home Office website for further details:
This section has been contributed by Nilmini Roelens, Immigration Solicitor, Roelens Solicitors.
In order to work in the UK you must have a National Insurance Number.
National Insurance Number (NIN or NINO)
Your NI Number is a unique identifier to track your National Insurance contributions and that tax are recorded against your name only. It’s made up of letters and numbers and never changes. UK citizens are issued with a National Insurance number when they are 16.
If you’re moving to the UK
If you are not a UK citizen and have not worked in UK before, you need to get one as soon as possible.
You may have a National Insurance (NI) number printed on the back of your biometric residence permit (BRP). You don’t need to apply for a National Insurance number if you already have one, or one is printed on your BRP.
If you don’t have a National Insurance number, you must apply. You can only apply once you’re in the UK and you must have the right to work in the UK.
In order to obtain your NINO, you need to apply online: https://www.gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number/how-to-apply and prove your identity
Once the interview and the paperwork have been completed you will be issued with a National Insurance number. This may take up to 12 weeks from when you applied. Providing your employer with a copy of the letter confirming that you have applied for the NI number will allow you to work in the meantime.
For more information about National Insurance numbers visit:
Once you have established you can work in the UK, reached a business level of English and started to note the cultural nuances of the British, you are ready to look at the UK job market in general.
- It may take an average of 6–9 months of dedicated searching to get a job in London/UK. It is not uncommon for people to change jobs every few years.
- The normal working hours should be set out in the contract of employment. The typical working week is between 35 and 40 hours depending on the sector and industry.
- Contracts of employment may be of indefinite duration, or for fixed terms. They may also be for training, apprenticeship or other purposes. By law, employees have a contract of employment as soon as they start working even if the written statement of employment required by the legislation has not been given to the employee. You should receive a written statement of terms and conditions of employment within two months of starting work.
- UK workers are entitled to be paid a minimum amount per hour. This amount is called the National Minimum Wage (NMW). There are different levels of NMW depending on your age. For more information about national minimum wage, visit: https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage
- Each employee has the right to know how much they will be paid and how often. You are also entitled to receive an individual, detailed written pay statement from your employer.
- When you start a new job, your employer may wish to carry out a number of checks depending on the specific job. These may include: background checks, health checks, criminal records, reference check etc.
The following benefits are legally required:
This can include reduced hours per day or reduced days per week. From June 2014 all employees have the legal right to request flexible working for any reason, not just parents and carers. You must have at least 26 weeks continuous service to make such a request and must follow the prescribed form in order for your request to fall within the statutory scheme. Your employer must consider your request and deal with it in a reasonable manner.
The average worker in the UK is absent from work 5.5 days a year. The two main reasons for absence are sickness and people feeling unable to come to work. Many employers have different policies about sickness and how to treat short-term and long-term illness. If an employee is a ‘qualifying employee’ and is absent for more than 4 consecutive days they are entitled to receive statutory sick pay (SSP). An employer may offer enhanced sick pay but is not obliged to do so. For more information, and to check if you qualify for SSP, visit https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay
Annual leave and holidays
All workers are entitled to a 5.6 weeks paid annual leave a year. This may include bank holidays and other public holidays depending on the company. Holidays are built up as soon as you start working. holiday-entitlement-rights
Zero Hour Contracts
Zero hour contracts have become very common in the UK over the past few years. They are usually for ‘piece work’ or ‘on call’ work, eg warehouse workers, customer service reps, bar staff, interpreters etc. They are characterised by the following conditions: low paid; required to be on call to work when needed; don’t have to be given work; don’t have to do work when asked. Zero hour workers are entitled to statutory annual leave and the National Minimum Wage in the same way as regular workers and can look for work elsewhere. The employer is still responsible for health and safety of staff on zero hour contracts.
Employers in the UK might offer some of the following benefits:
- Paid Sick Leave
- Child Care Voucher
- Bike to work scheme
- Health Insurance
- Disability Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Dental Insurance
- Critical Illness Cover
- Pension Plan
- Car Allowance
- Employee Assistance Plan
- Wellness Programs
- Education Reimbursements
It is important for you to make sure you are applying for the right position level according to your experience and skills.
Responsibilities and salaries usually vary according to the size of the company, years of experience and number of people you are managing.
Remember that titles can represent different things in different companies and responsibilities may vary according to the company structure.
Recruiters will normally send out a brief description of the company, the details of the position and its responsibilities in order for you to evaluate the position.
Types of employment and industry sectors
This is the most common form of employment.
However, employment in the UK is constantly changing and more flexible forms of working are starting to take a stronger hold of the market.
A variant of part-time work possible at most levels is job sharing.
The premise is that two people share one job. They may each work part of the day, part of the week, or alternate weeks depending on their own and their employer’s circumstances.
The advance of technology has been one of the most revolutionary business trends of recent years and dramatically increased the opportunities to work remotely. In the UK over 4 million people work in this way. This can be done both from home and at WiFi hotspots, and has unshackled workers from their office desks and computer terminals. Instant messaging, voice, audio and video and various communication platforms as well as working via the cloud, has meant that a single team member can access documents or contribute to discussion as they occur regardless of location, time zone or any other factor. Studies have shown that most workers would choose flexible working over a pay rise and companies report increased productivity as a result.
Allows staff to work when they want or need to for a fixed period of time and provides more flexible cover for employers. This type of work also lends itself to consultants or self-employed freelancers. (See ‘Contractors’ below).
These job options can provide the best of both worlds. Some industries are more open to flexible working arrangements and certain careers lend themselves to teleworking, contracting, and consulting.
Temporary assignment (Temps)
Temporary jobs are generally for a fixed period or may be intermittent. The hiring of temps is widespread among UK companies and it is quite easy to find such a job. Temporary candidates are employed by the agency rather than the company for which they work. Positions might range from holiday cover (anything from a day to 2 weeks) to interim roles for six months or more (i.e. when someone is on maternity leave).
The term ‘contractor‘ is normally used for temporary positions that are a fixed length of time. The contractor candidate commits to the position for the length of time involved, but is still employed by the agency. Alternatively, a company may offer a candidate a contract of up to one year in duration, after which they will have no obligation to continue to employ the candidate.
It is relatively easy to become self-employed in the UK. These are freelance workers specialised in fields such as arts, design, engineering, accounting, electronics and computing. Some positions are very well paid. For example, many IT professionals choose to contract as they earn more than if they were in a full-time position. There are also positions which have the added bonus of being conducted from home. This is an attractive alternative for individuals looking for a better work/life balance. Many contractors are self-employed and take care of their own taxes and legalities.
Industry sectors in the UK may differ from those in other countries. There is a split between private, public, non-profit and academic, and there are also many organisations that fall in between these sectors. Many newspapers and online jobsites will often use the following subcategories within each sector:
- Private: banking and finance, FMCG, professions (law/accountancy/medicine), media
- Public: central government, local government, public-funded projects
- Non-profit/Charity: social, housing, environment, health