Do I need a visa to work in the UK?

Prior to starting a job in the UK, an employer must check that you have the right to work in the UK. You will have the right to work in the UK if you are a British Citizen, an EEA citizen, or someone who is “settled” in the UK having indefinite leave to remain. In other circumstances, you will need to hold a visa that allows you to work.

What visa allows full time, permanent work in the UK?

The main visa specifically for work in the UK is Tier 2. This visa is available for individuals who are being employed by an employer who holds a sponsor licence in a job at or above a specific skill level. Appendix J to the Immigration Rules sets out what jobs will be considered skilled enough for this visa.

If an employer wishes to sponsor someone, they will also have to pay at least the minimum salary set by the Government, which can vary role to role. In many cases where recruiting someone from abroad the employer will have to have first advertised the role in the UK to show no settled worker can do it. The advert must run for at least 28 days and there are requirements on the employer to keep copies of the advert and all recruitment documents.

Currently, it is difficult to obtain a Tier 2 general visa if you are outside the UK. That’s because the number of places for new entrants on this visa is restricted. For individuals looking to come to the UK on a Tier 2 visa, the employer must request a restricted certificate of sponsorship from the Home Office. These are allocated on a monthly basis, with jobs which are difficult to fill or those which are highly paid taking priority.

When an employer has been granted a restricted certificate of sponsorship, it will then allocate that to the individual and this is what then enables the individual to meet the points requirement for a Tier 2 visa. Other points must be gained from having adequate maintenance and being able to prove an acceptable level of English language skills.

Do any other visas allow work in the UK?

Aside from the Tier 2 route, there are other visas which allow work in the UK but generally either the grounds for obtaining these visas is limited, or the work scope itself is limited.

Tier 2 Intra-Company transfer is a slightly easier route for individuals who are working for a company abroad which also has a UK office. However, this route has a higher minimum salary threshold and cannot lead to settlement in the UK.

Students on Tier 4 visas can normally work for 20 hours term time and full time during vacation periods but they should not fill permanent vacancies.

Tier 5 is an option for individuals looking to come to the UK for a short period of work, usually as a internship. This route can allow someone to work for a year, or two years in some instances. Generally, the routes under Tier 5 require a sponsor, or are for people between 18 and 30 who hold certain nationalities.

Individuals who hold a Tier 1 exceptional talent visa are allowed to work freely in the UK but the bar for this visa is high and requires the individual to be a world leader, or future world leader, in one of a number of specified fields, including the arts, sciences, and digital technology.

If you want more information about the contents of this blog, please contact our business immigration specialist Charlotte Ashton 0161 926 1592 or email