UK Work Visas: A Simple Guide

What to know about UK work visas and permits

With a puzzle of conflicting information out there surrounding UK work visas, understanding the current rules and regulations can be a little bit of a headache; particularly in the wake of Brexit.

Whether it’s working out how to get a UK work visa, or simply the cost of a UK work visa, there is so much to consider. When it comes to the UK work visa, there is never one rule for all, so understanding the finer points is essential.

With this simple guide, we aim to make your move to the UK simpler by taking you through the ins and outs of UK Work Visas, stripping away the jargon and bureaucracy and leaving you free and confident to apply or take the right path for you.

1- Can I work in the UK without a work permit?

As the new Brexit rules come into play, there are certain people who no longer need a work permit to work in the UK.  However, this is based on a person’s status before the Brexit changes took place. You can only work in the UK without a work permit if you were a European Economic Area (EEA) citizen who worked in the UK before the 31st of December 2020. 

The European Economic Area includes citizens from the following countries:

Czech Republic

Workers from Switzerland, which is outside of the EEA are also able to work in the UK without a work permit, if they too have been working in the UK before 31st Dec 2020. Those who do not fall under these categories will need to apply for a work permit or visa.

Finding a job in the UK- London

2- Can EU citizens still work in the UK?

The short answer to this question is yes. However, EU citizens will need to apply for either a Skilled Worker Visa or under the EU Settlement Scheme and this includes many types of UK Work Visas. This is based on the fact that having an EU passport or national identity card no longer gives you the right to work in the UK if you are a citizen of the EU. 


There are a number of exceptions to this rule. These exceptions include if you are an EU national that was born in the UK and at least one of your parents have EUSS settled status. Another exception is if you are an EU national that has been granted permanent residence right in the UK by the Home Office.


One of the most unique exceptions to this EU citizen rule is if you are an EU citizen of Ireland. This is because the UK and Ireland still retain the free trade agreement between the two countries, so free movement between workers still remains.

3- What are the requirements for a UK work visa?

The requirements for a UK work visa all depend on the points-based system. These almost always include filling out an online application form; this can be found on the government website. There is one expectation when it comes to the EU citizen rule and this is if you are a citizen of Ireland.

It may seem like an obvious one, but you will also need to have a valid passport. Although you are attempting to secure a UK work visa, you will be required to prove your ability to provide for yourself financially – this is basic proof of having the means to cover UK living costs.

Similar to the financial requirement, you will have to show proof of accommodation in the UK, as failing to do this will undoubtedly require you to fall into the trap of seeking housing benefits. In cities like London, you may want to start looking for apartments to rent as early as possible due to the high demand and consequent housing shortage. As is the case with most visa and passport applications, you will need to submit two color photographs taken within the past six months.

You will also need to submit a detailed travel itinerary. This itinerary should follow on from your place of origin and show that you have travelled legally along the correct routes to the UK. This should be done in your country of origin, and the test result will need to be shown before you apply for a UK work visa.      

Another biological and societal box to tick is the requirement to state your biometric information. This includes information such as your height, place of birth, fingerprints, name and date of birth. As it comes to no surprise, if you are travelling from a non-English speaking state, any of your official documentation should be translated into English. 

Finally, the UK work visa cost and any other fees need to be paid before you can be accepted on a UK work visa. The cost of such a visa or permit will depend on the type of application you are making.

A skilled worker UK work visa or an intracompany transfer one will require you to pay between £610 and £1,408 per person, though this may be lower if your profession is on the job shortage list

If you are applying for a health and care role within the UK, you will need to pay a fee of £232 per person for a work contract that stipulates three years or less. If it is over three years then you will have to pay £464 per person. If you are applying for a UK work visa for temporary or seasonal work then your fees will be stated at £244 – this is true for employment in a temporary or creative and sporting job too. Start-up companies looking to work within the UK will have to pay between £363 and £493 for their visa.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s health care is run through the Nation Health Service. This NHS is paid from citizens’ National Insurance contributions. – a form of social security tax. This being the case, you will need to pay a sum towards this service. This sum will be a total of £624 per year unless you come to work as a health and care worker.

Those of you who do not apply for a UK work visa based on student or educational grounds will also be required to prove you have £1,270 per person in savings.

Finding a job in the UK- Edinburgh

4- What to know about the UK's point-based immigration assessment system?

At the beginning of 2021 and the eventual fallout from the Brexit decision, the United Kingdom decided to introduce a points-based immigration system. This system means that anyone coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements.


For every requirement a person meets, they are awarded points. The UK work visas are then given to those who gain enough points to be granted the visa. The number of points needed to be granted a UK work visa is 70.


There are a number of different criteria by which these points can be awarded, offering as many as 20 and as low as 10. Some of these criteria are mandatory, while others can be traded for points.The three criteria that are mandatory each grant the application ten points each:

  1. The first of these is the offer of a job by an approved sponsor, and an approved sponsor can only be sanctioned by the Home Office – this will grant you 20 points. 
  2. Secondly, you will be obliged to secure a job at an appropriate skill level, not one that you are unqualified for or require further intense training in – this second obligation will secure you another 20 points.
  3. The third is to be able to speak English on the level required to fulfil your occupation or on the level of A1, the first level of English in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The point system then moves on to tradable criteria, and the more of these you have, the higher your chances of reaching the total will be.

If your job pays you a salary of £23,040 to £25,599 or at least 90% of the going rate for the profession, then you will be awarded 10 points. A job that pays a salary of £25,600 or above or at least the going rate for the profession will, in turn, grant you 20 points.


If the job you are securing your UK work visa for is one that is in a shortage occupation, this will get you 20 points. Though the shortage occupation label can only be confirmed by the Migration Advisory Committee.


If you have a PhD in a subject relevant to the job you are coming to the UK to do, this will secure you 10, while a PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job will increase this to 20 points.

5- What are the types of UK work visas available currently?

When you are looking at how to get a UK work visa, you must first take a look at the UK work visas available. These range from the more common Skilled Worker visa to the more obscure Sportsperson Visa. 


Let’s break down the different types of UK work visas and how each one, in turn, highlights the needs of those who apply.

- Skilled Worker Visa

The Skilled Work Visa is one of the most common of the applications and is often used as the UK Work Visa for EU citizens. This particular visa was designed for migrant workers who work in a particular job or profession within a skilled sector. This visa must be sponsored by a Home Office-approved employer. The skilled worker visa replaces the older tier two visa which existed under, the older system.


As this can only be applied for when you have a professional company or institution that can sponsor you, some of the fees will be covered by your employer. The main part an employer will have to pay is the Immigration Skills Charge. The cost of the Immigration Skills Charge will all depend on the size or status of the job, and also the length of employment as stated in the sponsorship certificate.


For small or charitable sponsors, the cost is £364 for the first 12 months and £182 for each additional six months after that. Whereas the medium or large sponsors cost around £1,000, plus £500 for every six months after.


To apply for the Skilled Worker Visa, you must have an official employment offer from a company or business in the UK. This job must also meet the required skill level and salary level as noted in the above section. If you are successful in securing a Skilled Worker Visa, this will last for five years.


There is, however, no limit to how many times this can be extended, as long as you continue to meet the requirements. After five years, it is also possible to apply to settle within the United Kingdom on a permanent basis.

- Inter-Company Transfer Visa

The next UK work visa is the Inter-Company Transfer Visa. If the job you are getting your UK work visa for is one that falls under a shortage occupation, you will be awarded 20 points. This way, you can be transferred from an overseas company into a Britsh-based one.


Although you may be transferred between two subdivisions of the same companies, when applying for the Inter-Company Transfer Visa, you must still apply for the sponsorship certificate from a Home Office-approved UK employer for the role. You must also meet the minimum skill and salary requirements.


How long you can stay within the United Kingdom with an Inter-Company Transfer Visa depends on which category of the Inter-Company Transfer Visa you have applied for and how long your overseas employer can continually sponsor you for. This visa will only be valid for five years over a six-year period.


The only time the Inter-Company Transfer Visa can be extended to nine or ten years for high earning jobs. Unlike the Skilled Worker Visa, this can not be directly transferred into a permanent residency in the UK.

- Health and Care Worker Visa

A visa that has been popular for supplying much of the National Health Service’s foreign working staff is the Health and Care Worker Visa. The Health and Care Worker Visa is another sponsored UK work visa that allows overseas medical professionals to apply for and be employed by a role in the NHS or within the adult social care sector.


Although this visa is technically a subcategory of the Skilled Worker Visa, the Health and Care Worker Visa offers substantially lower fees. This is to encourage overseas health professionals to come and work for the NHS, which relies heavily on overseas professionals, with 15% of all staff members satiated as non-British.

- Graduate Visa

The Graduate Visa is an unsponsored visa that allows overseas students who have completed their degree to stay within the UK with a look to find employment. This Graduate Visa gives the graduates two years in which to seek and secure employment in the country and this extended to three years for medical students. 


To qualify for the Graduate Visa, the graduate must have completed a degree at the undergraduate level and also still have a valid student visa when they apply for the Graduate Visa.

6- Is it possible to work in the UK as a freelancer or self-employed person?

It is possible to work in the UK as a freelancer or self-employed by applying for the Youth Mobility Scheme. This allows those between the ages of 18 to 30 to come to the UK under the scheme and work as self-employed or as a freelancer. To allow this, you will need to prove that you have the finances to support yourself. If you fall outside of this age and financial bracket, then you must apply through a sponsor. This route is covered in the above section on the Skilled Worker Visa.

7- Can I work in the UK as a student?

It is possible to work in the UK under a student visa, but there are certain conditions to the application This means that most students are only allowed to work part-time, up to twenty hours a week. There are also conditions laid down by certain UK universities; some of which only allow work inside the university campus. 


Alongside the restrictions set down by the university, there are certain jobs that international students are restricted from doing. These restrictions apply even if you are doing volunteer work and not being paid. 


The restricted occupations include ones where you start and Initiate a commercial activity from the ground up. Others include, non-surprisingly, as you can only work part-time,  a full-time permanent job. Under a student visa, you will not be allowed to work as a professional sportsperson, which includes being a sports coach.


You will also be unable to seek employment as an entertainer, and unless you are enrolled in a foundation program, you will be restricted from working as a dentist or a doctor in training.

Funding a job in the UK as a student- UK universities

8- What documents do I need to apply for a UK work visa?

As well as having passed the criteria to allow you to apply for a UK work visa, you will also need to obtain and submit a number of documents as part of your application. 


The initial documentation you will need is something that is needed for most UK work visas. These include a certificate of sponsorship and your reference number. The next document is a document that illustrates your ability in the English language. This can be secured by taking the A1 level course of the Common European Framework of Reference.


The more obvious documents for any visa of this kind will also be needed. These include a valid passport or another document that shows your identity and nationality. As you will need to prove you have a job role to go to when landing in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, you will also need to provide documentation that proves your job title and annual salary. Alongside this proof, you should also include the job occupation code. 


Depending on the types of UK Work Visas you will be applying for, you may also be required to show other certain documents. These include a bank statement or other proof that shows you have the financial means of supporting yourself before you enter the county. This may not be needed if you can alternatively show that your employer can support you. 


If you are applying for a UK work visa and planning to bring your family with you, you will need to provide documentation that shows proof of your relationship with your partner or children. This is particularly true if they’re applying with you and your application. Certain jobs will also require you to provide documentation that shows your existent or non-existent criminal record; this is known as a criminal record certificate.  


If you are applying for a more in-depth or technical job, you may need to provide a UK PhD certificate, or your unique Ecctis reference number, if your qualification is from outside the UK.

9- How and where can I apply for a UK visa?

To begin your UK work visa application, you must apply through the online government website. This, alongside the information given here, will provide all the necessary information and no how in which to start and complete your application.

10- Do I need a separate residence permit in addition to a work visa?

If you are planning to stay in the UK and work for longer than six months, you will need to apply for a biometric residence permit. The permit will show your immigration status and what you are entitled to while you live in the UK This permit will show biographical details; these include your name, date and place of birth and biometric information. Biometric information will include things such as your facial image and fingerprints.

And finally....

For detailed and up-to-date information on UK visa applications and immigration, consult the UK government website here.

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