Expats wishing to obtain a work permit for the United Kingdom should prepare to wade through a maze of requirements and eligibility stipulations. 

Due to Brexit, EU citizens will likely need a work permit to work in the UK. EU nationals may be exempt in some cases, such as if they are invited as an expert for what is called a ‘Permitted Paid Engagement’ or if their visit is only for specific business activities.

Separate criteria for what seems like countless categories can prove overwhelming for those not used to unravelling red tape. Furthermore, only a certain number of visas are granted in total each year, although some conditions are exempt from the cap.

Getting a work visa in the United Kingdom

The criteria by which work visas are issued can be difficult to understand. There are numerous schemes and skill enticements – but the more highly skilled and experienced an applicant is in a desirable field, the better the chances of a smooth and speedy application process. 

Category requirements for a work visa

There are many different work permit categories under which an expat can apply. Each has unique requirements and entitles the individual to a specific set of rights.

Note that, when submitting documents for application, applicants must include the original document as well as a copy. The documents must be in English and include contact details where appropriate. Documents in another language must be accompanied by a certified translation.

Skilled worker visas for the United Kingdom

This category is for skilled workers who have a formal job offer made by a registered UK company licensed to act as a sponsor for foreign workers. These workers must prove that they can fill a gap in the workplace not adequately being satisfied by current UK citizens.

Each year the UK designates a list of prospective occupations marked by shortages. Expats who work in these fields have a higher chance of receiving a work visa than those who have a job offer from an industry sector not on the list.

To be eligible, expats must satisfy several requirements and provide proof of qualifications, future expected earnings, sponsorship from an employer, sufficient English language skills and available funds.

Expats from certain designated countries will need to take a tuberculosis test, and workers in certain fields (such as healthcare, education, therapy and social services) are required to submit a criminal record certificate.

Intra-company visas for the United Kingdom

Intra-company visas are for expats who are not starting a new job with a new company, but rather those who are rather transferring to a UK branch of the company they already work for outside the UK. Requirements for this visa are similar to those for a skilled worker visa. Expats who are offered an intra-company transfer can co-ordinate the work permit application with their employer, who may provide the services of a relocation company.

Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5) for the United Kingdom

Expats who are interested in moving to the UK to work for a short period might be able to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme (T5). 

This is a working holiday visa available for nationals of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Monaco, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, San Marino and Japan. Applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 30 to apply.

Those who qualify can enter the UK without a job offer and use this working holiday visa to work and travel. They must be able to prove they have a specified amount of money in savings to financially support themselves while looking for a job.

The scheme is designed to allow young people to live and work in the country for up to two years, and is a great way to see what living and working in the UK is actually like.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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