If you're an expat wishing to obtain a work permit for the United Kingdom, prepare to wade through a maze of requirements and eligibility stipulations.

Separate criteria for what seems like countless categories can prove overwhelming if you're not used to unravelling red tape. Only a certain number of visas are granted each year, although some conditions are exempt from the cap.

Due to Brexit, if you're an EU citizen, you will need a work permit to work in the UK. There are some exceptions to this; you may be exempt if you are invited as an expert for a Permitted Paid Engagement or if your visit is only for specific business activities. If you were already living in the UK by 31 December 2020, you may also be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme and would not need a visa.

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Getting a work visa in the United Kingdom

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

Category requirements for a work visa

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

Note that when submitting documents for application, you must include the original document and 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 receive a formal job offer from a registered UK company licensed to act as a sponsor for foreign workers.

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

A points-based immigration system applies to this skilled worker visa. The application will consider, among other factors, the skill level required for the job, a certain salary threshold, your qualification level, and English language skills.

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

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Intra-company visas for the United Kingdom

Intra-company visas are for expats 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. If offered an intra-company transfer, you can coordinate the work permit application with your employer, who may provide the services of a relocation company.

Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5) for the United Kingdom

If you're a young expat interested in moving to the UK to work for a short period, you 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, South Korea, San Marino and Japan. You must be between the ages of 18 and 30 to apply.

If you qualify, you can enter the UK without a job offer and use this working holiday visa to work and travel. You must be able to prove you have a specified amount of money in savings to financially support yourself while looking for employment.

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.

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*Work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice, and you should contact your respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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