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Immigration Law in the United Kingdom: types of UK Work Visa

The type of UK work visa depends on the activity you intend to carry out. This guide will provide you with an introduction on immigration conditions and types of visas for the United Kingdom.

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Following Brexit, free movement within the EU ended and, therefore, the former immigration laws for UK work visa no longer apply.

Now immigration rules have opened for foreigners (EU and non-EU citizens) who wish to move to the UK. Each immigration route has its own characteristics in terms of documents, tests and requirements needed.  

UK points based immigration system

Is there a points-based immigration system in the UK?

Yes, the UK has introduced a points based immigration system. Accordingly, immigration to Britain and to Northern Ireland is possible provided that the applicant scores the minimum number of points.  

How many points do you need to immigrate to the UK?

Under the points-based system, foreigners coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will gain points. Visas are issued to those who gain enough points.

A total of 70 points is needed to be able to apply to work in the UK.

Among these, some are mandatory, while others are tradeable.  

To check which points can be traded, we suggest to contact us for a first analysis of your case, before commencing an immigration application.   

Is the UK accepting immigrants?

Yes. Despite the home office encourages local employers to first consider domestic recruitment, the points-based system provides a wider package of options to attract foreign people and talents from all over the world.  

Work visa UK

How to work in the UK?

If you are a foreigner and you are wondering how to work in the UK, you might be interested to know that, in most cases, a sponsorship by a UK employer is required. So, you must first get in touch with a licensed sponsor and be extended a job offer. The licensed sponsor can then submit a work permit application to sponsor your stay in the UK. 

There are cases where a sponsorship is not needed, for instance:  

  • Unsponsored immigration routes;
  • Applicants with an existing right to work in the UK (including EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status and non-EU citizens with indefinite leave to remain in the UK).

Who can sponsor UK work visa?

UK employers need a sponsorship license to be able to employ foreigners from outside the UK and sponsor their visa. This includes EU and non-EU workers.   

To get a sponsorship license, the employer must apply to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that will review all the supporting documents. The UKVI will check that the employer has all the appropriate systems in place to monitor sponsored workers and the sponsorship license. The UKVI may also decide to visit the business to make sure it’s compliant.  

Employers may not be able to get a new sponsorship license if they spent criminal convictions for immigration offences or certain other crimes or if they had their license revoked in the last 12 months.  

Right to work in UK

UK employers can employ foreigners provided that they have a proper right to work in the UK.  

How can I prove I have the right to work in the UK?

The way you can prove your right to work in the UK to your employer before you start working for them depends on different factors, such as your nationality and the type of permission you hold.  

British or Irish citizens can easily prove their right to work by showing their passport or their birth or adoption certificate and a document from a previous employer or a government agency.  

Applicants who are not British or Irish, instead, can prove it with one of the following options:  

  • A share code that can be applied online
  • Their immigration document – such as a passport with a stamp or vignette on it, an immigration status document or an application registration card.

Do EU citizens have a right to work in the UK?

Following Brexit, an EU passport or national identity card alone is no longer valid proof of someone’s right to work in the UK. Therefore, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens must show their right to work with a share code or with an immigration document.  

The immigration document might include the official document that you were sent to confirm your settled or pre-settled status, if you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen already resident in the UK before Brexit.  

Can I work in the UK without a visa?

To be authorized to perform work activities in the UK, you must first obtain a proper visa. However, EU nationals do not require an entry visa to perform some activities falling in the “Standard Visitor” program.

Work visa UK application

How to apply for a work visa in the UK?

To apply for a work visa in the UK, your licensed sponsor must first assign a certificate of sponsorship (CoS). The CoS is an electronic record, not a physical document and it contains an application number that you can use to apply for your visa, usually within 3 months.

How long does it take to get a work permit to the UK?

Once you’ve received CoS, you must apply online for your visa. As part of your application, you’ll need to provide your identity.  

You can prove your identity either by having your biometrics recorded at a visa application centre in the country where you reside, or by using the “UK Immigration: ID Check” app to scan your identity document.  

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, it usually takes 3 weeks to get a decision. In some cases, visa applications can take longer. Timing can be reduced by paying a priority fee to get a faster decision.  

Types of UK visas

What work permits are available in the UK?

The Home Office provides for different kinds of visas for foreigners who wish to work in the UK. Some of them are temporary, while others can lead to an indefinite leave to remain.  

For each visa type, specific requirements apply. In the next section, you can check the visa requirements for the different work visa types.  

UK work permit visa requirements

Some of the most common work visa types are: 

Skilled worker visa

Also known as former Tier 2 general visa, the skilled worker visa allows workers to move to the UK to work for a UK licensed employer. You usually need to prove your knowledge of English when you apply.  

Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)

Former Intra-company visa, the specialist workers visa allows existing employees of an overseas organization that’s been approved by the Home Office as a sponsor to move to the UK to work for that sponsor.  

Service Supplier visa (Global Business Mobility)

You can obtain a service supplier visa if you have a contract to provide serviced for a UK company either as an employee for an overseas company or as a self-employed professional based overseas.   

Expansion Worker visa

The expansion worker visa allows you to enter the UK to set up a branch of an overseas business that has not started trading in the UK yet. You must already work for the overseas business as either a senior manager or a specialist employee.  

UK Visitor Visa

The Visitor Visa is intended for foreigners who want to visit the UK for up to 6 months to engage in business activities. Among the permitted activities, some installation activities are allowed too (please note: this is not a work permit).  

Can I enter the UK without a work permit?

Yes, but you cannot work. Furthermore, unless you are a visa-free national, you will still need to apply for a visa in your country of residence before entering the UK.   

Indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom

Indefinite leave to remain (“ILR”) is a way to settle permanently in the UK. It is also called “settlement” and it gives you the right to live, work and study in the UK for as long as you want.   

How can I get indefinite leave to remain in the UK?

There are different ways to apply for ILR based on the applicant’s specific circumstances. The most common ways to obtain it are:  

  • Through work in the UK: you must usually have lived and worked in the UK for 5 years under a proper visa. In some exceptional cases, the time can be reduced to 3 years; 
  • Through family in the UK: you may be eligible if you have a partner, parent, child or other relative settled in the UK who are either a British citizen or a person with ILR;  
  • Through continuous residence or UK ancestry: you may be eligible if you have been living in the UK for 10 years or more or if you are a commonwealth citizen who has been living in the UK for more than 5 years.  

How to become a UK citizen?

ILR is sometimes confused with UK citizenship. They actually refer to two different concepts. However, ILR is a step in the right direction to obtain the citizenship.  

Obtaining the UK citizenship means essentially to become a citizen of the UK. In order to apply for the UK Citizenship, it is necessary to meet specific criteria, like:

  • being over 18;
  • having lived in the UK for at least 5 years before the application;
  • proving the knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic;
  • intend to continue living in the UK.  

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Regulatory Framework

Home Office – UK Visas and Immigration


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