Working in the UK

UK work visa is known as “sponsored employment”. There are other immigration routes permitting employment in the UK, but by far the most common option leading to settlement in the UK after five years is through sponsored employment. 

Currently, this route is known as Tier 2 of the Points Based System. Previously, it was called Work Permit, and from January 2021 it will be simply “sponsored employment”.

As the name suggests, the employee, or the migrant, has to be sponsored by their employer in the UK. For this, the employer needs to have a sponsor licence and a genuine vacancy.

Sponsored employment is for skilled workers only. From January 2021 it will also be open for medium skill level jobs and jobs paid below the current threshold. For  more information on this route, visit Tier 2 visa page.

Another category specifically designed for people who wish to come to work in the UK is for commonwealth nationals with a UK-born grandparent. This route is called UK ancestry.

Family members of migrants in most long-term immigration categories are allowed to take up employment in the UK without the need for further applications for permissions. For example, partners of students, Tier 2 migrants, ancestry visa holders, representatives of overseas businesses, investors, entrepreneurs or start-up visa holders are permitted to take up employment without restrictions and do not need sponsorship for their roles.

Students are allowed to work in the UK for 20 hours a week during the term time or full time during the holiday period as long as they are studying at a degree level in a state funded university.

There are also various programmes for temporary work and work experience, such as Tier 5 Youth Mobility scheme for Commonwealth citizens under the age of 30, Tier 5 Government authorised exchange for internship and work experience programmes, or Tier 5 charity workers. These routes do not lead to settlement in the UK and do not allow switching inside the UK to other immigration routes. Nevertheless, many interns or youth mobility visa holders return to rejoin their employer as sponsored workers on completion of their temporary contract.

Representatives of an overseas business are allowed to work in the UK for their employer. No additional employment or self-employed work is permitted.

Entrepreneurs and innovators are limited to working in their own businesses or as self-employed.

Investors have unlimited employment options and can also set up and run their own businesses.

Similarly, holders of Global talent visa are entitled to take up employment as well as set up and run their own business.

Tier 2 visa

UK ancestry visa

UK ancestry visa

Working in the UK on the Blog

Tier 2 sponsored employment after Brexit

Post-study work options for international students

Employers' guide to employee visa extension

What you should do when your employee is extending a visa: a guide for employers

Related News