Who can work in the UK? How to obtain a work permit in the UK?

Work in the UK

Most important when it comes to work in the UK, you need a national insurance number and a work permit.

The UK is the perfect place for ambitious graduates to start their careers. Let’s discover how to join the 32 million people currently working here.

The UK’s unemployment rate currently stands at a relatively low 4%. Competition for graduate jobs is fierce but candidates with the right qualifications, skills and experience stand a good chance of employment.

Language skills are increasingly important, making many foreign nationals desirable candidates. The UK has many international communities, so as a foreign worker you’ll be in good company.

With the UK’s diverse job sectors, good working conditions and numerous employment opportunities, it’s no surprise that it’s a popular destination for international graduates wanting to kick start their careers. 

Let’s find out more on europa.jobs

Work culture in the UK

When it comes to work culture in the UK, most companies still have distinct hierarchies with managers making most of the decisions and being very firmly in charge of teams of employees. Teamwork within the team is highly valued.

Labour laws and labour rights in the UK

Employment contracts are the norm when working in the UK and every employee has the right to ask for a written contract. The contract contains the terms and conditions of your employment and cannot be amended by your employer after you have signed it.

Your employment contract should contain details on:

  • Your weekly working hours. For full-time workers, these are typically 35-40 hours per week. The maximum working week is 48 hours, although employees can choose to work more;
  • Your annual leave entitlement. This is a minimum of 28 days for full-time employees, including the eight uk public holidays.
  • The notice period for termination of the contract.

Who can work in the UK?

Some people are automatically entitled to work in the UK. Others may have restrictions on working, how long they can stay and the type of work they can do. So who has the right to work in the UK?

  1. British citizens
  2. Holders of indefinite leave to remain (ILR) status
  3. Anyone with a uk work visa

How to Prove the Right to Work in The UK?

When it comes to working in the UK, there are, by law, two lists of documents acceptable as evidence of legal working status in the UK.  More information about these lists can be obtained from the Home Office. 

When it comes to who can work in the UK, employees must bring original documents which can be authenticated, not photocopies or faxed copies, and must be on the list as outlined by the Home Office. 

You must take all reasonable steps to ensure that your potential employee is the rightful owner of the presented documents. Any specific information within a passport or other travel document should indicate that the individual is permitted to undertake the kind of work you are offering

For non-UK residents, the right to work will be determined by their immigration status and any restrictions imposed on them by their grant of leave.

Acceptable Right to Work documents – work permit

In order to meet your duties, you can only accept documents from the relevant Home Office guidance list to verify eligibility to work. There are three lists, which apply depending on the individual’s immigration status.

List A – work permit

Right to work documents for individuals with a permanent right to work in the UK. List of pre-employment check.

A passport or national identity card showing the holder, or a person named in the passport as the child of the holder, is a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland.

  • A Registration Certificate or Document Certifying Permanent Residence issued by the Home Office, to a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland.
  • A Permanent Residence Card issued by the Home Office, to the family member of a national of a European Economic Area country or Switzerland.
  • A current biometric immigration document (Biometric Residence Permit) issued by the home office to the holder indicating that the person named is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
  • A current passport is endorsed to show that the holder is exempt from immigration control, is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK, has the right of abode in the UK, or has no time limit on their stay in the UK.
  • A current immigration status document issued by the Home Office to the holder with an endorsement indicating that the named person is allowed to stay indefinitely in the UK or has no time limit on their stay in the UK, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent national insurance number and their name issued by a government agency or a previous employer.
  • A birth or adoption certificate issued in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or Ireland, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a Government agency or a previous employer.
  • A certificate of registration or naturalisation as a British citizen, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent National Insurance number and their name issued by a Government agency or a previous employer.

List B – work permit

Right to work documents for individuals with a temporary right to work in the UK.

You have a time-limited statutory excuse which expires when the person’s permission to be in the UK expires. You should carry out a follow-up check when the document evidencing their permission to work expires.

You have a time-limited statutory excuse which expires when the person’s permission to be in the UK expires. You should carry out a follow-up check when the document evidencing their permission to work expires.

  1. A current passport endorsed to show that the holder is allowed to stay in the UK and is currently allowed to do the type of work in question.
  2. A current biometric immigration document (Biometric Residence Permit) issued by the home office to the holder which indicates that the named person can currently stay in the UK and is allowed to do the work in question.
  3.  A current residence card issued by the home office to a non-European economic area national who is a family member of a national of a European economic area country.
  4.  Photograph issued by the home office to the holder with a valid endorsement indicating that the named person may stay in the UK, and is allowed to do the type of work in question, together with an official document giving the person’s permanent national insurance number and their name issued by a Government agency or a previous employer.

Commonly presented right to work documents – work permit

Employers will usually be presented with the following documents if conducting manual right to work checks to prove eligibility to work in the UK. These should be in original form. It will be important to ensure any documents provided correspond with the relevant list:

1. Passport or national identity card

You should check if the prospective employee is a British Citizen, Citizen of the UK and Colonies or have indefinite leave to remain and the right to live in the UK.

2. Immigration documents

A biometric immigration document is issued by the border agency and must indicate the person can stay indefinitely or there is no time limit on the stay.

3. Official UK government letter

The worker may alternatively have been given a letter by the Home Office or immigration authorities that shows they are granted permission to stay indefinitely in the country. This, again, should be accompanied by a document showing their UK national insurance number and name.

Work permit in the UK

Furthering your career overseas can be a great opportunity. And with many companies providing sponsorship for work permits in the UK, it’s a popular destination for work, training and study.

Obtaining a work permit for the UK, will depend on a number of factors, including your nationality and the type of work you intend to do.

As a non-UK resident, you will only be able to work in the UK having been granted an appropriate UK work visa or work permit to do the type of work that you are planning to undertake. The length of permission to stay in the UK will vary depending on the nature of your leave.

What are the different types of UK work permit?

There are various different types of UK work permit, including:

What are the UK work permit requirements?

The UK work permit requirements will vary depending on the type of visa that you apply for. The rules are subject to frequent change, and applicants are advised to ensure they are working to the latest guidance for the category of visa to ensure eligibility and that they are following the correct application process. In most cases, you will usually need to show you meet the English language requirement, where applicable, you can prove your knowledge of English when you apply for a UK work permit by either:

  • Passing an approved English language test with at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening, or
  • Having an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised by UK NARIC as being equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD
  • You will not need to prove your knowledge of English if you are a national from a majority English-speaking country, such as America, Australia or New Zealand.

To get a UK work permit, you may also need to satisfy a financial requirement as part of your application, by proving you have sufficient personal savings to support yourself on your arrival in the UK.

The level of funds and any applicable exemptions vary by visa route.

In some instances, such as with the general Skilled Worker visa, your UK sponsor may be allowed to provide you with a guarantee that they can cover your costs for the first month following your arrival in the UK, although your sponsor must confirm this on your certificate of sponsorship.

How to apply for a UK work permit

To apply for a UK work permit under the points-based system, you will need to submit an online application and provide your supporting documentation to prove you meet the visa eligibility requirements.

Specific rules apply for each visa, for example, Skilled Worker applicants will need to use their certificate of sponsorship as assigned by their sponsor, to make their Home Office application.

The documentation in support of your application will vary depending on the category of visa that you require. Your documents could include:

  • A current passport or other travel document to prove you can travel
  • Expired passports or travel documents to show your travel history
  • Proof of your knowledge of English, where applicable
  • Proof of your personal savings, where applicable
  • Proof of your investment funds, where applicable
  • Your tuberculosis test results if you are from a listed country
  • A criminal record certificate from any country you have lived in for 12 months or more in the last 10 years, where you are planning to work with vulnerable people

You will also be required to attend a visa application centre local to you to enrol your biometric information, ie; your fingerprints and a digital photo of your face. This will enable you to get a biometric residence permit on your arrival in the UK.

What are the UK work permit costs?

The cost of a UK work permit or UK work visa will vary depending on the category of visa that you apply for and where you are from. The application fees will also vary depending on if you apply from outside or within the UK. As well as the Home Office application fee, there may be other costs you will need to cover, such as the Immigration Health Surcharge. Again, these will depend on the visa category you are applying under.

UK visa

A UK visa is the authorising document that gives worldwide citizens the right to enter, stay temporarily or live forever in the territory of the UK.

A visa is usually either a stamp you receive in your passport or a document given by a UK consulate or embassy in your country of residence.

Work visas for the UK

The UK has a points-based system that controls the flow of workers going into the country. Whether it is possible to obtain a work visa depends on your profession, your nationality, and other factors. EU citizens can live and work freely in the UK.

UK work visas are divided into different tiers depending on the type of work a person wishes to carry out in the UK. The most common types of UK work visas are the following:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): For those recognised as leaders within their fields.Very few of these visas are issued each year.
  • Tier 2 (Skilled Workers): For people offered a skilled job with a salary of at least £25,000.
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer): For workers offered a transfer to a UK branch of their current company.
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion): For people offered a job within a faith community.
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson): For elite sportspeople or coaches who have been endorsed by their sport’s governing body.
  • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker): For those wanting to do temporary work as a charity worker, sportsperson, creative worker, religious worker, on a government-authorised exchange, or as part of an international agreement.
  • Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme): For young people aged between 18-30 from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Monaco.

What are the different types of visas for the UK?

Visa types for UK 

  1. Visitor visas to travel to the UK. A standard visitor visa cannot be used to do paid or unpaid work, live in the UK for long periods, or get public funds.
  2. Travelling to the UK for business. 
  3. Travelling to the UK for medical purposes. 
  4. Work visas for the UK. 
  5. Student visas for the United Kingdom.

How Much Does a UK Visa Application Cost?

The cost of a UK visa application is based on the  type of uk visa you need to obtain in order to enter the UK. The visa fees vary from £93 for a visit visa up to 9 months, to £3,250 for a settlement visa as another dependent relative. There are also additional optional Premium Services outside the UK and inside the UK, which can be as cheap as £55 and as expensive as £10,500.

What Are the Required Documents for a UK Visa?

  • UK visa application form. According to the UK visa type you are applying for, you may have to complete the form online at the website of the Visa for UK website, or the manual application form.
  • Two photographs. These photos should be taken within the past six months and in colour.
  • Your Valid Passport. It must be valid for three more months beyond the date you plan to leave the UK after your trip. It must also have at least one blank page for the visa.
  • Proof you have the financial means to cover the living costs while in the UK. This may be your bank statements for the last six months, or pay slips for the same period.
  • Proof of accommodation. You will need to present a document that shows where you will be accommodated while in the UK. Note that you do not have to fully pay for a hotel/hostel in the UK before getting the visa, just to get such a document.
  • Detailed travel itinerary. Submit a travel plan that gives all the information regarding how and what you are planning to do in the UK.
  • Tuberculosis Test Results. Nationals of several world countries will need to submit the requests of a Tuberculosis Test in order to be eligible for a UK Visa.
  • Biometric information. If you are applying for a visa that lets you stay in the UK for more than 6 months, you will need to submit your biometric information. This includes giving your fingerprints and a digital photograph taken at the appropriate application centre.
  • UK visa invitation letter. (If applicable). If you will be staying over at a friend or a family member, then you should submit a letter of invitation. Your host must be a UK national or a legal resident.
  • Paid UK visa fees. You should submit the receipt that confirms you have paid the visa fee as required.
  • Certified translations of any document that is not in either English or Welsh.

Additional requirements according to Your employment Status. You will need to submit extra documents according to your working status, as follows:

If you are employed:

  • A letter from your employer: this letter should confirm your position at work, your salary and the length of employment.

If you are self-employed:

  • Business registration documents: they should confirm the business owner’s name and the date the business started trading.

If you are a student:

  • A letter from your education provider: the letter should be confirming your enrolment and leave of absence.

Leave to remain

Leave to remain means you have permission to stay in the UK for a specific period of time and your activities are limited to the restrictions of your visa.

 Indefinite leave to remain is where you have permanent lawful status in the UK as a settled person, and you are no longer subject to immigration control.

Leave to remain is the permission granted to non-UK nationals to enter and stay in the UK for a limited period of time. After a qualifying period of residency in the UK, you may then become eligible to settle and apply for indefinite leave to remain.

What is limited leave to remain?

Limited leave to remain refers to the status of UK visa holders who have been approved to enter the UK and to remain here until their visa expires.

 Under limited leave to remain, you will have to meet the conditions of your visa throughout your stay, such as having a valid certificate of sponsorship if you have a Skilled Worker visa, and having no recourse to public funds while in the UK.

Limited leave to remain requires you to depart the UK at the end of the specified visa period, or to make a further application to the home office to retain lawful status. Depending on your circumstances and eligibility, this could mean applying for a visa extension, further leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain.

What is indefinite leave to remain?

While holders of certain visa types, such as visitors or short-term students, will be expected to eventually return home, some categories of limited leave may lead to settled status in the UK. Settled status gives the holder permission to stay in the UK on a permanent basis. This is known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR).

Note that ‘settled status’ with ILR is different to the EU settlement scheme for EEA nationals in the UK.

Individuals with ILR are not subject to immigration restrictions in the UK. You can leave and enter the UK at will. ILR does not expire, unless you have been absent from the UK for more than two years.

If you hold ILR status, you may also become eligible to certain entitlements, such as welfare benefits and tax credits. The exception is if your right to remain was awarded as a result of another person formally agreeing to maintain and accommodate you. In this case, you will be excluded from some benefits for five years. 

What categories of leave are available?

There are several different categories of leave to remain depending on your eligibility and why you want to come to or stay in the UK. The main immigration routes for individuals wanting to work, train or study in the UK are under the points-based system and include:

  • Tier 1 routes of the points-based system for investors, start up entrepreneurs and established, ‘innovator’ business owners
  • Work sponsorship visas such as the Skilled Worker visa and Intra-Company transfer visa for skilled workers with a job offer in the UK.
  • Global Talent visa for those with exceptional talent or promise in their field.
  • Student visa for international students.
  • Tier 5 enables young overseas nationals to experience life and culture in the UK. It also permits workers to undertake short-term or temporary employment.

Other categories of leave to remain may also be available to you depending on your circumstances, such as applying as a points-based dependent visa or a family, partner or spouse visa.

Am I eligible to apply for leave to remain?

To be eligible to apply for limited leave to remain, you must meet the full requirements under the Immigration rules and those required for the visa you are applying for. For points-based visas, this will mean accruing the minimum number of points determined by your particular visa category.

For example, you will be required to satisfy both an English language and maintenance requirement:

  • The English requirement – unless you are a citizen of a majority English-speaking country, typically you will need to satisfy the home office of your knowledge of english. You will either need to provide evidence of an academic qualification that was taught in English and is recognised as being equivalent to a UK bachelors degree, masters degree or PhD, or you will need to pass an approved English test.
  • The maintenance requirement – you will also need to satisfy the Home office of your ability to accommodate and support yourself on arrival in the UK. Here, you will either need to prove that you have a certain amount of personal savings in your bank account for a specified number of days before you apply, or have your work sponsor guarantee financial support on your behalf.

To be eligible for indefinite leave to remain, applicants must have resided in the UK for a qualifying period of time. The length of qualifying time will depend on an applicant’s existing immigration category and ability to meet all other relevant rules in place. In most cases, applicants will also be required to demonstrate their knowledge of English language and life in the UK.

When can I apply for further leave to remain?

If you are applying for further leave to remain you should do so prior to expiry of your existing permission to stay. It is an offence for any holder of leave to remain to ‘overstay’ and knowingly stay in the UK beyond the time limit permitted by their visa. It is also an offence to fail to comply with a condition or requirement imposed as part of your permission to be in the UK.

By staying beyond the expiry of your visa, or otherwise breaching your leave to remain conditions, you will be at risk of removal from the UK, refusal of further leave or even criminal prosecution. Both these types of offences are punishable by way of a fine or a term of imprisonment.

If, on the other hand, you submit a valid application prior to the expiry of your existing leave, the terms and conditions of that leave will continue until a decision is made on your application for further leave to remain.

How do I apply for limited leave to remain?

How you submit your application for leave to remain will depend on whether you are applying from outside or within the UK. In most cases, you will submit your application online.

If you are applying from within the UK, in most cases you will need to attend a UKVACS centre. The purpose of a leave to remain interview is for the Home Office to request further information, verify facts or documentation and check that you meet all of the visa requirements. For some visa categories, fast tracked processing is available for an additional charge.

When applying for leave to remain, reference should always be made to any specific Home Office guidance relevant to your visa category, in conjunction with the relevant provisions of the Immigration rules. However, these provisions are subject to constant change and expert legal advice from an immigration specialist may be required.

Indefinite leave to remain after 10 years long residence

Another way to qualify for ILR is through the long residence route. If you have at least 10 years of continuous, lawful residence, you may be eligible to settle. In addition to being able to prove 10 years of unbroken status in the UK, you will also need to show you meet the English language and life in the UK test, and that there are no general grounds to refuse your application, such as a criminal record or a breach of the Immigration Rules.

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