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Want to work in the UK?

UK passport

So you want to work in the UK, but you have no idea where to start…

If you’ve never worked in the UK before, you’re not sure what your rights are, or don’t even know if you’re eligible to – it can be a challenge to find the right information.

To keep you clued up with the facts, here are your rights to working in the UK:

Am I eligible to work in the UK?

You are eligible to work in the UK, and therefore don’t need to obtain a work permit, if any of the following apply:

  • You are a British citizen
  • You are an European Economic Area (EEA) citizen – see list below
  • You are a Swiss national

EEA countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Nationals of certain countries, such as Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria, may require special permission to work in the UK.

You will also need to apply for a UK residence card or be able to prove your right to work in the UK as an EU citizen (for example, a valid UK National Insurance number).

For more information related to EU, EEA and Commonwealth citizens and your rights to working in the UK, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration/eu-eea-commonwealth.

What if I don’t have the right to work in the UK?

If one of the parameters above does not apply, or you’re not from one of the countries listed, you will need to obtain a visa and/or work permit before finding employment in the UK. 


If you’re not a British citizen, EEA citizen or Swiss national, you may need to apply for a visa in order to be able to work in the UK.

You should be able to apply for a visa via a British Overseas Mission in your own country, or the British Embassy. For more information specific to your own country, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations.

For a full list of the visas available to you, and to check if you need a UK visa, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/visas-immigration.

But remember, having a visa doesn’t necessarily mean you are automatically able to work in the UK, and you may also need a work permit in order to begin working.

Work permit

If you’ve already found a job in the UK and been accepted to work, or you have a visa but it prohibits you from working, you may need to obtain a work permit.

You cannot apply for a work permit directly. Your employer in the UK will need to apply on your behalf. The length of your permit will depend on the type of work you do and the sort of permit granted. 

Do I need to be sponsored to apply for a visa?

In order to apply for most work visas, you’ll usually need to gain a job offer with sponsorship from an employer in the UK first.

However, you can apply for a Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa without sponsorship if you:

  • Want to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years
  • Are 18 to 30 years old
  • Have £1,890 in savings
  • Have certain types of British Nationality or are from certain countries
  • Meet the other eligibility requirements  

What jobs am I eligible for?

This will depend on the individual employer, the type of role, and your relevant skills and experience.

Whilst some organisations have a licence to sponsor temporary and/or permanent employees to allow them to work at their business, not all of them will be able to this.

To find out whether the job is suitable for EU, EEA and Commonwealth citizens, or for applicants outside of these areas, check the job description – or get in touch with your recruiter.

*Please note, the information outlined above is intended for general guidance purposes only, and is subject to change. It does not constitute legal advice.

For more detailed information about your rights to working in the UK, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-visas-and-immigration

Posted by Caroline Bailey

Tuesday 2nd January 2018


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