The United Kingdom attracts the most migrants from all over the world because of its strong economy, diverse cultures, and good working environment. The country has always been a champion for diversity in the workplace and every individual is recognized, heard, and supported.

Working in the UK means experiencing a unique blend of tradition and modernity while enjoying a high standard of living. You can find opportunities in the fields of education, healthcare, engineering, accounting, marketing, and human resources. Important industries include food processing, textiles and clothing, electronics, aerospace, and the arts.

As a highly globalized country, competition in some areas may be fierce. But with the right qualifications, you will stand a good chance for employment.

The United Kingdom is an EU member state, so citizens of other EU/EEA states and Switzerland are free to work in the UK without a work visa. On the other hand, all non-EU/EEA nationals need a work visa and residence permit.

The most common route for getting a work visa in the United Kingdom is through the points-based system. Another way is to explore your ancestry for British roots, but this must still meet certain criteria.

You can find out below how you can get a work visa in the UK.

Steps to Apply for a UK Work Visa

If you find you need a United Kingdom work visa, you should start your application at least three months before you plan to or are due to work.

You can follow these simple steps:

Step 1. Choose the Right Visa Type

Having a job offer beforehand means you have a greater chance for approval for a United Kingdom work visa, but you can also apply for an area with a skill shortage if eligible. In any case, identify which visa tier matches your skills and complete the required documents accordingly.

Step 2. Collect all necessary documents

Review the list above and collect the required documents for your work visa in the UK.

Some professions or employers may need more eligibility documents, especially jobs involving research at the Ph.D. level. If you need to verify your qualifications, you can visit support services like Ecctis or ATAS, whichever is applicable.

Step 3. Apply Online

UK Work Visa applications must be completed at the UK visa online platform, and you can find additional guidance on the UK visa and immigration webpage. Make sure the information in the application form exactly matches the rest of your documents. Otherwise, your application will be rejected.

Step 4. Schedule an Appointment

At this stage, you will be scheduling an appointment at a UK work visa application center of your choice. You can find a list of UK diplomatic bodies here. After you complete your application online, print the confirmation email containing your appointment details.

Step 5. Attend the Interview

On the day of your appointment, bring your printed confirmation receipt and the rest of the documents you collected. An officer will interview you and look over your documents. You will also submit biometric information, including a photograph and fingerprints scan.

You have to pay certain fees to have your application processed. The standard fee is around 610-1,408 EUR or around 725-1673 USD depending on your situation or country of residence. If your job is part of the shortage occupation, you will pay lower fees.

After the fees are settled, it will take three to eight weeks before a decision is made.

Documents Needed for a UK Work Visa

Foreign nationals from outside the UK apply to a specific visa tier depending on their profession, activity, or duration of stay. Applicants must meet sufficient points based on age, language, qualifications, and funds to enter the UK.

In general, you need the following requirements:

  • UK Visa Application Form
  • Two colored photographs (must be taken in the last six months)
  • Valid passport with at least two blank pages
  • Proof of financial means
  • Proof of accommodation or a visa invitation letter if staying with a relative or fried
  • Proof of payment of visa fees
  • Proof of English knowledge
  • Travel insurance
  • Criminal record certificate
  • Medical records and tuberculosis test results (if from listed countries)
  • If applying with family, proof of relationships (but they still need to apply separately)

Additional Requirements Per Tier:

Tier 1 Work Visas (Global Talent) is for investors and highly-skilled workers, especially in the fields of digital technology, academia or research, and arts and culture:

  • Endorsement letter or job offer in the field of expertise
  • Proof of eligible award, if any
  • Proof to support eligibility criteria (CV, portfolio, letter of recommendations, etc)
  • If researcher, UK-approved research grant, if applicable
  • If investor, proof of at least £2,000,000 investment funds in UK bank account

Tier 2 Work Visas (Skilled Work Visa) are for individuals who are offered skilled jobs, intra-company transfers, professional sportsperson, and religious workers:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship from approved UK employer
  • The job title with occupation code and annual salary
  • UK Ph.D. certificate, or Ecctis number if qualification is not from the UK
  • If intra-company transfer, proof of working outside the UK

Tier 5 Work Visas (Temporary Work) are for those who will work for a limited time and do not plan to stay in the UK, such as charity workers, creative workers, and sportspersons. Proof of English proficiency is not required in most Tier 5 categories:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship from approved UK employer

Besides the general tier visas, the following specialized visas require the same basic requirements with few additional eligibility documents.

Health and Care Worker Visa for doctors and nurses:

  • Certificate of Sponsorship from approved UK employer

Youth Mobility Scheme for individuals aged 18 to 30 years old from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Monaco, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea:

  • Proof of age and nationality

Student Visa for individuals over 16 whose main activity is to study and only work part-time:

  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your university or course provider

Start-Up or Innovator Visa for entrepreneurs:

  • Endorsement letter from a UK-recognized organization that has assessed your business

Unless for temporary work, UK Work Visas last up to five years and are extendable. After five years, you may apply for permanent residency in the UK.

Check Also: Programs in the UK for International Students


We hope that this article on getting a United Kingdom work visa was helpful. If you are interested in studying in Europe, make sure to check out Available Programs in Europe for International Students.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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