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United Kingdom (UK) - Work Permits

Work permits are required for anyone who wants to move to the UK for business. There are other visas and permit options an expat can apply for, however there are hefty restrictions for who will be approved even for work permits. Restrictions are particularly tight on work permits because many jobs could theoretically be filled by a local resident. An expat that entered the United Kingdom for work and then decided to apply for citizenship is able to stay in the country without a work permit. It takes several years for an expat to reach a status of potential residency, with the exact amount of time depending on country of origin. Any EU or EEA resident can gain a residency permit within five years, thus no longer needing a work permit.

There are also specific requirements concerning employment status. With the exception of EU, EEA, and commonwealth citizens, an expat will need to have a job before they can move into the United Kingdom. The simplest way to gain a work permit is to transfer from a local company to a different branch outside of one’s home country. In other words, if someone works for company A in the United States they can transfer to company A’s subsidiary in the United Kingdom. By transferring within the same company an expat can also usually ensure stability of work and salary.

There are other ways to gain a work permit even if a person is switching companies in order to gain employment in the United Kingdom. Foreigners who wish to work in the UK will need a work permit before they can apply. A person cannot move into the United Kingdom without having a job in place before the move. This can present a difficult situation, since a work permit requires specific reasons for moving to the UK under various tiered categories. There are exceptions for some skill sets, in which a person can move under a work permit without having a job in place.

High Value Expats

High value migrants are an exception to typical expats in that they do not need a job when applying for a work permit. Investors, certain skilled people, and entrepreneurs are able to apply for work permits or live in the UK without an official job offer. There is a points-based test that a person in this category must pass to qualify. High value expats fall under Tier 1, which has five options including the previous three mentioned. The other two are general and other. ‘General’ is for skilled workers who might have a specific skillset a company requires and cannot find in the UK. ‘Other’ refers to graduate entrepreneurs, where someone who entered the country for university can remain to find a job based on passing a skill test.

Skilled Workers and Sponsorship

Skilled workers that do not fit the exceptional card will need a sponsor, meaning that a prospective employer will need to fill out the work permit and show that a person has a job offer. This can be difficult since foreign nationals are unable to apply for a job in the United Kingdom. There are exceptions for EEA and EU workers who they have the right to work in the UK. The Swiss also fall under this category. Workers under this heading apply for Tier 2 permits.

Temporary Workers

An employer can sponsor a temporary employee if the expat fits under the mobility scheme. The youth mobility scheme allows a person to work in a different country for a short period of time to gain experience. EEA, Swiss, and EU nationals are able to enter the country on a temporary permit under the same rights as skilled workers. Tier 5 on the permit application needs to be completed for temporary workers to gain permission. There are several categories under Tier 5 for temporary workers to select.

Other Work Permit Options

Domestic workers, contracted seamen, and representatives of overseas companies all have the option of obtaining a visa or work permit to enter the UK for work purposes. The work permit has a section to fill out for these options, where the expat will need to specify the duration of the job and reason for entering the country.

More details about the application procedure can be found online at the UK Border Agency, where application forms are also provided. Work permits take six months to process in most instances, however there is an exception to the rule in which an employer can submit for faster approval.

UK Border Agency

Further up to date information can be found at the UK Border Agency’s website.

Embassy of the United States

The London US Embassy can help US residents with work permits for the UK.

+44(0) 207 499 9000

British Embassy

Details regarding work permits, citizenships, and travel can be found on this site.

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