Working in the UK

An individual’s right to work in the UK depends on a number of factors. This includes their nationality and the terms of their permission to enter and remain in the UK.

If you are a British Citizen, a Swiss national or a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) then you do not need permission to work in the United Kingdom.

EEA member states

Nationals from the following countries do not need permission to work in the UK and are able to work without any restrictions. You simply must provide a copy of your passport or National ID card as proof of your right to work.

Austria Hungary Norway
Belgium Iceland Poland
Bulgaria Ireland Portugal
Cyprus Republic of Ireland Romania
Czech Republic Italy Slovakia
Denmark Latvia Slovenia
Estonia Liechtenstein Spain
Finland Lithuania Sweden
France Luxembourg Switzerland
Germany Malta United Kingdom
Greece The Netherlands  


Croatian nationals

Croatia joined the EEA on 1 July 2013. Croatian nationals are free to enter the UK (without a visa); however, the UK has introduced the Accession of Croatia (Immigration and Worker Authorisation) Regulations 2013 to restrict Croatian nationals taking up employment without prior authorisation.

Under the Regulations, a Croatian national who wishes to work in the UK and who is subject to the worker authorisation requirement will need to obtain an Accession Worker Card (permission to work) before starting any employment. This document will contain an endorsement stating whether there are any restrictions to the holder’s right to work within the category of employment. The Accession Worker Card comes in the form of a blue, yellow or purple registration document:

Blue – no restrictions on the right to work.

Yellow – this card is for:

  • a student restricted to working 20 hours per week in term time or full time during vacations
  • a self-employed person who cannot work as an employee
  • a self-sufficient person who is not able to work.

Purple – skilled workers who meet the criteria for the issue of a certificate of sponsorship under Tier 2 and Tier 5 of the points-based system.

It is an offence under the Regulations for someone to employ a Croatian national who needs permission to work in the UK and does not have it. This could lead to criminal sanctions against both the employer and employee.

Croatian nationals can be self-employed without the need for worker authorisation.

Overseas nationals (outside of the EEA)

If you are from a country outside of the EEA and you wish to come to the UK to work, you will need to ensure that you have the relevant ID and work authorisation documentation to legally work.
This is a two-step process:

  1. Firstly you need to decide which visa option is most suitable to your circumstances, and whether you are eligible to make an application.
  2. Secondly, once you have had your application approved, you will need to obtain further permission to enter or to legally remain in the UK.

Only once both these steps have been completed may you begin employment in the UK.

Ancestral visa

If you are a Commonwealth citizen and have a grandparent born either in the UK or the associated islands (Isle of Man, Channel Islands) you may be eligible to apply for an ancestral visa. This visa allows you to work in the UK free from restriction for a period of up to five years. Once you have completed a five year stay in the UK, you may be eligible to apply to remain indefinitely as long as you are able to satisfy certain immigration requirements.

Spousal visa

If you are over 18 years old and are married to, in a civil partnership or in a genuine subsisting relationship with a UK citizen, you can apply for a spousal visa. The visa is valid for an initial period of 33 months which can be extended for a further 30 months. Whilst you have a spousal visa, you are able to undertake any type of work.
Once you have completed a five year stay on a spousal visa, you can apply for settlement.

Indefinite leave

If you have been given permission to settle in the UK, you will be issued with an indefinite leave stamp in your passport. There are no restrictions on employment however you will need to show that the stamp is in your current passport when you apply for a job. If your passport expires, you will need to apply for a biometric card to prove your indefinite leave status as the UKBA no longer issues stamps.

Points-based system

If you are not eligible for any other type of visa, you may be able to apply under the points based system.

Tier 1 - General highly skilled migrants

This category is now closed for new applicants and renewals. This category is for highly educated and highly skilled workers who are able to score points on the basis of academic qualifications, age, previous earnings and UK experience. Individuals under Tier 1 do not require any form of sponsorship or job offer from a UK employer and do not have any restrictions on who they can work for or how many hours they can work.  

Tier 2 - Skilled workers

The Tier 2 skilled worker (general) category is for skilled workers with a job offer which fills a gap in the UK labour force that cannot be filled by the resident work force.

To apply for this visa, you will need to find a job before you can make your Tier 2 application. Points will then be awarded to you depending on whether the job is on the shortage occupation list or meets the resident labour market test. Before you can apply for entry clearance or further leave to remain, you will need to be granted a certificate of sponsorship from your employer. Individuals on this type of visa must be sponsored by their employer and cannot transfer to another employer unless they are prepared to sponsor them.

Tier 4 - Students

This Tier is for students who are sponsored by their education institution during their time in the UK. A Tier 4 sponsor is an educational institution that provides courses of study for students. In order to obtain a licence as a Tier 4 sponsor, private educational institutions will need to provide evidence that they hold a valid accreditation from an accreditation body approved by the Home Office or that they have passed an inspection by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). Individuals on this type of visa are restricted to working either 10 or 20 hours (per week) during term time and full time during vacation time.

Individuals are not allowed to take up permanent employment. This visa is issued for the length of the course (usually three years) but can be extended if attending another course such as a masters afterwards. This visa expires three months after the course has finished.

Tier 5 - Youth mobility scheme

The Tier 5 youth mobility scheme allows young people under the age of 31 to travel to the UK for mainly non-economic reasons. Sponsored young people from participating countries will be allowed to come to the UK for up to two years, while young UK nationals enjoy similar opportunities in participating countries. Individuals on the Tier 5 youth mobility visa will be free to do whatever work they like during their stay in the UK, except for setting up their own business, playing professional sport or working as a doctor. The sponsors under the youth mobility scheme are the national governments of participating countries and not individual employers or sponsors. The following countries participate in the scheme:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Monaco
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Taiwan
  • UK
  • Republic of Korea

Individuals on this type of visa are not able to renew or switch into a different visa category whilst in the UK.

Points-based system - dependent visa

Individuals on a dependent visa generally don’t have any work restrictions placed on them and if they do, this will be endorsed on their visa. They can usually undertake any type or work provided the person they are linked to still has a right to work in the UK.





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