Work Visa and Work Permit in the UK

The majority of the time, you will require a job offer from a business with a sponsor license in order to obtain a work visa or work permit for the UK. However, there are certain exceptions to this, as the graduate visa and the high potential person (HPI) visa are discussed below. EU citizens who want to work in the UK after Brexit will also need to apply for a work permit or work visa. To work in the UK, however, EU residents holding Pre-Settled or Settled Status under the EU settlement plan are exempt from the need for a work visa or permission.


There are several types of UK work visas and work permits available; these include the following:

  • Skilled worker visa
  • Scale up visa
  • Temporary worker visa
  • Global business mobility visa
  • High potential individual visa
  • Graduate visa
  • Global talent visa
  • UK ancestry visa

Skilled worker visa

The Skilled Worker visa is a sponsored working visa route that enables skilled foreign nationals to work in the UK and replaced the previous Tier 2 (general) visa. In order to apply for a Skilled Worker visa, applicants must score enough points on the Home Office’s points-based system (PBS) by:

  • Having a job offer from a licenced sponsor
  • Having a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)
  • Having a job on the list of eligible occupations1
  • Meeting the minimum salary requirements (£25,600 or the ‘going rate’2 for your occupation. You may qualify for a lower salary requirement depending on your circumstances, including if you have a job on the shortage occupation list3or if you are under 26 years, or if you have a Ph.D.)
  • Meeting the English language requirements

Skilled Worker visa applicants are normally permitted to stay for up to 5 years, at which point they can apply to extend their stay. It is also possible to gain permanent settlement in the UK (ILR) after 5 years.

Health and Care Worker visa

The Health and Care Worker visa is very similar to the Skilled Worker visa. This visa is open to qualified doctors, nurses, health professionals, and adult social care professionals who are sponsored to work for a licenced health and care sector employer in the UK. Health and Care visa applicants must have an eligible job and meet the salary requirements of this category.

Scale up visa

The Scale Up visa is a brand new immigration route that opens on 22nd August 2022. The Scale Up visa is for foreign nationals with high levels of skills or qualifications with a job sponsored by a UK company in the scale up phase (growth phase). It is expected that there will be two options available under the Scale-Up visa; sponsored and unsponsored. Scale-Up visa 2022 applicants are expected to require:

  • A high level of skills or be considered “academically elite”
  • A Certificate of Sponsorship is required when applying for the first time; if you were previously given permission to stay as a Scale-Up worker, you will not require sponsorship.
  • A highly skilled job offer from a Scale-Up company (i.e. with annual growth in staff or turnover of at least 20% over the last 3 years)
  • A salary of £33,000 or more
  • Sufficient knowledge of the English language

It is also expected that the Scale Up visa will be renewable (i.e. it can be further extended), and holders will be able to settle in the UK (ILR) after spending 5 continuous years here.

Temporary worker visa

Temporary Worker visas allow foreign nationals to work in the UK for a short duration, but only for permitted purposes. There are several types of Temporary Work visas available in the UK, as follows:

  • Charity Worker visa
  • Creative Worker visa
  • Government Authorised Exchange visa
  • International Agreement visa
  • Religious Worker visa
  • Seasonal Worker visa

Temporary Worker visas are issued for a period of between 3 months and 2 years; this will depend on the visa you choose. In most cases, you will need to be at least 18 years or over, have a job offer and Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from a licence temporary worker sponsor, and have sufficient funds to support yourself (at least £1,270). It is important to check the exact eligibility criteria for your chosen visa.

You will also be able to extend your Temporary Worker visa, but holders should be aware that there is often a maximum permitted length of stay. While you cannot take a permanent role in the UK on a temporary visa, you may be able to switch to a different type of visa that will allow you to do so (e.g. a Skilled Worker visa). Likewise, Temporary Worker visas do not provide a route to direct settlement, but you may be able to switch to a different type of visa that qualifies for ILR.

Read Also:  Jobs without a Work Permit in Canada

Global business mobility visa

The Global Business Mobility visa scheme launched in 2022 and includes 5 new visas, all of which are intended to make it easier for overseas businesses to operate within the UK. Visas under this route enable existing employees of overseas businesses to come to the UK to work for a business here or, in the case of the expansion visa, establish a new branch or subsidiary. The new visas are as follows:

  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa – replaces the Intra-Company Transfer Visa (ICT)
  • Graduate Trainee visa – replaces the Intra-Company Transfer Graduate Visa
  • UK Expansion Worker visa – replaces the existing Sole Representative of an Overseas Business Visa
  • Secondment Worker visa
  • Service Supplier visa

Global Business Mobility visa applicants must have a Certificate of Sponsorship and meet certain criteria specific to the visa they are applying for. The permitted length of stay under this scheme varies from 6 months (for the service supplier visa) to 5 years (for a Senior or Specialist Worker visa). In most cases, it is possible to extend a Global Business Mobility visa, but only within the maximum length of stay permitted. None of the Global Business Mobility visas provide a direct route to settlement, however, it is possible to switch to a different type of visa that qualifies for ILR.

How to get a work permit for the UK without a job offer

It is possible to get a work visa or work permit in the UK without a job offer by applying for a High Potential Individual visa, Graduate visa, or Global Talent visa. While a job offer is not required, applicants will need to meet other criteria to make a successful application for an unsponsored work visa in the UK.

High Potential Individual visa

The High Potential Individual visa (HPI) is a new route that opened on 30th May 2022. It is for foreign nationals with an overseas ‘degree-level’ qualification gained recently from a top university in Home Office’s global universities list. HPI visa applicants do not require a job offer, and they are free to find work once here. The applicants must be at least 18 years, hold an overseas degree from an educational institution on the Global Universities List gained in the last 5 years, meet the English language requirements, and have sufficient support funds of at least £1,270.

High Potential Individual visa holders can normally stay for up to 2 years (or 3 years if they hold a Ph.D.), however, the option to extend is not available. However, it is not possible to gain ILR as a High Potential Individual visa holder. Those who wish to stay longer or settle here will need to consider switching to a different type of visa (e.g. Skilled Worker visa)

Graduate visa

The UK graduate visa is for foreign nationals who have successfully completed a degree or post-graduate course in the UK and allows them to stay for an additional 2 years (3 years with a Ph.D.).

Graduate visa applicants must apply from within the UK, hold an existing student visa or Tier 4 student visa, and have completed a bachelor’s degree or post-graduate degree in the UK.

Graduate visa holders cannot extend their stay or apply for settlement, however, it is possible to switch to a different type of visa if they want to continue to stay in the UK.

Global Talent visa

The Global Talent Visa is for foreign nationals who are considered to be leaders or potential leaders in academia or research, arts and culture, or digital technology. Global Talent Visa applicants must be 18 years or over and have an endorsement as a leader or potential leader from an approved endorsing body.

Successful Global Talent visa applicants are normally permitted to stay for up to 5 years, and this can be further extended. The Global Talent visa also allows holders to apply for permanent settlement (ILR) after 3 or 5 years. To qualify for fast-track settlement after 3 years, Global Talent visa holders must have been endorsed by the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society, UK Research and Innovation, Arts Council England, or Tech Nation.

UK Ancestry visa

The UK Ancestry visa is intended for Commonwealth and British Overseas citizens and nationals. Applicants must have a grandparent who was born in the UK (or the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man). Ancestry visa holders can stay for up to 5 years, after which they can apply for ILR.

The eligibility criteria for the Ancestry visa require that applicants be aged 17 or over, and a commonwealth citizen, a British overseas citizen, a British overseas territories citizen, a British national (overseas), or a citizen of Zimbabwe. Applicants must also submit their application from outside the UK, provide proof that their grandparent was born in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man, intend to work in the UK, and have sufficient funds to support themselves and their dependants.

Read Also: Canadian Work Permit & Visa Process

Other work permits UK

In addition to the above work visas or work permits, several other immigration categories provide the right to work; these include:

  • Frontier Worker permit
  • Dependant family permit
  • Overseas Domestic Worker visa
  • British National (Overseas) visa
  • Youth Mobility Scheme visa

Those who wish to work in the UK can also consider applying for a business visa (e.g. Innovator visa or Start-up visa), allowing them to establish and work in their own innovative business. If you are unsure of the best work visa route for your needs, how to get a work visa in the UK, or whether you qualify, speak to an immigration lawyer at Reiss Edwards today, who will be pleased to advise you based on your specific circumstances.

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