If you want to come to the UK to take up a job offer, or stay here in order to work, you need to make sure that you have the right immigration permission. Not all visas or residence permits allow you to work, and working without permission is a criminal offence.
Below are some of immigration categories that allow you to work in the UK, but you must understand the different restrictions on hours or job categories that might apply:
- Tier 2 Points-Based System: Tier 2 is for skilled workers with a job offer in the UK. Your employer must be a registered sponsor, and issue you with a Certificate of Sponsorship so you can make your application for a visa or leave to remain. Your job must be at the correct skill level (new applicants in this category can only take graduate-level jobs) and minimum pay levels are set by the Home Office. Your employer will have to monitor your attendance at work, and they have a duty to inform the Home Office if you are absent without permission or if you leave your job.
- Tier 5 Points-Based System: Tier 5 covers a number of temporary work categories including internships, temporary religious workers, and “youth mobility” for working holidaymakers. You will need a sponsor, and to be prepared for the fact that you are not usually allowed to transfer into any more permanent category from within the UK.
- Tier 1 (Investor) or (Entrepreneur): Tier 1 categories are for “high value migrants”. To be an investor you need to have at least £2 million available to invest in a limited number of government bonds or shares or loans in UK companies. Depending on their immigration status and source of funds, entrepreneurs need to have either £50,000 or £200,000 to invest in growing business in the UK. Investors can become eligible for indefinite leave to remain more quickly if they invest more money. Entrepreneurs have to show that their involvement in their business has created at least 2 jobs during their visa period, in order to be granted further leave.
- Tier 4 (General): Adult students on full-time educational courses at degree level or above can usually work for up to 20 hours a week during term time and full time during the vacations. At lower levels, 10 hours of work per week may be permissible.
- Appendix FM family members: Partners given visas or residence permits because of their relationship with a British citizen or settled person can usually work without restrictions. However, be aware that if you come to the UK as a fiancé or proposed civil partner, you must not work until you have had your ceremony and successfully applied for permission to stay in the UK.
- UK Ancestry: If you are from a Commonwealth country and you have a grandparent who was born in the UK (or Ireland before 1922), then you could be eligible for a UK Ancestry visa. Ancestry visas are granted for 5 year period, and allow unlimited work in the UK. You could be eligible for indefinite leave to remain at the end of that period if you have lived in the UK for long enough. Ancestry visa conditions are very generous compared to many other categories, so it is well worth investigating your eligibility.
- European residence rights: Nationals from member states of the European Economic Area are entitled to live and work in the UK without restrictions under European free movement laws. They also have a right to be accompanied by their family members (including spouses, children under 21, and dependant parents) even if those family members are not themselves European. Once in the UK, family members have the same rights to live and work, as long as the European national is working, studying or self-sufficient. Overseas nationals should consider whether they might have an entitlement to citizenship of a European country.
- British citizenship: It is worth considering whether you or your children might have British citizenship, or be eligible to register as British because of your place of birth or ancestry.