The UK's IT industry offers great opportunities for workers from abroad. But you'll need to plan ahead before you enter the country. Depending on where you come from, you'll need a work permit and possibly a visa to work in the UK.
Visas for non-EEA citizens
A visa gives you permission to enter the country. It's different from a work permit, which gives you permission to work once you've arrived. If you're not a citizen of one of the European Economic Area (EEA) countries, you may need a visa to travel here. If you're not sure whether your country is part of the EEA, you can find a list at Directgov.
To get a visa, you'll need to apply at a British Overseas Mission in your country. Your 'entry clearance certificate' (visa) will be inserted into your passport or travel document.
If you're from the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you can work in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland without a work permit.
- If your country's joined the EU, you may need to register when you start work (Worker Registration Scheme)
- If you're from Bulgaria or Romania, you may need to apply for permission before you start work - see below.
If you're not from the EEA, you must get a permit to work in the UK.
How to get a work permit
If you're from a country outside the EEA or Switzerland, you'll need to apply under the points-based system (PBS), which manages migration for those wishing to enter the UK for work or study. You must have a job offer from a licensed sponsor and a valid certificate of sponsorship.
Permits are usually only given to people with specialist skills or qualifications. There are a few exceptions (see Exceptions for non-EEA nationals).
Your employer must apply for your work permit. Employers need a sponsor licence to bring workers into the country from outside the EEA. They will be checked out by the UK Border Agency and will have to sign up to certain duties. They shouldn't apply more than six months or less than four weeks before the permit is needed.
The documentation you'll need includes:
- A passport issued in your country of origin
- Your birth certificate
- Proof of your qualifications and references
- Copies of any previous work permits
- Your entry visa
European Community law allows you to live in the UK if you're an EEA citizen working here or with enough money to support yourself without public funds. You'll normally have to register under the Worker Registration Scheme if you wish to work for more than one month and are a citizen of:
- Czech Republic
You don't need to register if you:
- Are self-employed (but you must contact HM Revenue & Customs immediately to register for tax)
- Have been working legally in the UK for 12 months without a break in employment
- Are providing services in the UK on behalf of an employer who's not established in this country
- Have dual citizenship of the UK, another country within the EEA not listed above (or Switzerland)
- Are related to a Swiss or EEA citizen (except the countries above) who's working in the UK
- Are related to a Swiss or EEA citizen living in the UK as a student, or as a retired or self-sufficient person
Certain categories of worker don't require work permits, including:
- Commonwealth citizens with at least one grandparent born in the UK
- Commonwealth citizens with at least one parent who is or was a British citizen
Non-EEA nationals who study full-time in the UK for more than six months are allowed to work part-time during term time, and full-time during holidays.
Renewing your work permit
Your work permit can last for up to two years. You'll need a new permit if you change jobs.
What is the Youth Mobility Scheme?
The Youth Mobility Scheme is for young people from participating countries who'd like to visit the UK and experience our culture and everyday life.
If you're from one of these countries, you may be able to come to the UK through this scheme. Your national government will be your sponsor – participating countries include:
- New Zealand
*The information on these pages is provided for your information and reference only. Before making any important decisions regarding your employment or any legal matter, you should consult a qualified professional adviser who can provide specific advice based on your individual position.
- UK Border Agency
- UK Border Agency: visa services
- Directgov: European workers in the UK
- Directgov: Permission to work in the UK
- Search for IT jobs