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United Kingdom Immigration Information Work Permit


In order to hire a non-EU citizen and obtain a work permit, a company must demonstrate that he or she has a certain set of required skills and they do not have EU candidates for the position.

It is not impossible to satisfy these conditions, but some smaller firms are simply not willing to make the effort as they are typically not short of candidates and the approval process can take 4-6 months. For senior management, IT professionals and other highly qualified positions, the conditions are much easier to fulfil and an application properly handled with the sponsorship of the employer can be processed quicker.

Work Permit

Unless you are an EU/EEA or Swiss national if you intend to work in the UK, you will probably need a work permit. The exceptions to this rule are extremely diverse (e.g. artists, innovators, religious ministers and au pairs are all exempt from requiring a work permit). If you think you may be in ‘permit-free’ category, it is worth looking at the detailed list from

Note: The following countries are members of the European Economic Area:

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Applying for a Work Permit

A UK employer wishing to employ someone needs to apply for the work permit. Applications are dealt with by the Home Office, which is the British government department responsible for their issue. It is recommended that the employer applies at least eight weeks ahead of the date from which the employee is required to start work. Supporting documentation will be required, such as evidence of the candidate’s relevant qualifications and experience for the job.

A foreign national may not convert his/her immigration status from visitor to work permit status while remaining in the UK. Although the foreign national can be in the UK as a visitor during the work permit application process, he/she may not start working on the basis of that work permit until he/she has departed the UK and re-entered with the appropriate immigration permission.

Types of Work Permit

The major types of UK immigration categories that allow employment are as follows:

Work Permit Scheme: Allows individuals to undertake the graduate-level job specified in the application. The application must be sponsored by a UK-based employer.

Training and Work Experience Scheme: Allows individuals to undertake training or work experience. The training/work experience must be at National/Scottish Vocational Qualification (N/SVQ) level 3 or equivalent and the individual should already have an academic or vocational qualification at N/SVQ level 3 or equivalent. The individual must be additional to the UK employer's normal staffing requirements and intend to leave the UK when the permit expires. Once a worker has held a TWES permit, they will not normally be eligible for another permit until they have completed a period outside the UK. The application must be sponsored by a UK-based employer.

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