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How to get a work visa in UK?

Aug 11, 2021
Last Updated on May 30, 2024

The United Kingdom offers numerous work visa options to overseas workers willing to work in the UK.

Any overseas migrant seeking to apply for work in the UK will first need the correct permission to work. 

Choosing the right work visa depends on a number of factors and the most common questions are:-

  • What type of job you will do? and 
  • Do you have a UK job offer? 

If you do have a job offer:

  • Is the position temporary or long-term? and 
  • Does your employer have the correct government approved permission, or “licence”, to sponsor you for employment in the UK?

This blog covers various types of visas, the application process, and some of the costs associated with UK work visas.

Secure a work visa: who needs a work visa?

A work visa is required for non-UK/Irish citizens who are planning to enter the UK for the purpose of employment. Without a work visa, you will not be able to work in the UK. 

Under the post-Brexit new points-based immigration system, EU citizens can still travel to the UK without a visa for less than six months. However, they won’t be allowed to take up any employment during their stay. Without a visa, they can participate in certain restricted activities such as meeting friends and relatives and attending meetings and conferences, provided no work is involved.

EU citizens who were already in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 were allowed to remain in the UK and retain their Right to Work by registering under the EU settlement scheme until 30 June 2021.

Types of work visa the UK offers

There are many different types of work visa offered by the UK. 

The main work visa routes are as follows:

  1. Skilled Worker visa
  2. Intra-company transfer visa
  3. Frontier Worker permit 
  4. Health and care worker visa
  5. Global Talent visa
  6. Investor visa
  7. Temporary Worker visa
  8. Sole representative visa
  9. Start-up visa
  10. Innovator visa

An overview of each visa type

Skilled Worker Visa

If you have a job offer for a skilled job in the UK and are looking to relocate to work whether in the short-term, or with a view to permanent residence, this visa will be required. 

The UK employer that has offered you a job must be a licensed sponsor that can assign you a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). A CoS is a virtual document used to support your Skilled Worker visa application. The CoS contains your personal details and key information about the role you will take up in the UK. The CoS also acts as verification that the job offer is genuine, and that the employer will take full responsibility for your employment for as long as you are being sponsored.

This visa will be issued for up to a maximum of five years and 14 days and can be further extended from inside the UK.

Learn further about a Skilled Worker visa here.

Global Talent visa

Global Talent visa is for those individuals who are exceptionally talented (a recognised leader) or show exceptional promise (an emerging leader) in the categories of Engineering, Science, Medicine, Digital Technology, Architecture, Humanities, The Arts, Fashion, Film and Television.

To be eligible for a Global Talent visa, you will either need to hold an approved grant or prestigious prize in your field, or get endorsed (by an approved body designated by the Home Office to issue endorsements in your field of specialism) as either an emerging talent or exceptional promise. 

The application for a Global Talent visa supported by a relevant endorsement needs to be completed in two stages. Firstly by making an application for endorsement from a Home Office approved body and secondly, by making an application for visa. 

Read more about the Global talent visa here.

Start-up visa

The Start-up visa category aims to help those prospective entrepreneurs and people in business who want to establish a new business in the UK for the first time. To be eligible, your new business must be innovative, viable and hold potential for growth.

Simply put, it means that your business idea is original and unique and is different from existing offerings on the market. Not only this, your idea will need to be endorsed by a UK higher education institution or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs.

You can know more about the start-up visa here.

Innovator visa

The Innovator visa route is for experienced businesspersons who want to set up a completely innovative and new business in the UK. Your business idea should be viable, with potential for growth and must be endorsed by an approved body. As an Innovator, you can join a business already Registered at Companies House, but the company must not have started trading in the UK.

You must have at least £50,000 funds to available to invest or be able to prove that you have already invested the funds in the business. If your endorsement does not contain confirmation of your investment, you will need to provide evidence that you have £50,000 funds available to invest in the business.

Investor visa

If you seeking to apply for an Investor visa (Tier 1), you must have access to at least £2,000,000 to invest in the UK. To apply for the visa, you must also have opened a UK bank account for the purpose of your making your £2,000,000 investments. Once the visa is granted, you must invest the capital in qualifying investments only, including share capital or loan capital in active trading UK companies. Some restrictions on qualifying investments include investing in property investment, property management and/or property development companies. You are permitted to work freely in the UK under an Investor visa, but some restrictions apply, including a prohibition on working as a professional coach or professional sportsperson.

Sole Representative Visa

Suppose you are a senior member of an overseas business, the owner of which is willing to expand their business operations to the UK. In that case, you may be considered as a suitable choice as their Sole Representative – the person tasked with setting up the UK branch.

In this case, the Sole Representative visa would be the correct route to allow you to work in the UK on behalf of your overseas employer.

The overseas business will need to show that they are a genuine trading overseas enterprise, have a fully operational headquarters, and demonstrate a realistic business plan for the UK entity’s business presence in the UK.

The Sole Representative themselves must prove that they are suitably experienced and qualified for the role and have the necessary authority to set up the business and represent the company in the UK.

Read full article here

Temporary Worker visa (T5)

The Temporary Worker visa category, covers a variety of subcategories including routes for those who have a job offer in the UK from a UK licensed sponsor (employer) for a job role on a short-term basis. 

The Temporary Worker visa contains seven sub-categories:

  1. Creative and Sporting Worker visa: if you have been offered short term work in the UK as a sports person or creative worker in your field
  2. Youth Mobility Scheme visa: if you are aged 18 to 30 years old and looking to travel to the UK for a working holiday, and have at least £2,530 in savings. This route is not open to candidates with children under 18 who live with them or who have children who are financially dependent on them. This route is also only open to people with the following nationalities:-
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • San Marino
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • British overseas citizen
  • British overseas territories citizen
  • British national (overseas)
  1. Charity Worker visa: if you seek to do an unpaid job (or voluntary work) for a charity based in the UK, you can apply for a charity visa 
  2. Religious Worker visa: if you want to do religious work, supporting the activities of a church or working in a religious order in the UK
  3. Government Authorised Exchange visa: if you want to come to the UK for a short period of work experience or training, an overseas Government Language Programme, research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme. You must have a sponsor for this visa.
  4. International Agreement visa: if you will be working under a contract covered by international law or treaty while in the UK, such as working for a foreign government or as a private servant in a diplomatic household. 
  5. Seasonal Worker: if you will be working through an approved scheme to do seasonal work in the edible horticulture (fruit and vegetable) sector. There is currently an annual quota of 30,000, and available places are split between scheme operators.

Work Visa requirements and documents needed

The visa requirements depend upon the kind of work you will undertake in the UK and the visa you are applying for.

Every visa category will have guidelines to be strictly followed before making a visa application. See below how to check eligibility requirements for a Skilled Worker visa.

Skilled Worker Visa Requirements

Under the new points-based system, prospective employers in the UK seeking to hire skilled foreign workers need to assign them a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Workers need to earn a minimum of 70 points to qualify for the visa. 

Mandatory requirements to score 70 points for sponsorship:

  1. Job offer from an approved Sponsor (Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS)) – 20 points
  2. The job is at correct skill level for sponsorship – 20 points
  3. The salary meets minimum pay requirements for the role on offer (points for salary can be “traded” in exchange for other attributes, such as having a PhD or by working in a role on the Shortage Occupation List) – 20 points
  4. Able to speak English to the correct level (unless an exemption applies) – 10 points

In addition to the 70 points for sponsorship, you must also score an additional mandatory 10 points to meet the Financial Requirement. 

This is usually met by either showing they have sufficient funds in your bank account or by your sponsor “certifying” maintenance on your Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). If you have lived in the UK legally for 12 months prior to your visa application date, you do not need to provide any evidence of finances.

Documents you must submit

The documentation will vary depending on your visa type, but a general document checklist must include the following to support your visa application: 

  1. A valid passport. If applying from outside the UK, the passport must have a blank page and, if you do not have a blank page, you must first apply for a fresh passport 
  2. Any previously held passport(s) or travel documents to prove your travel history
  3. Proof of your knowledge of the English Language (if applicable)
  4. A criminal record certificate from any country you have lived in for 12 months or more in the previous ten years (if applicable)
  5. Proof of your savings or income or an undertaking by your sponsor that they will support and accommodate you for 1 month (if applicable)
  6. Tuberculosis test certificate, if you are applying from overseas, from a country where it’s mandatory to get tested before making your visa application.


Application process and fee(s)

Once you have identified the correct visa category to allow you to work in line with your plans, you must make an online visa application, submit the documents mentioned above, and pay the visa fee. The fee payable will depend on the type of visa you are applying for. You can get the complete list of all the visa fee(s) from the government website.

An additional up-front Immigration Health Surcharge of £624 (for each year that your visa is issued) will normally be applicable in addition to the visa application fees. This cost is a mandatory part of your visa application, unless you are exempt.


Successfully securing a UK work visa is a dream of many overseas workers. Under the new 2021 immigration system, there have been many changes. This blog has informed you of some possible work visa options so you can begin your journey towards your dream job in the UK, today.

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