Who can work in the UK
If you want to come to the UK to work, whether you can depends on who you are. If you are not a British citizen or a citizen of one of the European Economic Area (EEA) countries, you may need a visa before you travel here.
If you have to get a visa, you'll need to be cleared by officials at a British Overseas Mission in your country of origin. Once cleared, the entry clearance certificate, or visa, will be put into your passport or travel document.
Jobseekers from the European Economic Area (EEA) member states have the right to live, work and study in any other member state without restriction.
If you're an international student you may not need permission to work here when you're studying if your home country is in the European Economic Area, or European Union.
You should check the visa stamp in your passport. If it says 'prohibited' you can't work in the UK. If it grants you leave to enter or remain in the UK as a student, you can work here provided you don't:
- work more than 20 hours a week during term time, unless the employment is part of your studies, or is an internship
- engage in business, are not self-employed and don't provide services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer
- take a permanent full-time position
If you want to work in the UK, you must apply under the points-based system. If you are not from a European Economic Area country or Switzerland, you’re likely to need to apply under one of these tiers to work here.
There are five tiers within the points-based system:
- tier 1 - highly skilled workers
- tier 2 - skilled workers with a job offer
- tier 3 - low-skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages
- tier 4 - students
- tier 5 - youth mobility and temporary workers
You should apply under this tier if you are a highly skilled worker, entrepreneur, investor or post-study worker and you want to come or extend your stay in the UK.
Tiers 2 and 5
If you wish to enter the UK via these routes you must have a certificate of sponsorship from an organisation granted a sponsorship licence by the United Kingdom Border Agency. You will then use this as part of your application to work. You will also need to provide evidence of meeting other criteria which will earn you points towards your application.
The route for low-skilled workers is currently suspended.
There are two types of student categories in tier 4 of the points-based system:
- general student - for students coming to the UK for post-16 education
- child student - for children between 4 and 17 years old to come to the UK for their education (children between 4 and 15 years old may only be educated at independent fee paying schools)
To apply, you must want to study with an approved education provider that has a UK Border Agency tier 4 sponsorship licence.
Proof an employer will need from you
If you're from an European Economic Area country, you'll need to show a prospective employer your:
- national identity card or Home Office registration certificate
- UK Border Agency your work document if you are from an A2 or A8 country and need permission to work
Employers can face unlimited fines if they employ illegal workers and need to make sure that no one they employ is working in the UK illegally.
However, to protect themselves against discrimination laws they should treat all job applicants equally. So don't be offended if you're asked to prove your nationality, as even UK nationals will be asked to provide proof.
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