How to Get a Work Visa for the UK

UK working visas are issued under a points-based migration system.
UK working visas are issued under a points-based migration system. (Image: passport approval image by timur1970 from

To work in the United Kingdom, you must hold a valid visa or work permit that allows you to accept certain types of employment in the country. You must get the visa before entering the United Kingdom, so you should apply in your country of residence, regardless of nationality. Currently, the United Kingdom operates a points-based migration system for considering visa applicants who wish to enter the country to work or study. This system is divided into five tiers aimed at different groups of migrants. Each tier has particular requirements to fulfill. Types of work visas include the Highly Skilled Individuals, Tier 1; Skilled Workers, Tier 2; Temporary Workers and Youth Mobility, Tier 5.

Things You'll Need

  • Valid passport
  • Sufficient funds
  • Certificate of sponsorship (except for visas under Highly Skilled Individuals, Tier 1)
  • Application form
  • Passport photos

Understand the UK Migration System

Determine which visa category you are most suitable for and get all required evidence ready. All visa applicants must be able to prove they have enough money to support themselves and any dependents in the UK. The amount required will differ according to the type of work visa you need; however, in all cases the funds must have been held in your bank account for at least three months prior to the date you submit your application. In addition, your bank balance must not fall below the required amount at any time during the three-month period.

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Seek employment. You'll usually need an offer of employment from a UK employer who must be registered as a sponsor under the migration scheme. The employer will issue you a certificate of sponsorship that you must submit with your visa application along with other documents. If applying for a visa under Highly Skilled Individuals, Tier 1, you do not normally need guaranteed work from a UK employer beforehand, but you still must acquire enough points to qualify.

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Conduct a self-assessment. Visa applicants must achieve a certain number of points to qualify. Use the online Self-Assessment Points Calculator to obtain your individual score based on your skills and the type of visa you are applying for. It's a big help if you have the certificate of sponsorship in hand when self-assessing, as it will increase the number of points awarded.

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Tips & Warnings

  • Apply at a visa application center. Although you can apply online for most visas, the staff at your local visa application center can guide you through the application process.
  • Once you have your visa, you can travel any time after its start date. So wait until your visa application has been approved before confirming your travel arrangements, and travel only when the visa is valid.

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