Work Permits Visa Guide

Work Permits Visa Guide

Work Permits Visa Guide


Work permits are issued by Work Permits (UK), part of the Home Office’s Border and Immigration Agency. A work permit relates to a specific person and a specific job. The work permit scheme lets UK employers recruit or transfer people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), while still protecting the interests of resident workers in the UK. Work permits also allow overseas nationals to come to the UK for training or work experience.

 Main types of UK work permit visa:Since 2010, the UK government has made it harder for workers from outside the European Economic Area to work in the UK. The main work visas currently open to new applicants are 

Tier 1; High value Migrants

  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) For people with at least £50,000 to invest in the UK by taking over or setting up a UK business
  • Tier 1 (Investor) For people who want to invest in the UK and have at least £1m to invest in a UK investment opportunity
  • Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) For graduates of UK universities who are endorsed by their university. Limited to 2,000 a year.
  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Only open to truly exceptional people working in the arts and sciences. Limited to 1,000 a year

Tier 2 Skilled workers

  • Tier 2 (General) For workers who have an offer of skilled work and a certificate of sponsorship from a UK employer with a valid Tier 2 sponsorship licence. The job on offer must be one that cannot be filled by a worker already resident in the UK. Since 2011, there has been a cap of 20,700 visas that can be issue in this category every year
  • Tier 2 (Intra company transfer) For employees of multinationals who are being transferred to the UK branch, Applicants must have a valid certificate of sponsorship from their employer. There are four sub-categories
    • Long-term staff
    • Short-term staff
    • Graduate trainee
    • Skills transfer
  • Tier 2 (sportsman) For sportspeople of international calibre intending to stay in the UK for a lengthy period
  • Tier 2 (minister of religion) For missionaries, monks, ministers of religion and the like

Tier 4 Students

  • Tier 4 student visas are for students at UK educational institutions. While studying, some students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time and full time during the holidays.

Tier 5 Temporary workers

  • Youth mobility scheme. If you are from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco or Taiwan, you can come to the UK on a ‘working holiday’ visa and experience life in the UK while working to pay your way.

  • >Creative and sporting. Artists, performers and sportspeople of international calibre can come to work in the UK
  • Charity and religious workers. For missionaries and unpaid charity workers
  • Government authorised exchange. For people coming under government-approved schemes aimed at the sharing of knowledge, experience and best practice.
  • International agreement. For people coming to the UK under contract to do work covered by international agreements, employments of international governments and private servants in diplomatic households.

The UK immigration system is subject to frequent changes which makes navigating it a difficult and time-consuming process. You may have to wait months for your UK visa application to be processed by the UK Border Agency, or spend the whole day at a UK Border Agency office only to find that you do not have all the relevant documentation. We are OISC registered and can submit your UK visa application to the Home Office to be dealt with on the same day. The Immigration Rules allow people to come to the UK for certain types of employment without a work permit. You can get more information from other guidance notes: 



  1.  What is a visa? A visa is a certificate that is put into your passport or travel document by an Entry Clearance Officer at a British mission overseas. The visa gives you permission to enter the UK.If you have a valid UK visa we will not normally refuse you entry to the UK unless your circumstances have changed, or you gave false information or did not tell us important facts when you applied for your visa.When you arrive in the UK, an Immigration Officer may ask you questions, so take all relevant documents in your hand luggage.
  2. How do I apply for a work permit? You cannot apply directly for a work permit. The employer in the UK who wants to employ you must do this. They should contact Work Permits (UK). (Contact details are under ‘More advice and information’ at the end of this guidance.)The employer should send the filled-in application form at least eight weeks before the date they need you to start work.
  3. Can I travel before my work permit has been issued?No. You should not travel to the UK to start work before you get your work permit. If you arrive in the UK without a work permit to take up a job that needs one, you will be refused entry.
  4. Can my dependants join me in the UK?Your husband, wife, civil partner or eligible partner and children under 18 can join you as your dependant in the UK if:
    • they have a visa for this purpose, and
    • you can support them and live without needing any help from public funds.
  5. Can my other dependants join me in the UK?As a special condition outside the Immigration Rules, children over the age of 18 and dependent parents can join you if:
    • you have been posted to the UK branch of your employer’s company by your employer, and
    • the person applying:
      • is genuinely dependent on you
      • is, and will continue to be, part of the family unit, and
      • will not stay in the UK after your stay has ended.
  6. Do I need a visa?You will need a visa if you:
    • are a national of one of the countries listed on the Visa and DATV nationals page on this website.
    • hold a work permit valid for more than six months (unless you are a British national without the right of abode)
    • are stateless
    • hold a non-national travel document, or
    • hold a passport issued by an authority not recognised by the UK
  7. Do my dependants need a visa?Yes. Your dependants must get a visa to join you in the UK, even if you do not need a visa. If they travel without a visa they will be refused entry to the UK
  8. How do I apply for a visa?You can apply in a number of ways, for example by post, by courier, in person and online. The visa section will tell you about the ways in which you can apply.If you cannot apply online you will need to fill in a visa application form (VAF 2 – Employment). You can download the form from this website, or get one, free of charge, from your nearest British mission overseas where there is a visa section.You should apply for a work permit visa in the country of which you are a national or where you legally live.
  9. What are visa application centres?In some countries, we are working with commercial companies to run visa application centres (VACs). The VACs are in largely populated areas, making it easier and more convenient for people to apply for a UK visa. Trained staff at each VAC deal with all visa enquiries and applications. They collect your biometric information (see the relevant section of this leaflet) along with the relevant fees, and provide unbiased, face-to-face advice on the application process, including whether or not you have included all the necessary documents. Entry clearance staff at the British mission will then consider your application and decide whether to issue or refuse your visa. VAC staff have no say in this decision
  10. What will I need to make my application?You will need to make your application online or fill in the following visa application form:
    PDF Application form VAF2 – Employment  (PDF, 152K)
    PDF Employment form guidance notes  (PDF, 122K)

    You will also need the following:

    • Your passport or travel document.
    • A recent passport-sized (45mm x 35mm) colour photograph of yourself.This should be:
      • taken against a light coloured background
      • clear and of good quality, and not framed or backed
      • printed on normal photographic paper, and
      • full face and without sunglasses, hat or other head covering unless you wear this for cultural or religious reasons (but the face must not be covered).
    • The visa fee. This cannot be refunded, and you must normally pay it in the local currency of the country where you are applying.
  11. What is ‘biometric’ information?In some countries currently – and in all countries by April 2008 – you will need to provide ‘biometric’ information as part of the visa application process. This biometric information consists of scans of all 10 of your fingers and a full-face digital photograph. You will have to go to the nearest VAC in person to provide this biometric information. In those countries where there is no VAC, you will need to go to the British mission. Your visa applications will not be processed until you have provided the necessary biometric information. The finger scans are electronic so staff do not need to use any ink, liquid or chemicals. You will have your digital photograph taken at the same time and the whole procedure should take no more than five minutes to complete. You should make sure that you do not have any decoration (such as henna), or any cuts or other markings on your fingertips before having your finger scans. You should also make sure that if you have any cuts and bruises on your face, they have healed or disappeared before you have your photograph taken. Digital photographs must be of your full face and you should not wear sunglasses, a hat or any other head covering (unless you wear it for cultural or religious reasons but the face must not be covered).

More advice and information About Work Permit:For more advice and information contact:

  Working in the UK
Run by the Home Office’s Border and Immigration Agency, this site provides essential advice on working schemes and employment in the UK.

Customer Relations Team Work Permits (UK) PO Box 3468 Sheffield General enquiries: (+44) (0)114 259 3776 Website: UKvisas For more advice and information about visas: UKvisas London SW1A 2AH General enquiries: 0845 010 5555 Please note that this number may not work from outside the UK. If you are calling from outside the UK, please contact your nearest British mission where there is a visa section:

  UK diplomatic missions overseas

Application forms: (+44) (0)20 7008 8308 Textphone: +44 (0)20 7008 8457 Email: Border and Immigration Agency For more advice and information about extending your stay once you are in the UK, contact:

  Border and Immigration Agency

Croydon Public Caller Unit Lunar House 40 Wellesley Road Croydon CR9 2BY General enquiries: (+44) (0)870 606 7766 Application forms: (+44) (0)870 241 0645 Email: Website: Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) The Immigration Advisory Service is the UK’s largest charity providing advice and representation in asylum, immigration and nationality law. It has offices right across the UK and abroad, and provides a free service to those who are eligible. It may also be able to help those who are not. The IAS is a non-profit service.

  Immigration Advisory Service

3rd Floor, County House 190 Great Dover Street London SE1 4YB Telephone: (+44) (0)20 7967 1200 Duty Office (open 24 hours a day): (+44) (0)20 8814 1559 Fax: (+44) (0)20 7403 5875 Email: Website: www.iasuk.orgRevenue & Customs For advice on bringing personal belongings and goods into the UK contact: 

HM Revenue & Customs

Dorset House Stamford Street London SE1 9PY Telephone: (+44) (0)845 010 9000 Website: Drugs warning Anyone found smuggling drugs into the UK will face serious penalties. Drug traffickers may try to bribe travellers. If you are travelling to the UK avoid any involvement with drugs. False documents Travellers to the UK may commit an offence if they produce a false travel document or passport to the UK immigration authorities for themselves and their children. People found guilty of this offence face up to two years in prison or a fine (or both). Alternative formats In the UK we also have versions of our guidance notes in Braille, on audio tape and in large print. If you would like any guidance notes in one of these formats, please contact us: UKvisas London SW1A 2AH Phone: (+44) (0)20 7008 8308 Email: