Pathways to getting a UK Work Permit

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

As the 5th largest economy in the world, the UK has a booming job market that offers numerous opportunities to anyone that desires to further their career abroad. The UK has increasingly become a popular choice for work relocation because of its diverse job sectors and favourable working conditions.

man standing in front of people sitting beside table with laptop computers
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Despite this, it is quite difficult to move to the UK for work without passing through stringent migration hoops which include getting a valid work permit.

Even so, there are several types of visas available to foreign nationals eligible to work in the UK either for short or long-term stays. These work visa options vary according to qualification, profession, and purpose. Currently, there is very few visa options available to casual or low-skilled workers to take up employment in the UK.

This article puts together the various types of visas that you can explore if you want to work in the UK. These visas types follow the UK Immigration points-based assessment system that award scores based on skills and qualifications, earnings, sponsorship, maintenance funds and English language skills.

Types of Work Visas

These are some of the current pathways to work long term in the UK that are also guaranteed routes to permanent settlement in the UK.

The Skilled Worker Visa (Formerly Tier 2 General worker visa)

This is the well-known pathway for most people that have relocated to the UK for work. This visa permits you to move to the UK provided you are sponsored by an approved employer.

To be eligible for this visa, you must fulfill basic requirements such as:

  • you must have a confirmed job offer from a UK employer approved to sponsor this visa
  • you must have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your UK employer
  • your job must be on the list of eligible occupations
  • you must have been offered a minimum salary specific to your occupation.
  • proof of knowledge of English

Aside from the fact that this visa authorizes you to work in the UK, it can last up to 5 years before you need to apply to extend it. With this visa, you can also

  • apply to settle in the UK permanently (via the ‘indefinite leave to remain’) after 5 years of residency. With a settlement status, you are eligible to apply for British citizenship after 12 months
  • move to the UK with your partner and children as your dependents
  • take on extra paid work for no longer than 20hrs weekly if allowed by your employer
  • study and do any voluntary work

However, this visa restricts you from changing your job or employer except you update your visa. Read more about how to apply and the cost of the Skilled Worker visa here.

Health and Care Worker Visa

This visa route is specifically reserved for medical professionals coming to the UK to work with the NHS, an NHS supplier or in adult social care.

The basic criteria to qualify for this visa includes;

  • being a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional
  • having eligible health or social care job offer from a Home Office approved UK employer
  • obtaining a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer with information about the role you’ve been offered in the UK
  • be paid a minimum salary specific to the type of work you do

This visa offers you to stay in the UK for up to 5 years with a possibility for renewal or applying for a permanent residence status. This visa also permits you to bring your partner and children along as ‘dependents’ to the UK.

Having explored the common long term work visas, let’s examine some of the options for short-term work visas.

Graduate Visa

Now, we know the UK is a hot destination for studies and even more so now that the UK government opened up this visa category in 2021. The Graduate visa route is opened to international students who have completed an undergraduate, postgraduate degree programme or other eligible courses in the UK.

The Graduate Visa gives graduates of UK universities temporary stay in the UK for at least 2 years to find permanent employment. The basic eligibility requirement is straightforward - you must have successfully completed your course study and you need to apply in the UK while your Student visa is still valid. The Graduate visa opens a plethora of opportunities for those that wish to remain in the UK after their studies. Find out more.

Creative worker Visa

The Creative Worker visa provides a short-term work permit for individuals that have been offered work opportunities in the UK’s creative and entertainment sectors. Creative industry professionals that fall within this category include actors, musicians, dancers, fashion models, film crew and even support staff accompanying eligible creative workers.

To apply for this visa, eligible individuals must have a certificate of sponsorship from a Home Office approved sponsor. The creative worker visa can last for 12 months with the option to extend your stay for a maximum period of 2 years.

Youth Mobility Scheme Visa

The Youth Mobility Scheme visa is a short term visa open to young people aged 18 – 30 from eligible countries to stay and work in the UK for up to 2 years.

Aside from the country-specific restriction, application eligibility is also limited to those that have no dependent nor under another UK scheme can apply. To apply for this visa, you also need to meet the financial requirement of at least £2,530 maintenance funds.

With this visa, the holder can

  • work in most jobs with the exemption of work as a sportsperson
  • undertake a study programme
  • be self-employed and set up a company though with some restrictions

However, like most short term visas, your stay cannot be extended once the two years elapses. Read more on the documents you need to apply here.

This article is not exhaustive of all the options available to foreign nationals seeking a UK work permit; for a complete list of all work visas in the UK, visit the government website.

If you want to work and advance your career in the United Kingdom, one thing is certain: job possibilities and visa options abound. Therefore, we hope this article nudges you in the right direction to get started on your international relocation plans.


Maze provides an end-to-end platform that disrupts the traditional relocation model.

We connect people relocating with service providers, reduce cost and enable the personalization of customer journeys to the UK.

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