Who has the right to work in the UK?
The following types of people have a permanent, unlimited right to work in the UK:
- British and Irish citizens
- EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens who were living in the UK pre-Brexit (specifically, 31 December 2020 at 23:00) with settled status
- People from any country with indefinite leave to remain (in other words, permanent residency)
You’ll usually have a temporary right to work in the UK if you have leave to remain status.
Why you need to prove your eligibility to work in the UK
Under the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, employers have to check your right to work in the UK. Employers can be fined up to £20,000 per illegally employed employee or imprisoned for up to 5 years.
Therefore, no matter whether you’re British or not, you can expect employers to ask for proof of your right to work in the UK as part of the hiring process.
Employers will either need to make a copy of your physical documents or save a copy of the digital information you give them using a Home Office share code.
If you have a type of visa that will expire, your employer will ask you to prove your right to work again after your initial visa expiration date.
How do you prove your right to work in the UK?
There are several ways to prove your eligibility to work in the UK depending on your nationality and personal circumstances.
If you’re a British citizen:
You can prove your right to work with either:
- a valid or expired British passport
- your birth certificate AND an official letter from a government agency showing your National Insurance Number (for example, from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs)
- your certificate of naturalisation as a British citizen AND an official letter from a government agency showing your National Insurance Number
You only have the right to work in the UK if you have a British passport that shows you are a ‘British citizen’ on its information page. You won’t have the right to work in the UK and will have to apply for a visa if your British passport shows your citizenship as one of the following:
- British National (Overseas) (normally given to Hong Kongers pre-1997 handover to China)
- British Protected Person (given to some residents of the former British Empire, notably from Brunei)
- British Subject (given to some people living in India pre-independence)
- British Overseas Territories Citizen (e.g., Falkland Islands, Bermuda, Cayman Islands)
- British Overseas Citizen (given to some residents of the former British Empire)
Here’s what the nationality field of your passport should look like:
If you’re an Irish citizen:
You can prove your eligibility to work in the UK with either:
- a valid or expired Irish passport OR a valid or expired Irish passport card
- your Irish birth certificate AND an official letter from a UK government agency showing your National Insurance Number
- a current Frontier Worker permit
If you’re an EEA/Swiss citizen who’s been in the UK since before Brexit (31 December 2020 at 23:00):
If you successfully applied for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme, you should get an online share code from UK Visas & Immigration and share it with your employer.
If you’ve applied for Settled Status but haven’t heard back yet, you can use your digital or physical Certificate of Application to prove your right to work in the United Kingdom.
If you’re an EU citizen who hasn’t lived in the UK or are any other nationality:
The documents you need to prove your eligibility to work will depend on your personal circumstances, nationality, and visa type. You can find out which particular documents you need to use to prove your right to work by using the government’s right to work check tool.
The documents you’ll need to supply may include your:
- passport with a valid visa or stamp inside
- Biometric Residence Permit issued by the UK government
Common types of visa for working in the UK
If you don’t currently have the right to work in the UK, here are some of the most common types of visas people use to come to the UK for work:
Graduate visa: The UK’s graduate visa allows you to work for up to 2 years (or 3 years if you have a Ph.D.) if you graduated from a British university. You’ll be able to work in any role (including self-employed work) and you won’t need to make a particular salary to be eligible for this kind of visa.
How much it costs: £715 per application, plus a compulsory fee to access NHS services (£624 per year)
Global talent scheme
Global talent scheme: The global talent visa is for highly skilled workers in a particular field, such as engineering, the arts, and science. You’ll need to provide proof of your talents when you apply for this visa. For example, you can highlight any exhibitions you’ve held if you’re an artist.
Once you have this visa, you’ll be able to work in any role (or be self-employed), and you won’t need to inform the government when you change work.
The global talent visa is valid for 5 years.
How much it costs: £623 per person per application, plus a compulsory fee to access NHS services (usually £624 per year for each person applying)
Skilled worker visa
Skilled worker visa: The skilled worker visa is another way of obtaining the right to work in the UK. You can get a skilled worker visa if you meet all the following requirements:
- are sponsored by an employer that’s licenced to sponsor work visas
- do a job that’s on the job shortage list
- make a specified minimum salary
- provide proof that you speak English to a level set by the government
Your visa can last for up to 5 years. You can’t switch jobs without getting sponsored for a new skilled worker visa by your new employer. You also won’t be eligible to access public funds.
How much it costs: Depending on the job you want, the application fee for a skilled worker visa varies between £625 and £1,423, plus a compulsory £624 fee per year to access the NHS.
Unless you’re exempt, you’ll also need at least £1,250 available in funds as proof that you can support yourself when you arrive in the UK.
Working holiday visa
Youth mobility scheme: A youth mobility scheme visa is better known as a working holiday visa. You can apply for a visa valid for up to 2 years if you’re between 18 and 30 years old. Once you have your visa, you can:
- study in the UK
- be self-employed
You can’t extend your stay or use public funds. The working holiday visa is only available for the following passports:
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- British Overseas Citizen
- British Overseas Territories Citizen
- British National (Overseas)
How much it costs: A working holiday visa costs £259, plus a compulsory healthcare surcharge of £470 per year. You’ll also need to provide evidence you have £2,530 in savings to support yourself.