Work Permit in UK

Guidance - Work permit holders (INF 13)
Last updated 16 July 2008

This guidance explains what you will need to do if you want to come to the United Kingdom (UK) to work in work permit employment, and what the Immigration Rules say. It is only a guide but it aims to answer some common questions.

Important!
From 27 November 2008 applicants who do not already have a valid work permit, and who wish to work in the UK must apply under the relevant tier (Tier 2 and Tier 5: Temporary worker). Details are in our INF21 to INF28 guidance.

Please note that no applications for work permits will be accepted after 26 November 2008. Employers in the UK who applied for work permits on, or before this date will continue to have their applications processed and work permits will continue to be issued until all are dealt with. Such applications will therefore be assessed using the guidance below.


Do I need a work permit?
If you are an overseas national who is not settled in the UK and you intend to work in the UK, you must have a work permit unless you are:

  • an EEA national
  • a Swiss national
  • a family member of an EEA or Swiss national who is in the UK exercising their treaty rights or a family member of an EEA or Swiss national who intends to join them in the UK, or is travelling with them to the UK
  • a citizen of Gibraltar
  • a Commonwealth citizen with permission to stay in the UK on the basis of UK Ancestry
  • a seaman under contract to join a ship due to leave British waters
  • a person employed as a civilian in NATO Forces
  • a person given permission to stay as the dependant of a person settled in the UK
  • a dependant under another category (in some cases), or
  • a student (in some cases).

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What is a work permit?
Work permits are issued by Work Permits (UK), part of the Home Office's The UK Border 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.

There are six types of work permit.

  1. Business and commercial.
    These allow UK employers to recruit people from outside the EEA who will fill a vacancy that the employer has not been able to fill with a resident worker.
  2. Sportspeople and entertainers
    These allow UK employers to employ established sportspeople, entertainers, cultural artists and some technical and support people from outside the EEA.
  3. GATS (Global Agreement on Trade in Services)
    This allows employees of companies that are based outside the European Union to work in the UK on a service contract awarded to their employer by a UK-based organisation.
  4. Sectors Based Scheme (SBS)
    From 1 January 2007, this scheme only allows workers from Romania and Bulgaria to enter the UK for up to 12 months to take low-skilled work in the food manufacturing industry. More details on this scheme are available from Work Permits (UK). (Contact details are under 'More advice and information' at the end of this guidance).
  5. Training and Work Experience Scheme (TWES)
This scheme allows people from outside the EEA to carry out work-based training for a professional or specialist qualification, or a short period of work experience as an extra member of staff. To qualify for TWES, you must:
  • hold a valid TWES work permit and be able to carry out the training or work experience it applies to
  • intend to leave the UK after the training or work experience
  • be aged over 16
  • not intend to take employment except as set out on the permit, and
  • be able to support yourself and your dependants, without needing any help from public funds.

If you have been in the UK on a TWES permit for more than 12 months, you will not normally be eligible for another TWES permit until you have spent 24 months outside the UK. If you have been in the UK on a TWES permit for less than 12 months, you will not normally be eligible for another TWES permit until you have spent 12 months outside the UK.

Multiple-entry work permits (MEWPs)

  • The MEWP is designed for employees travelling regularly for short periods of work permit employment with the same employer in the UK and Northern Ireland. It is not valid for the Training and Work Experience Scheme (TWES).
  • The MEWP is valid for between six months and two years for individual work permit holders. For sportspeople and groups of entertainers the maximum period is 12 months.
  • MEWP holders do not qualify for indefinite leave to remain in the UK (in other words they cannot apply for permission to stay in the UK with no time limit).
  • MEWP holders must support themselves and live without taking other employment or needing any help from public funds.
  • They cannot bring their husband, wife, civil partner or dependent children with them to the UK.
  • Letters of approval can be used in place of individual work permits when a large group of people (20 or more) are travelling together.

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Is it possible to work in the UK without a work permit?
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:

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

MEWP and SBS applicants cannot bring their dependants with them to the UK.
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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 transit visa 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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

Some visa sections will only accept applications made online. To find out if you can apply for your visa online please visit www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk.

If you cannot apply online you will need to fill in a visa application form.

You should apply for a work permit visa in the country of which you are a national or where you legally live.

In some countries, if you are applying for a visa to stay in the UK for more than six months, you may need to be tested for active tuberculosis before we will accept your application.

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 information 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.
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What will I need to make my application?
You will need to make your application online or fill in the following visa application form: 

 


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.

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What is 'biometric' information?
All UK visa applicants, save for those benefiting from a limited number of exemptions and exceptions, are required to provide biometric data (10-digit finger scans and a digital photograph) as part of the application process.

You will have to go to your nearest visa application centre in person to provide your biometrics. In those countries where there is no visa application centre, you will need to go to the British mission.

Your visa application 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).
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What supporting documents should I include with my application?
You should include all the documents you can to show that you qualify for entry to the UK for work permit employment. If you do not, we may refuse your application.

As a guide, you should include:

  • your original work permit
  • a letter of support from your employer, and
  • evidence of your qualifications and experience that are relevant to the job for which the work permit was issued.

We will refuse your application if we find that any documents are false.
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What do my dependants need to make an application?
Your dependants will need to make their application online or fill in the visa application form:

They will also need the following:

  • Their passport or travel document.
  • A recent passport-sized (45mm x 35mm) colour photograph of themselves.
    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 they wear this for cultural or religious reasons.
  • The visa fee. This cannot be refunded, and they must normally pay it in the local currency of the country where they are applying.
  • Supporting documents relevant to their application.

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What supporting documents should my dependants include with their application?
Your dependants should include all the documents they can to show that they qualify for entry to the UK as your dependant. If they do not, we may refuse their application.

As a guide, your dependants should include:

  • evidence of their relationship to you
  • evidence that you can support them and live without needing any help from public funds
  • a copy of the pages from your passport showing your permission to stay, if you are already in the UK, and
  • your original work permit and supporting documents if they are applying before you travel to the UK.

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What requirements do I have to meet to get a visa?
If you hold an ordinary work permit, TWES or a letter of approval, you must:

  • be able to do the work referred to in your work permit
  • not intend to take other employment, except as set out in your work permit
  • intend to leave the UK when the work permit expires (if it is due to expire within 12 months), and
  • be able to support yourself and any dependants, without needing any help from public funds.

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What will happen when I make my application?
The Entry Clearance Officer will try to make a decision using your application and the supporting documents you have provided. If this is not possible, they will need to interview you.

Please check your visa when you get it. You should make sure that:

  • your personal details are correct
  • it correctly states the purpose for which you want to come to the UK, and
  • it is valid for the date on which you want to travel. (You can ask for it to be post-dated for up to three months if you do not plan to travel immediately).
If you think there is anything wrong with your visa, contact the visa section immediately.

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What are public funds?
Under the Immigration Rules, if you want to travel to the UK you must be able to support yourself and live without claiming certain benefits. A full list of public funds is available on the UK Border Agency website.

You can find more information about public funds in the Immigration Directorate Instructions (IDIs) and Immigration Rules 
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More advice and information 

on Work Permits (UK)

UK Border Agency - Working schemes and programs
Customer Relations Team
Work Permits (UK)
PO Box 3468
Sheffield
General enquiries: (+44) (0)114 207 4074
Email: wpcustomers@ind.homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Website: www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/

Where can I get immigration advice?

If you need help with your application or advice about the UK's immigration rules and requirements, you should seek advice from a qualified immigration adviser.  In the UK these are immigration advisers regulated by the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC– www.oisc.gov.uk) or legally qualified professionals regulated by designated professional bodies.  The Law Societies of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Institute of Legal Executives can provide a list of Law Firms who can advise on immigration matters.  
For more advice and information about extending your stay once you are in the UK:

The UK Border Agency
Croydon Public Caller Unit
Lunar House
40 Wellesley Road
Croydon CR9 2BY
Phone: (+44) (0)870 606 7766 (general enquiries)
Phone: (+44) (0)870 241 0645 (application forms)


For advice on bringing personal belongings and goods into the UK contact: 

HM Revenue & Customs
Dorset House
Stamford Street
London SE1 9PY
Phone: (+44) (0)845 010 9000
Website: www.hmrc.gov.uk

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
It is better to explain why you do not have a document than to submit a false document with an application. Applicants will be automatically refused and may be banned from coming to the UK for 10 years if they use a false document, lie or withhold relevant information.  They may also be banned if they have breached immigration laws in the UK.

Travelers to the UK who produce a false travel document or passport to the UK immigration authorities for themselves and/or their children are committing an offense. People found guilty of this offense face up to two years in prison or a fine (or both).

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