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How to Get a UK Work Visa & Work Permit: Requirements & Procedure

Key Takeaways 

  • The UK has a variety of work visas available to individuals who seek to work in the UK. 
  • The most popular UK work visa is the Skilled Worker visa, but other visas like the Graduate visa or the Senior or Specialist Worker visa are also available in some cases. 
  • When applying for a UK work visa, make sure that you follow the necessary application procedure and file in a timely manner to get the visa as quickly as possible. 

With a population of 67 million and a GDP of $3.2 trillion (as of 2021 statistics), The UK is a major international trading power. It has the fifth-largest economy in the world, and the second-largest economy in Europe.  

Given its economic success, it is unsurprising that the United Kingdom has both a demand for overseas talent requiring work visas, and that many individuals seek to work in the UK on a work visa. 

Here we set out the key things you need to know about acquiring a UK work visa. 

What are the different types of work visa available in United Kingdom?

There are several types of work visas available in the United Kingdom, each with specific requirements and conditions. These include the:

  • Skilled worker visa (previously known as the ‘Tier 2 (General) Visa’) — a visa for skilled workers who have a job offer from a UK employer, and meet certain qualification and salary requirements. The job must be listed on the government list of eligible occupations and meet a minimum salary requirement. B2 Engish capability is also required. This visa is valid for up to five years, and is renewable.
  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility) — this visa, previously known as the ‘Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer)’ is for employees of multinational companies who are being transferred to the UK by their employer. It is valid for up to five years, and is renewable.
  • The International Agreement visa (Temporary Work) — a visa for temporary workers. Previously known as the ‘Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Visa’, this visa is intended for individuals coming to the UK on a temporary basis for work, such as charity workers, religious workers, and creative workers. It is valid for up to two years and is non-renewable. 
  • Global Talent visa (previously known as the ‘Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa’)  — a visa for highly skilled individuals in academia or research, arts and culture or digital technology. It is valid for up to five years and can be renewed.
  • Innovator visa  — a visa valid for up to three years for entrepreneurs offering something that is not currently on the UK market, with the potential for growth for that product. 
  • Start-up visa — valid for up to two years, visa applicants need sponsorship from either a UK higher education institution or a business organization with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs. The applicant must have an idea for something not currently on the UK market. 
  • Graduate visa — a visa available for applicants for up to two years where the applicant has successfully completed an approved course in the UK. 

What is the UK work visa application process? 

The process for applying for a work visa in the United Kingdom varies depending on the visa sought. However, in general, the process typically involves the following steps:

  • Determine the type of visa that is required. With so many work visas available to UK applicants, it is important to determine which visa category is most appropriate for your situation before you begin the application process.
  • Check visa eligibility. Each visa category has specific eligibility criteria that you must meet. For example, for the Skilled Worker visa, applicants must have a valid job offer from a UK employer and a certificate of sponsorship from that employer.
  • Collate the required documents. Depending on the visa category you are applying for, you will need to provide various documents as part of your application. This can include things like proof of your qualifications, proof of your job offer, and proof of your financial status.
  • Complete the online application form. The majority of UK visa applications can now be completed online. This will require you to fill out an application form, provide your personal and passport details and pay the visa fee. You may also need to submit biometric information.
  • Prepare for the decision. Once the application and biometric information have been submitted, you will have to wait for a decision on your visa application. It usually takes around 8 weeks for a decision to be made. If your application is successful, you will receive your visa in the mail.
  • Prepare for the move. If the visa is approved, it will be necessary to prepare for the move to the UK. This may include finding accommodation, arranging for your belongings to be shipped, and making travel arrangements.

Video: How to get a work visa in the UK in 5 steps

UK work visas — pick the right category for your business

With such a broad variety of UK work visas available, it is crucial that businesses consider carefully which type of visa may be appropriate before supporting a visa process.

If you need support in the visa process in the UK, it is worth considering how a global mobility company may be able to help you. To find our more, see our guide to the leading global mobility companies.


The processing time for a work visa in the United Kingdom can vary  depending on the type of visa and the individual circumstances of the applicant. Generally, it can take several weeks to several months to process a work visa in the UK. It is recommended to apply as early as possible, as processing times can also vary depending on the volume of applications received by the UK government.

Yes, you will need a sponsor in order to obtain a work visa in the United Kingdom. The sponsor is typically the company that is hiring you and they are responsible for submitting the necessary documents and information to the UK government on your behalf. They will also be responsible for ensuring that you comply with all of the conditions of your visa while you are in the UK. In addition, your sponsor will also be  responsible for reporting any changes to your employment, such as termination or changes to your job duties, to the UK government.