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How to get a UK work permit when you are a US citizen

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Working in the UK is a dream for many people, but it can also be a possibility, especially since the UK transitioned to a 'Points based' system for work permits. This system gives points to certain worker characteristics, and if you reach enough points, you will be granted a work permit. As a US citizen, while it may be difficult, it is not impossible to get a work permit, and this info explains how to proceed. As a US citizen, I received a Tier 1 General work permit to work in the UK and I've been working there as an expat since February 2009. Please see my other articles for more details on each of these permits described below.

Things You Will Need

A US Passport

Access to the internet to review requirements from the UK Home Office


Step 1

Go to Working in the UK which is the UK government website which outlines the various categories of work permits. You'll need to review each category to see under which one you can qualify.

Step 2

Review Working in the UK-->Highly skilled workers, investors and entrepreneurs-->Highly Skilled Workers (Tier 1 General). This permit requires you to have certain education levels and earnings but it's very flexible because you can get this permit on your own, without requiring any company sponsorship.

Once on that link, look under 'Eligibility' which includes a 'Points Assessment' section. This section details exactly what requirements you must have in order to qualify under the Tier 1 General permit. If you don't qualify for this permit, on to step 3.


Step 3

Review Working in the UK-->Sponsored skilled workers (Tier 2). This permit allows a company to sponsor US workers if the US worker has skills which are needed in the UK. Once on that link review the two links: 'Tier 2 (General)' and 'Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfers)'

Under each of those links review 'Eligibility' which includes a 'Points Assessment'. If you don't qualify for this Tier 2 permit, on to step 4.


Step 4

Review Working in the UK-->Temporary workers (Tier 5). This permit allows a company to sponsor US workers if the worker is coming to the UK to do temporary activities of a certain nature including: creative and sporting workers or charity and religious workers. If you don't qualify for this permit, on to step 5.

Step 5

Review Working in the UK-->Other categories. This permit includes other categories of workers such as Domestic workers or Sole representatives of an overseas firm. Clink on the relevant description and then click Eligibility to see the points requirements. If you don't qualify for this permit, on to step 6.

Step 6

Review Working in the UK-->UK Ancestry. If you happen to have another passport which is from a 'UK Commonwealth' country and you meet other eligibility requirements, you may be able to get a work permit through this avenue.

Step 7

The above are all the basic options currently available to US citizens to work in the UK. If you don't qualify for any of the above, don't despair. The Tier 2 list of 'needed skills' is updated periodically, so if your skill isn't on the list today, it may be on the list in the future. In addition, there are always other options to be able to come to the UK, such as under a student visa. Or, you may want to try another European country's work permit, as the UK categories may change in the future, then you'll already have European work experience prior to coming to the UK.
Getting a UK work permit may be difficult but it's not impossible. To work in a foreign country is an experience of a lifetime, so it's worth the efforts to apply for and achieve the permit.

Tips & Warnings

Don't try to come to the UK and work illegally! This activity will make it very difficult to get a proper permit later, if you get caught working without a permit. Keep applying for jobs from the US, it doesn't hurt to apply and you may get lucky with a company willing to sponsor you. Keep making connections to the UK, such as through LinkedIn and reading as much as possible about UK life and culture to be prepared for working life there.
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