Visas and citizenship

Find out about employing staff, how to become a visa sponsor and applying for citizenship.

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Skilled workers from outside the UK have opportunities to live and work in London now and will continue to be welcome in the future. Visa schemes are in place to help you bring the talented people your business requires.

Non-UK nationals can come to the UK for both short and long-term jobs. Your company also has options when recruiting recent international graduates and transferring international staff to the UK.

I came to London and felt immediately at home no matter what my accent was.
Nitzan Yudan
CEO & Founder, Benivo

Employing people from the EU

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, with a transitional period in place up to 31 December 2020, during which EU citizens and their families are able to continue to come to the UK under the current rules. 

EU citizens and their family members who are residing in the UK by the end of the transitional period must then apply under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021 to continue to live and work in the UK.

The government’s EU Settlement Scheme Employer Toolkit can help you understand what the scheme means for your company and your employees. It covers who’s eligible, how to apply and where to get further information.

The Mayor of London has also created an EU Londoners Hub, providing news and practical information to EU citizens living in the city. There’s an option to register for email updates.

Find further official information and resources to help you navigate Brexit.

Employing people from outside the EU

The most common route for employing non-EU people in the UK is the Tier 2 visa. This is designed for:

  • Skilled workers with a job offer
    Skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland with a job offer in the UK from a Tier 2 licensed employer can apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa.
  • Skilled employees transferring to the UK within a company
    Current employees of overseas companies may be able to apply for a Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) visa if their Tier 2 licensed employer has offered them a job in a UK branch of the same organisation.

People with an exceptional skill or talent in certain fields may be eligible for a Global Talent visa. For instance, in the tech sector, Tech Nation is the endorsement body which enables the brightest and best tech talent from around the world to come and work in the UK’s digital technology sector via the Global Talent visa route. Other visas are also available for people with outstanding talent or promise in science, the humanities, engineering, medicine, the arts, architecture or fashion.

You can also bring non-EU talent to the UK temporarily, for example for a special event or project. That's where Tier 5 visas come in – they're for skilled workers you'd like to employ short term. There are full details on Tier 5 visas on the government’s work visa website.

Those wanting to briefly visit the UK for a business related activity, for example for a conference, meeting or training may be able to do so with a Standard Visitor visa.

How to employ recent non-EU graduates

Depending on their visa, international students may be able to work full time for a short period after they complete their course. To stay and work in the UK after this time, they’ll need a Tier 2 (General) visa. To get this, they would need a skilled job offer from a Tier 2 licensed employer (see above).

The government is launching a new Graduate Route for international students from summer 2021. Students who have successfully completed an undergraduate or master’s degree will be able to benefit from two years’ work experience in the UK upon graduation. Students who complete a PhD will be able to stay for three years.

Other options

The government's page on visas and immigration has a full list of all work visas

The UK's new immigration system

The UK is introducing a points-based immigration system from 2021, with the new routes set to open later this year. Check out the government’s visas and immigration page for the latest updates.

How to become a visa sponsor

You might need a sponsor licence to employ someone from outside the UK and EU. Details on how to register can be found here: Find out how visa sponsorship works.

How to apply for British citizenship

Once your employees are here, they may wish to seek British citizenship – and there is a pathway for that, too. They will find guidance on the government's web page on citizenship and living in the UK.

Get help from our expert immigration partners

Visa applications can be complex and time-consuming. But help is available. We are happy to introduce you to any of our immigration partners, who can ease the process:

Although we try our best to make sure this information is accurate we can’t guarantee this is always the case, including that of the third parties we link to. Please take professional advice before making any decisions.

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The London & Partners Key Accounts team can help your business navigate Brexit and beyond. Benefit from our complimentary services.