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Working in the UK?

Join InterNations to meet other expats where you live and read more articles like Working in the UK with relevant information for expats.

Jan-Peter van Tijk

Living in Great Britain, from Netherlands

"I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming."

Therese Yeboah

Living in Great Britain, from Ghana

"For me, the InterNations events are the best part. I attend almost every get-together and always get to know lots of friendly fellow expats."

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The UK at a Glance

Working in the UK

Do you need information on working in the UK as an expatriate? The UK – and London in particular – is an attractive destination for foreign employees and global companies. InterNations gives you a rundown of the essential aspects of working in the UK, from entry permits to British business etiquette.

Most foreign nationals have one advantage over their British colleagues or competitors: They are fluent in at least one more language than many British citizens. This is an important factor if you consider working in the UK, but aren’t sent on a traditional expat assignment. There is always a high demand for speakers of foreign languages, from engineers to teachers, from local government officials to sales personnel. In particular highly-skilled people fluent in languages spoken by traditional immigrant communities in the UK are much sought after.

The number of people aged 16 and over who are currently employed in the UK reached 29.73 million at the end of 2012. London, despite its unemployment above the national average, is the place where most people working in the UK end up. Europe's financial capital attracts a lot of international business, and most multinational companies have a London branch. So, during your time in Britain there is a good chance that you’ll be working in the UK capital.

Permits and Qualifications for Working in the UK

Despite the demand for foreign languages, English remains an essential requirement for most people working in the UK. If you need a permit for working in the UK, English language skills are mandatory. Many foreign nationals who consider working in the UK also require a work permit or an entry clearance. This is, however, not necessary for nationals of most EU/EEA member states and some other countries. Please refer to the UK Border Agency for detailed information.

Work permits are issued on a points-based system. If you come to the UK on an expat assignment, a so-called Intra-Company Transfer, or have a job offer in the UK, your employer will act as your sponsor. They can apply for a work permit on your behalf. It is, however, your responsibility to ensure that you meet the requirements for working in the UK.

For people planning on working in the UK whose English needs brushing up, there are several courses offered by language schools and British universities, sometimes also via distance learning. The University of Cambridge´s ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) programme offers a wide range of certificates and professional English exams, e.g. the Business English Certificate (BEC). Another one is CIELT (Certificate in English Language Test), awarded by the College of Excellence; and two long-established testing systems, IELTS and TOEFL, which are offered by several institutions around the world, including the British Council. Please check the list of English Language Tests that have been assessed as meeting the UK Border Agency’s requirements.

Finding a Job in the UK

There are a number of recommended sources for those keen on working in the UK. The Guardian newspaper is widely recognized as the best source for skilled job seekers in the UK. All big and reputable companies, especially those who want to reach an international audience, advertise their vacancies in The Guardian. It dedicates several pages to different fields of employment on certain days of the week, e.g. media jobs on one day, vacancies in the public sector on another. In addition, it offers an extensive, nationwide online job database searchable by anyone with an interest in working in the UK.

As in most countries, the Internet in general is a valuable tool for job seekers. If you are merely looking for a local part-time job, a good place to check is the notice board of your local library. Also, for people considering working in the UK for a limited period of time, registering with recruitment agencies specializing in temp jobs is often the way forward.

Have you found the perfect job ad and are now working on your application? Read our article on Applying for a Job in the UK for tips on how to write a persuasive job application and have a successful interview.

InterNations Expat Magazine