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Work in Edinburgh: Visas & Permits

Moving to Edinburgh for work will bring you to the UK’s strongest local economies. In our guide to working in Edinburgh, we’ll provide you with an overview of the Scottish capital region. Find essential information on the job market, visa options, self-employment, and social security below!
If you’d like to run your own business in Edinburgh, please check all the necessary requirements first!

Before you make any definite plans for your new job and life in Edinburgh, don’t forget to figure out the bureaucratic details. First, you should find out if you need an employment visa or any other kind of permit for working in the UK.

Options for Work Visas

Generally speaking, EU/EEA nationals do not require a visa or work permit to take up employment in Edinburgh. However, they should be able to support themselves and their dependent family members financially, through gainful employment or self-employment.

Expats from outside the European Union, on the other hand, should look into getting a work visa for the UK. At the time of writing (July 2014), this visa will probably belong to one of the following categories:

  • Tier 1 Visas are mostly aimed at investors, entrepreneurs, and exceptional talents (e.g. in science and the arts). So you’ll need to be either an outstanding expert in your respective field, or have access to considerable sums of investment capital.
  • Tier 2 Visas address the needs of skilled workers, employees, and foreign assignees. Generally speaking, they are easier to apply for than Tier 1 Visas. Nonetheless, you usually need to collect a certain minimum number of points to be eligible. Points are awarded for such requirements as a future employer willing to sponsor your visa, an appropriate salary, English language skills, and a minimum amount of money in savings.

To find out more about UK visas, please read on in our guide for moving to Edinburgh, or browse the detailed information provided by the UK Home Office.

Self-Employment in the UK

Unfortunately, non-entrepreneurial visas don’t really allow for self-employment in the UK. If you have moved to Edinburgh on a work visa and would rather like to be your own boss, always check beforehand how this could affect your immigration status.

EU nationals, however, can opt for self-employment at any time. But they should still take the following points into account:

Self-employment in the UK is possible as a sole trader, as part of a partnership, or a limited company. You may also consider joining a cooperative or becoming part of a franchise. If you’re interested in the latter, the British Franchise Association is an excellent resource.

However, no matter what kind of legal business structure you prefer, self-employment in Edinburgh requires clarifying several important things first. Even if you already have sufficient funds for your own business and have done some market research, there are more matters to take care of:

  • Check if your professional qualifications are officially recognized in the UK, or what you’d have to do to make it so.
  • In addition to having the necessary know-how and qualifications, you may also need business permits or licenses for carrying out a trade, practicing a profession, or running a specific kind of company.
  • You should read up on UK bookkeeping / accounting standards, especially if they differ from what you have previously worked with.
  • Tax issues (e.g. VAT, income tax, business rates for your premises, etc.) are also a big task to tackle, as is paying social security contributions for yourself and your employees. You’ll find more information on social security and national insurance in the last part of this guide.

Resources for Self-Employed Residents

In case you need support for any aspect related to self-employment, expats interested in switching to self-employment should explore the following resources:

The InterNations UK Guide also provides further information on self-employment: Read more in our article on registering as self-employed in the UK


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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