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 a significant asset 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 migrant communities in the UK are much sought after.
The labor force in the UK reached over 32.7 million in 2014. London, despite its unemployment being about one percent above the national average (6.4% compared to 5.5%, respectively, in 2015), is 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.
Despite the demand for foreign language speakers, 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 a must. Many foreign nationals who consider working in the UK require such a work permit or an entry clearance. This does not apply to 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. You can check to see what your score would look like on the calculator provided by the Home Office. 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 language schools and British universities which offer language courses, sometimes also available online. The University of Cambridge’s ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) program 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 Home Office’s list of approved English language tests that meet the necessary requirements for entry clearance.
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 available to anyone interested in working in the UK.
As in most countries, the internet in general is a valuable tool for job seekers. Websites like Jobsin UK advertise local positions for English speakers. Conversely, if you are looking for a local part-time job, a good place to check is the notice board of a library near you. 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 spotted the perfect job and are now ready to work 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.
We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.