The Home Office has specific rules about determine who is allowed to work in the United Kingdom and who employers are allowed to hire. We have tried to lay some of these out broadly for a few of the main avenues you have to work in the UK. Please note that this is not legal advice and you should obtain your own guidance before making any decisions.

Working legally in the UK 

Am I allowed to work in the UK?

If you are planning to work in the United Kingdom you must make sure that you are allowed to – either because of your nationality, or by having the correct permissions. You will need to take documents proving that you are entitled to work in the United Kingdom with you when you report for work with an employer, so that they can fulfil their obligations. If you are in any doubt about whether you are allowed to work in the UK, we advise you to check your status on the gov.uk website by clicking here.

British, Swiss, and European Economic Area Citizens

British citizens, Swiss citizens, and citizens of the following EEA countries are currently permitted to work in the UK without restriction:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

If you are from Croatia you may need to apply for a registration certificate to be allowed to work in the UK. Please check this link here.

Students (who are not British citizens or from the EEA)

Non-UK students are allowed to work whilst in the UK, but there are certain limitations, including the number of hours that you are allowed to work during term time. If you are in the U.K on a Tier 4 student visa, please click here to see the Home Office’s policy guidance, reading from paragraph 300. “Can I work Whilst in the UK?”.

Students on short-term study visas are not permitted to work in the UK.

People with British Ancestry

If you are in the UK on an Ancestry Visa you are entitled to work unencumbered whilst your visa is valid. Please see the Home Office’s guidance here for more information.

Other Situations

If you do not fall into one of the above categories it is likely that you will need a specific Visa in order to work legally in the United Kingdom. This is usually applied for and obtained in your country of origin before entering the UK. There are different types of Visa which one might apply for depending on your specific situation. Please check this here.

Employing legally in the UK 

Who am I allowed to hire, and what do I need to do to be compliant with regulations?

The Home Office has stringent requirements to ensure that employers only employ people who are allowed to work in the United Kingdom. Employing illegal workers carries severe penalties, which may include hefty fines. People who knowingly employ illegal workers can also be sent to prison for up to 2 years. To check if somebody has the right to work in the UK please consult the government’s advice here.

In order to avoid fines and prosecution employers must perform the following checks on people that they are employing and their documents, to ensure that:

  • the documents are genuine, original and unchanged and belong to the person who has given them to you

  • the dates for the applicant’s right to work in the UK haven’t expired

  • photos are the same across all documents and look like the applicant

  • dates of birth are the same across all documents

  • the applicant has permission to do the type of work you’re offering (including any limit on the number of hours they can work)

  • for students you see evidence of their study and vacation times

  • if 2 documents give different names, the applicant has supporting documents showing why they’re different, e.g. a marriage certificate or divorce decree.

Employers are advised to consult the government’s comprehensive guidance here.

You can also contact the ACAS helpline Monday-Friday 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am – 1pm on Saturday:

Telephone: 0300 123 1100

Textphone: 18001 0300 123 1100

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