Here’s how you can come to work in the UK without needing a job offer first.
There are 10 ways you can do this and in this post you’ll discover what they are and how to apply (plus a bonus resource at the end to help you land your Dream Job in the UK).
Scroll down to get the low-down on each option, or jump straight to where you want to go using the links below:
#1: EU Settlement Scheme
NOTE: the EU Settlement Scheme closed 30 June 2021, all eligible citizens must have made their EU Settlement Scheme application before this date
European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme should take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live, work and study in the UK visa-free.
When you make an application under the free-of-charge EU Settlement Scheme, you’ll be granted either Settled Status or Pre-settled Status.
Settled Status is granted if you’ve had 5 years or more of continuous residence in the UK. It’s basically permanent residency and gives you the same Freedom of Movement rights you enjoyed when the UK was part of the EU.
If you’ve not got 5 years of UK residence, you’ll be granted Pre-settled Status, and after 5 years of total residence you’ll be able to apply for Settled Status. You only need to have been in the UK for one day before 31 December 2020 and within the last six months to be eligible to apply for Pre-settled Status.
The deadline to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme was 30 June 2021, so you’ll only be able to work in the UK with needing a visa if you’d applied for Settled or Pre-settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme before this date.
#2: UK Ancestry Visa
The UK Ancestry visa lets you come to the UK to live, work and study without a job offer first if you come from a British Commonwealth country and your grandparents were born in the UK, Channels Islands or the Isle of Man. It can be extended up to 5 years, after which time you’ll be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, also known as ‘permanent residence’ or a ‘settlement visa’. You may also be eligible to apply for British citizenship, if you so wish.
The hardest part of applying for a UK Ancestry visa is making sure you have acceptable proof of your grandparent’s birth, but if you have this to hand and are from a qualifying country, this is an excellent visa that gives you full control over your affairs.
Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Ancestry visa
#3: Youth Mobility Scheme (T5)
The Youth Mobility Scheme (T5) is open to people aged between 18-30 years old who hold passports from nine eligible countries, or who hold one of three British Overseas passports.
Passport holders from Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand and San Marino can apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme directly.
Nationals from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan can also apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme, but must first make a successful ballot application. Ballots open twice per year, once in January and again in July, and are only open for 48 hours. There are also quotas for the ballots – 200 places each year from Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, and 700 from Japan – so you’ll face stiff competition.
British overseas citizens, British overseas territories citizens and British nationals overseas are also eligible to apply for the Youth Mobility Scheme, without facing any quotas or ballots.
You’ll be free to work for anyone or yourself during your two years in the UK, and the best part is you can switch to a Skilled Worker visa or other visa route while still in-country at the end of your two years. And under the terms of the recent trade deal announced between Australia and the UK, Australian citizens will soon be able to stay in the UK on a Youth Mobility Scheme visa for up to three years.
If you’re switching from a Youth Mobility Scheme (T5) visa to a UK work visa, you’ll typically have your employer sponsor your Skilled Worker visa application. They’ll issue you with the mandatory Certificate of Sponsorship, and most employers also pick up some or all of the visa and Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) costs.
So if you see your future in the UK and are eligible for the Youth Mobility Scheme (T5), it’s a great way to get your foot in the door while you look for work.
Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa
#4: Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa
A new visa route was launched in January 2021 for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) passport holders.
The British National (Overseas) visa – or BN(O) visa – lets BN(O) passport holders come to the UK to live, work and study freely for up to five years. Your initial BN(O) visa is issued for 30 months, and can be extended in the country.
After five years, you’ll be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, as well as British citizenship if you wish.
The UK Government announced that 27,000 Hong Kong British National (Overseas) passport holders applied for the visa in the first three months, and expects 300,000 applications over the next five years.
Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa
#5: Graduate Immigration Visa
Launched on 1 July 2021, the Graduate Immigration Visa – also known as the Post-study Work visa – is a new visa that lets recent graduates from UK universities live and work in the UK for up to two years after finishing their studies. And best of all, there are no quotas, so any eligible international student can apply.
The first cohorts eligible for this visa will graduate in Summer 2021, and you must have studied a degree, masters or doctorate course in the UK for at least 12 months to qualify. Your institution must also have a good record of immigration compliance for you to be eligible.
The Graduate Immigration Visa can be switched to another visa type in the country – such as the Skilled Worker visa – and while the two years you’ll spend on this visa don’t count towards permanent residence, you’ll have plenty of time to find a great employer who can sponsor your work visa so you can start clocking those qualifying years towards settlement.
Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Graduate Immigration Visa
#6: Tier 1 Investor Visa
For those with the cash to spare, the Tier 1 Investor visa lets you live and work in the UK once you have an investment plan approved by the Home Office. You’re required to invest a minimum of £2m and to hold this money in a regulated financial institution. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) states that this must be “disposal income”, which is why on average less than 400 Tier 1 Investor visas are issued each year.
But if you have the financial means, this is a relatively straightforward way to come to the UK to live and work, and after five years leads to permanent residence.
Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your Tier 1 Investor visa
#7: Global Talent Visa
The Global Talent visa is open to all nationalities and is for people who are considered leaders or emerging leaders in technology. To qualify for the Global Talent visa, you’ll need the endorsement of Tech Nation and have to go through an endorsement application process, as well as applying for the Global Talent visa itself.
The Global Talent visa leads to settlement after either three or five years, and is an excellent way for technology and other creatives to come to the UK to live and find work without needing a job offer first.
Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Global Talent visa
#8: Start-up Visa
The Start-up visa lets you come to the UK to set up a new, innovative company. Your business idea must be new – that is, you can’t already be trading – and it must be different from everything else on the market, with potential to scale.
Similar to the Global Talent visa, you’ll need the endorsement of an official body, in this case either a UK higher education institution or a business organisation with a history of supporting UK entrepreneurs.
The Start-up visa is an excellent choice for entrepreneurs and recent graduates who have links to UK higher education institutions. The Start-up visa is valid for two years, after which time you may be eligible to switch to an Innovator visa.
Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Start-up visa
#9: Innovator Visa
Another great visa for entrepreneurs is the Innovator visa. Like the Start-up visa, you need to have a brand new business idea and the endorsement of an approved body.
But unlike the Start-up visa, the Innovator visa requires you to have at least £50,000 in funding available for your business idea. So if you began on a Start-up visa and have managed to scale your business after two years to £50,000 in reserves, you’ll be able to use that money to satisfy the funding requirement. But if you’re starting new, you’ll need to show the funding from another approved source.
Innovator visas are issued for three years and can be extended, and you may be eligible for indefinite leave to remain after just the first three years.
Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Innovator visa
#10: Young Professionals Scheme
Announced in May 2021, the new Young Professionals Scheme is a two-year visa for Indian nationals aged between 18-30 years old.
University graduates and professionals with equivalent work experience will be able to apply for the visa, which will let them live and work in the UK.
At the end of the two-year period, you’ll be able to switch to a different type of UK visa, such as a Skilled Worker visa.
No details on the launch date or cost have been released yet, although there will be a 3,000 visa per year quota for the scheme when it’s launched.
#11: High Potential Individual Visa
The High Potential Individual visa route was announced in Summer 2021 as part of the UK Government’s Innovation Strategy and is aimed at attracting the best international talent from around the world.
Very little detail has been released so far, other than stating that to be eligible you must’ve graduated from a “top global university”.
The High Potential Individual visa will let you come to the UK to work without needing employer sponsorship, and can be extended for up to five years. After that time, you’ll be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain and even British citizenship.
BONUS: How to Get Your Dream Job in the UK
Your UK visa is just one of many, many things you’ll need to successfully tick off before you can live and work in the UK. And one of the hardest things people find coming to the UK is actually finding a job – even when they’re already in the country.
Many people make huge mistakes drafting their CVs and covering letters by following terrible online advice or using techniques that may have worked for them in their home countries, but won’t satisfy a UK Hiring Manager.
There’s also the process of applying for a job. There are many massive job portals in the UK with literally millions and millions of candidates. People think that the popularity of job portals means they’re the best way to find work in the UK – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Job portals are black holes that simply waste your time.
And when you start to interview, what can you expect a UK Hiring Manager to ask? How should you prepare? What are sensible questions to ask (HINT: “will you sponsor my visa?” isn’t one of them!).
To help you through this minefield, we’ve created How to Get Your Dream Job in the UK, an online course with 10+ hours of video content, proven CV and covering letter templates and a number of checklists and outreach scripts.
On the course you’ll learn exactly how to draft a killer CV that will make a UK Hiring Manager want to pick up the phone immediately to invite you to interview.
You’ll discover how to tap the UK’s Hidden Job Market and avoid the disappointment of sending application after application into a black hole job portal where you never get any feedback.
And you’ll know precisely how to prepare for and ace an interview with a UK Hiring Manager so that you’re the No.1 candidate for the job.
You can get a detailed overview of How to Get Your Dream Job in the UK by clicking this link, which also contains details on how to subscribe to the full course (which is available through a desktop browser and mobile app, so you can go through it anywhere!).
Click ‘Get Started’ to find out exactly how to get your Dream Job in the UK
So there you have it, 10 ways to work in the UK without needing a job offer first. And when you’ve arrived in the country, you can use our proven How to Get Your Dream Job in the UK course to make sure you get work quickly, without wasting time and effort on things that simply don’t work.
Best of luck!