13 WAYS TO WORK IN THE UK (WITHOUT AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE QUALIFICATION)

If you want to work in the UK, you need to have an English language qualification, right?

Not necessarily!

Besides the more obvious situations where English is your native language (although there are requirements to fulfil on that!), many UK visa routes require you to prove your English language competence. This can be done in three ways:

  • you’re from a native English-speaking country
  • you’ve got a bachelor degree or higher qualification from an institution in a native English-speaking country
  • you’ve proven your English language capability in a previous UK visa application

But if none of these situations apply to you, how can you come to the UK to work without taking a formal English language qualification, such as a Secure English Language Test (SELT)?

Here are 13 ways you can work in the UK without needing to prove your English language competence.

English-speaking countries*

english language

First of you, you should check if you come from one of the countries UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has designated as being ‘English-speaking’. Because if you do, there’s no need to take an English language qualification no matter which UK visa you’re applying for.

Here’s the UKVI list of English-speaking countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • USA

You may notice some glaring omissions in that list (South Africa? India? Nigeria?) and while that may seem unfair, it’s something you’ll need to address. One way is to bite the bullet and book a SELT; the other is to consider one of these UK visa routes that don’t require you to prove your English language competency.

*English-speaking countries according to UKVI for UK visa purposes

Side note on speaking English

English is pretty much the only language spoken across the UK, with 92% of people using it as their primary language. So if you’re still working on your fluency you may find it challenging to initially adjust.

There are communities throughout the country where other languages are widely spoken: there are over 300 different languages spoken in London schools, and the UK has major populations speaking languages such as Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, Tamil and Italian.

We’d highly recommend you try to learn some English before you travel to the UK to make settling in easier for you. Even if you’re in a community where your own language is widely spoken, there will be times when you’ll need to interact with the locals so you’ll need basic English language skills to get by.

And even if your English skills are pretty good, you should be conscious of the different and hugely variable dialects and accents spoken throughout the UK, which will sound very different from the Received Pronunciation or US-style accents you may have been used to learning English in your own country!

The good thing is, English is a very flexible language, and while it may be hard to master, it’s supposed to be one of the easiest to pick-up. So we’d really recommend learning the basics before you travel, even if you don’t need an English language qualification for your visa.

Intra-company Transfer Visa

uk intra-company transfer visa

The Intra-company Transfer (ICT) visa is for people working for an employer overseas whoo wish to transfer to their employer’s UK-based company. You’ll need to have worked for your employer overseas for at least one year and your employer’s UK-based company must be a Home Office Sponsor Licence holder to sponsor your ICT visa application.

There are two types of ICT visa: an Intra-company Transfer Graduate Trainee visa and a full Intra-company Transfer visa. The eligibility criteria for each differ, primarily in the amount of overseas experience required and the minimum salaries that you must be paid (£23,000 and £41,500 respectively). The job you’ll be doing in the UK must also be on the ‘eligible occupations’ list.

One of the big advantages of the ICT visa is that it now leads to settlement after 5 years. Which gives you plenty of opportunity to pick up enough English to pass a SELT to be eligible for permanent residence.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Intra-company Transfer visa

UK Ancestry Visa

uk ancestry visa

The UK Ancestry visa lets you come to the UK to live, work and study in the UK 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.

You don’t need an English language qualification to apply for a UK Ancestry visa, and this is one way people from South Africa, India and Nigeria can apply for a visa to live and work in the without needing an English language qualification.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Ancestry visa

Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa

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.

There’s no English language requirement to apply for the BN(O) visa, however if you do decide to apply for settlement after five years you will need to show proof of English language competence.

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

Overseas Domestic Worker Visa

Although a rather niche visa category, if you’re what’s classified as a ‘domestic worker’ and your employer spends an extended period of time in the UK – or travels there frequently – you can apply for an Overseas Domestic Worker visa to come with them to continue doing your job. 

Domestic workers include:

  • cleaners
  • chauffeurs
  • cooks
  • those providing personal care for the employer and their family
  • nannies

You can stay in the UK for up to six months on an Overseas Domestic Worker visa and can enter and re-enter the UK as many times as you like within the visa’s period of validity. You’re also able to change your employer without having to change visa, however you’re only permitted to do one of the Overseas Domestic Worker eligible roles and cannot work in any other capacity.

You also don’t need to prove your English language skills to qualify for this type of visa.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your Overseas Domestic Worker visa

Tier 1 Investor Visa

uk 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, all without needing an English language qualification. 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, at which time you’ll need to show proof of your English language competence.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your Tier 1 Investor visa

Global Talent Visa

uk 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.

While you don’t need an English language qualification to apply for a Global Talent visa, you’ll be using English as your medium of communication with your endorsing body so you’ll need to speak English to a decent level to get by.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Global Talent visa

Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme

tier 5 youth mobility scheme

The Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme 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.

If you meet the age criteria and you’re from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, San Marino or Taiwan – or hold a Hong Kong British National (Overseas), British Overseas Citizen or British Overseas Territory Citizen passport – you can apply for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa to come to the UK for up to two years.

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. While you don’t need an English language qualification to apply for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa, if you do decide to switch to a Skilled Worker visa you will need to provide evidence of your English language competence.

If you’re switching from a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme 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 Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme, 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

Temporary Worker - Charity Worker Visa (T5)

There are a number of Temporary Worker visas available to people for certain purposes of travel to the UK, such as going to do charity work. The Charity Worker visa allows you to come to the UK for up to 12 months to do unpaid work for a registered charity.

A great thing about this visa is that it also allows you to work for another employer – paid – for up to 20 hours per week. Any second job must either be within the same charity sector as your main job or on the Skilled Worker Shortage Occupation list.

You don’t need to prove your English language competence to apply for a Charity Worker visa, and it may be relatively easy for you to get by if you’re working for a charity with ties to your home country where many of the staff speak your language.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Charity Worker (T5) visa

Temporary Worker - Creative and Sporting Visa (T5)

tier 5 creative and sporting visa

A bit of a broad visa category, the Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting (T5) visa is for either sportspeople performing at the highest level or creatives who are expected to make a “unique contribution” to the UK labour market.

To qualify as a sportsperson, you’ll need a certificate of sponsorship (CoS) from your employer plus sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK (currently around £1,300).

To qualify as a creative, you need to satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • make a unique contribution to the UK labour market, for example you’re internationally renowned or are required for continuity
  • have a certificate of sponsorship
  • be paid the minimum salary as set by EquityPACT or BECTU (except for models, musicians or circuses)
  • enough money to support yourself in the UK (currently around £1,300)

In both cases, your employer can cover the support requirement and must include it on the CoS they issue you.

You can do multiple engagements in the UK under the same CoS, but there can’t be more than a 14-day gap between them.

Due to the complexity of the application, this is certainly one type of UK visa we’d recommend getting professional assistance preparing.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Creative and Sporting (T5) visa

Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5)

tier 5 government authorised exchange

On the Government Authorised Exchange (T5) visa you can come to the UK for up to two years for work experience or to do training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme.

You’ll need a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the organisation you’re coming to work for to be able to apply for a Government Authorised Exchange visa.

During your time in the UK, you’ll also be able to take a second job for up to 20 hours per week or study.

You may also be eligible to bring your dependents with you.

At the end of your time in the UK, you may be able to switch to a Global Talent visa if you’re in the government authorised exchange scheme for sponsored researchers, which is a visa route that leads to settlement.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Government Authorised Exchange (T5) visa

Temporary Worker - International Agreement Worker Visa (T5)

tier 5 international agreement

You can come to the UK to work without needing an English language qualification on an International Agreement (T5) visa if you’ll be contracted to do work covered by international law or treaty while in the UK. For example if you’ll be:

  • working for a foreign government
  • working as a private servant in a diplomatic household
  • providing a service under contract as a contractual service supplier or independent professional

The International Agreement (T5) visa lasts for up to two years, although if you’re providing a service under contract as a contractual service supplier you’ll only be able to stay in the UK for up to six months in any 12-month period.

You’ll need a Certificate of Sponsorship to apply for an International Agreement (T5) visa, and you’ll get this from your employer.

During your time in the UK you’ll also be able to take a second job for up to 20 hours per week and study, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your primary job.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK International Agreement (T5) visa

Temporary Worker - Religious Worker Visa (T5)

tier 5 religious worker

The Temporary Worker – Religious Worker (T5) visa is for people who want to do religious work in a non-pastoral role or religious order. You don’t need an English language qualification to apply for this visa.

The Religious Worker (T5) visa lasts for up to two years and you may also be able to bring your dependents with you.

You can also do a second job for up to 20 hours per week or study while in the UK on a Religious Worker (T5) visa.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Religious Worker (T5) visa

Temporary Worker - Seasonal Worker Visa (T5)

tier 5 seasonal worker

A very popular visa choice for temporary work in the UK is the Seasonal Worker (T5) visa. Primarily used during the summer months for agricultural workers, the Seasonal Worker (T5) visa allows you to work in the UK for up to six months. You may also be able to study as well, providing it doesn’t interfere with your primary job.

While you don’t need an English language qualification for this visa, you do need a Certificate of Sponsorship from your employer, so you’ll need to be able to communicate with them. However, many employers that make extensive use of temporary labour through the Seasonal Worker (T5) visa scheme do tend to have native speakers of many languages on staff to help you through the process.

Click ‘Get Started’ below to find a professional immigration advisor to help you apply for your UK Seasonal Worker (T5) visa

Want to live and work in the UK permanently?

How-to-Get-Your-Dream-Job-in-the-UK (3)

Many of the UK visas on this list are for temporary work, with maximum durations of two years. If you’d like to live and work in the UK permanently, we can help position you for success to show you how to find 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 launched How to Get Your Dream Job in the UK, an online course with 5+ 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, 13 ways to work in the UK without needing an English language qualification. And if you want to live and work in the UK permanently, 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!

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