Applying for a visa
Depending on where you’re from, you might have to apply for a visa before you start work. At the moment, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens don’t need a visa to work in the UK (but you should probably consider applying to the EU settlement scheme). If you’re from outside the EU, you’ll need to apply for a visa—but don’t worry, we’ll lay out the whole application process for you!
There are a variety of visas you can apply to, but odds are you’ll be applying for a general work visa (also known as a Tier 2 visa), which can last up to five years. You can apply for this visa if you’ve been offered a skilled job—for instance, as a trainee solicitor or barrister. If you had a student visa (Tier 4) before, you can switch to a Tier 2 by proving that you got your degree.
To apply for this visa, you’ll need a couple of things. First of all, you need to be sponsored. Generally, your sponsor will be your employer; so if you’ve been offered a job, you probably won’t have to worry much about this. You’ll also need to prove your knowledge of English and provide a couple of documents, including your passport and a recent bank statement.
You can apply at most three months before your job start date, and it usually won’t take more than three weeks for you to get a reply.
Getting your National Insurance number
When you work in the UK, you need a National Insurance (NI) number to be able to work, pay your taxes and access benefits such as state pensions or student loans.
If you’re under a Tier 2 visa, it’s likely that you already have your NI number; it’s probably printed somewhere on the back of your biometric residence permit. If you’re an EU citizen and are here without a visa, you’ll need to apply from within the UK—but you can work as soon as you’ve applied!
Your rights as a worker in the UK
As a full-time employee in the UK, you’ll have the same rights as other workers—everything from 28 days of paid holiday to statutory sick pay.
The only difference if you’re working under a Tier 2 visa is that your employee will often be your sponsor—so if you’re fired, you might not be able to stay in the UK unless you find another sponsor. This hopefully won’t be an issue. Even if it is, you’ll have the same protections against dismissal as any UK citizen.