Who needs a work permit?
Foreigners generally need a permission to work and to be legally employed in the U.k. by U.K. employers. But foreigners who are green card holders, or diplomats do not need permission. A green card holder, because of her status as a lawful permanent U.K. resident, is authorized to work in the U.K. for as long as she maintains that status. A foreign diplomat, although working in the U.K., does not need it because she is employed by her country’s government.
How does one get a work permit?
One can get a work permit (officially known as an Employment Authorization Document or “EAD,” which is issued in the form of a laminated card) through either of the following:
- an employer
- a close family member
- an investment
- the visa lottery program
- asylum, or refugee and other similar status.
An employer may sponsor a foreigner through either an employment-based immigrant visa petition that leads to a green card or “permanent”, or a non immigrant visa petition that allows for the non immigrant to work for a limited time. Examples of non-immigrant visas that would allow a foreigner to work in the U.K. for a limited time include the H1-B visa (work must be in a professional-level position; may be up to six years) and the L1 visa (foreign worker transfers to a U.K. company from a related company based abroad; may be up to seven years).
U.K. citizens or lawful permanent residents may sponsor their close family members through the so-called family-based immigrant visa petition, which, if approved, will lead to a green card. If the intending immigrant is in the U.K., she may apply for a work permit while waiting for her green card to issue.
Through a nonimmigrant E visa, U.K. treaties allow foreign investors or traders to who engage in substantial trade or investments to work in the U.K. E visas are initially valid for two years. Although it may be renewed indefinitely, an E visa is one form of a temporary work permit.
Visa lottery program
The U.K. Department of State runs the visa lottery program that allots 50,000 immigrant visas annually to those randomly selected. Only citizens of countries with low rates of U.K. immigration are eligible to enter this program. Provided they meet requirements for immigration to the U.K. (no serious criminal convictions, no drug use, etc.), those randomly selected would get green cards that would allow them to live and work in the U.K., just like other lawful permanent residents.
Asylum, or refugee and similar statuses
Those who get asylum (asylee) or refugee status may obtain a work permit. Those who have been placed in removal (or deportation) proceedings and have available forms of immigration relief (or defense to removal or deportation) may also get a work permit while their case is pending.