work in the uk

Want to Work in the UK? Check Out the National Occupation Shortage List!

The United Kingdom (UK) consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and many smaller islands. The UK has a work visa system, which consists of five tiers. The type of work visa to apply for depends on the characteristics of the applicant and the type of work performed in the UK.

UK Five-Tier Visa System

The five tiers for UK visas are:

  1. Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa – The visa for exceptional talent is for those who are either a recognized or an emerging leader in the fields of digital technology, engineering, humanities, medicine, or the arts.
  2. Tier 2 Sportsperson, Minister of Religion, and General Work Visa – The sportsperson visa is for those who are a qualified coach or sportsperson and recognized by the sport’s governing organization as internationally established at the top level. The visa for a minister of religion is for those offered a job in the UK in the faith community. The general work visa is for those offered a skilled job in the UK.
  3. Tier 3 Temporary Low-Skilled Worker Visa – This program was set up recently to allow temporary workers into the UK to fill unskilled labour jobs, when there is a labour shortage. This visa is currently suspended and not being issued.
  4. Tier 4 Student Visa – This is for those wanting to study in the UK.
  5. Tier 5 Temporary Worker Visa – This visa is for youth mobility programs, exchange programs, international agreements (such as household workers for diplomats), creative persons, sportspersons (who need only a temporary visa, such as for playing a game), religious, and charity workers.

The UK Shortage Occupation List

The Migration Advisory Committee meets regularly to review the shortage occupation list and make recommendations to the government about what occupations in the UK have a shortage of qualified workers. If a person’s occupation appears on the UK Shortage Occupation List, it is easier to obtain a Tier 2 General Work Visa.

The last update of the UK Shortage Occupation List happened on November 19, 2015. In order to gain legal employment in the UK, as a foreigner using a work visa, a person needs sponsorship by a qualified UK company. The UK company needs to obtain permission from the Home Office of the UK Border Agency to issue a certificate of sponsorship based on an occupation that appears on the shortage occupation list.

Rules for Sponsoring Companies

There are many rules the sponsoring company must follow, which include:

  • The sponsoring company must have a license as a sponsor based on the Tier 2 Points-Based System.
  • The sponsoring company must have between 20 and 250 employees.
  • An exception is allowable for companies with fewer than 20 employees, if the company works with the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and has a letter of support from them.
  • The organization cannot be owned 25% or more by a UK company that has more than 250 employees.
  • The company cannot be established in the UK to provide services exclusively to an individual company or group.
  • The company is limited to ten Tier 2 workers at one time.

Rules for Migrant Workers Applying for Tier 2 Visa

Here are the rules for getting a visa for an occupation on the shortage occupation list:

  • When the job requires specific experience the worker must have written references from past employers that give the details, showing the worker has the necessary experience.
  • To apply for a visa, first obtain a certificate of sponsorship from a qualified company sponsor.
  • A statement from the UK NARIC of academic qualification and English proficiency must accompany the application for the work visa. This statement is obtainable online by establishing an account with the NARIC and paying a fee.
  • There is the assumption of English proficiency for applicants from certain countries where English is used. Others have to take an exam to get a certification in English language skills.
  • Pay the fees for the application and the healthcare surcharge. There is a convenient fee calculator, which makes it easy to figure out the total fees to pay.
  • The application requirements are a current passport, a passport-size colour photograph, bank statements showing at least £945 in the bank continuously for 90 days, proof of English proficiency, and tuberculosis test results.
  • All support documents, if they are not in English, must have a certified English translation.

Current Listings of Qualifying Occupations on the Shortage List

The full shortage list is downloadable as a .pdf file. It is important to note that the general job category is a four numeral Standard Occupational Classification Code (SOC). However, only the specific jobs described that fall into the general code category are eligible for Tier 2 work visas. Currently there are 32 different job categories on the shortage list, with more than one opportunity in each category.

There is one list for all of the UK except Scotland. There is a separate list covering Scotland.

Additionally, the job must require a minimum amount of 30 weekly hours. The pay rate for the job must be at least the minimum salary rates, stated on the shortage list for each job. There are different minimum salary rates for new entrants to the job and for experienced workers.

Here are the jobs found in the current shortage list:

  • Aerospace – Advance Tool and Fixturing Engineer, Aerothermal Engineer, Chief of Engineering, Electrical Machine Design Engineer, Power Electronics Engineer, Manufacturing Engineer, Stress Engineer
  • Animation – 2D Supervisor, 3D Supervisor, Compositing Artist, Computer Graphics Supervisor, Games Designer, Matte Painter, Modeller, Producer, Production Manager, Rigger, Shader Writer, Software Developer, Stereo Artist, Systems Engineer, Technical Director, Texture Artist, Visual Effects Artist, Visual Effects Supervisor
  • Arts – Ballet Dancers, Orchestral Musicians
  • Automotive – Product Design Engineer, Product Development Engineer, Specialist Electronics Engineer
  • Aviation – Licensed Engineer/Inspector
  • Chemistry – Chemical Engineer
  • Construction – Contaminated Land Specialist, Engineering Geologist, Geoenvironmental Specialist Geophysicist, Geotechnical Engineer, High Integrity Pipe Welder, Hydrogeologist, Landfill Engineer, Tunneling Engineer
  • Education – Secondary Education Teacher
  • Electrical Power – Commissioning Engineer, Control Engineer, Design Engineer, Linesworker, Planning/Development Engineer, Power Systems Engineer, Project Engineer, Project Manager, Proposals Engineer,  Protection Engineer, Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE) Engineer, Site Manager, Substation Electrical Engineer
  • Electronics – Integrated Circuit Design Engineer, Integrated Circuit Test Engineer
  • Government – Social Worker (children and family)
  • Healthcare – Emergency Medicine Doctors, Consultants, and Trainees, HPC Registered Diagnostic Radiographer, Neurophysiology Healthcare Scientist, Neurophysiology Practitioner, Nuclear Medicine Practitioner, Nuclear Medicine Scientist, Nurses, Orthotist, Paediatrics Staff, Paramedics, Prosthetist, Psychiatrists and Trainees, Radiologist, Radiotherapy Physics Practitioner, Radiotherapy Physics Scientist, Sonographer
  • IT – Bio-Information, Data Scientist, Driver Developer, Embedded Communications Engineer, Informatician, Product Manager, Senior Developer, Security Specialist
  • Mining – Senior Resource Geologist, Senior Mining Engineer, Staff Geologist
  • Nuclear Waste – Decommissioning Specialist Manager, Managing Director, Mechanical Design Engineer (Pressure Vehicles), Mechanical Design Engineer (Stress), Nuclear Safety Case Engineer, Operations Manager, Piping Design Engineer, Programme Director, Project/Planning Engineer, Radioactive Waste Manager, Radiological Protection Advisor, Site Director, Technical Services Manager, Technical Services Representative, Thermofluids/Process Engineer
  • Oil and Gas – Completions Engineer, Control and Instrument Engineer, Drilling Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Fluids Engineer, Geophysicist, Geoscientist, Geologist, Geochemist, Mechanical Engineer, Offshore and Subsea Engineer, Petroleum Engineer, Process Safety Engineer, Reservoir Engineer, Wells Engineer
  • Railways -Senior Signalling Design Checker, Signalling Design Checker, Signalling Design Engineer, Signalling Design Manager, Signalling Principles Designer, Signalling Systems Engineer
  • Restaurants – Skilled Head Chef


There are many great jobs waiting in the UK for those who wish to immigrate, as long as they have the proven skills and experience for these jobs on the shortage list.

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