Working in the United Kingdom

Working in the UKThe United Kingdom is a leading global economy and, according to The Interrnational Monetary Fund, it has the fifth largest GDP in the world in 2016. It is also one of the most globalised economies and among the world's largest foreign direct investors. 

The UK felt significant negative impacts as a result of the global financial downturn and it was only through the government’s multi-faceted attempts at stimulating the economy while reducing public spending and raising taxes, that the UK managed to stabilise the economy.

However,  the UK country's recent decision to leave the EU saw the pound fall to its lowest level in more than 30 years. It is still too early to determine what the full impact of this and much will depend on the terms negotiated in the UK's exit deal. 

Job market in the UK

As is the case in most developed countries, the economy of the UK is overwhelmingly fuelled by the strength of its service sector, which accounts for almost 80 percent of its total GDP. The most prominent service sectors in the UK are banking, insurance and business.

However, while financial and creative industries are dominant in the UK, it remains one of the world’s largest manufacturing economies. Many important players in the aerospace industry – such as BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce – are based in the UK. It's also home to prominent pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and Astra Zenica. The automotive and construction industries have historically been prominent in the UK, but were hard hit by the recession.

The United Kingdom’s coal, oil and gas reserves are of great importance and North Sea oil, the dominant industry in northern Scotland, still contributes significantly to the economy, but its natural resources are steadily declining and it now has to rely on energy imports to sustain itself.

London and South East England are the most prosperous regions of the UK and this is reflected in salaries, house prices and even in life expectancy. The majority of expats moving to the UK follow job opportunities that are based in London as the capital is home to the headquarters of major companies and branch offices of dozens of multinationals. Many of the most deprived parts of the country are in old industrial cities that were the power houses of the British Empire only a century ago.

The United Kingdom has always attracted immigration due to its relatively strong economy, good working conditions and high standard of living, and as a result the country has one of the world’s most multicultural and vibrant working environments. Since 1955 immigration from former colonies such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Caribbean nations has been very significant, and more recently there has been a large influx of workers from Eastern European countries such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria who are able to come to the United Kingdom without the need for a visa due to the European Union's open borders policy.


Work permits for the UK

The United Kingdom has emerged from the economic downturn faster than many other European countries, and this has resulted in a significant number of French, Spanish and other Western European nationals moving to the UK. But the British government recently tightened restrictions on work permit allocations, making it harder for those outside the EU and without specialist skills or post-graduate qualifications to work in the UK. Many expats working in the UK started at a multinational company in their home country and then sought out opportunities at its UK offices.
Expats are required to have a work permit from the British Embassy in their home country to legally take up a job offer in the UK. In most cases, employers must prove that an expat is the best candidate for the job. For expats from outside the EU, the employer would also need to show why they were unable to hire an EU candidate for the position.

After two to five years of working full-time in the UK, expats can apply for permanent residency. There are as yet no restrictions on dual citizenship. Partners, children and elderly dependent relatives are eligible for visas once the primary applicant’s work visa has been approved.

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