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In 2011, there were 6 million people of working age who were not born in this country, making up 14.4% of the total number of people employed in the UK.

Immigrants make a huge contribution to the UK through the work they do, for example, more than 1,000 medically-qualified refugees are recorded on the British Medical Association's (BMA) database with many refugees have academic or teaching qualifications.

European Nationals

  • While in the UK, European Nationals do not have to work as long as they can support themselves or their families without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds
  • Essentially this means that European Nationals must be entering the country with the intention of becoming part of the employment economy by either getting a job, becoming self-employed or setting up a company
  • In most cases a work permit to enter the UK isn’t necessary except for citizens of Bulgaria and Romania who must still obtain permission to work in the UK


  • If a person from a non European Union or EEA country plans to stay in the UK or Wales for up to six months then they may need a work permit to get a job

Work permits

  • To work in the UK, you need a work permit, which is often difficult for an immigrant or migrant worker to obtain
  • There is a points based system for immigration work visas dependent upon attributes and skills
  • Specific points are awarded based on age, financial situation, education, qualifications and English language ability
  • It is usually easier for highly-qualified than less-skilled individuals to obtain work permits
  • More information on the points based system for work visas please got to ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk

Asylum Seekers

  • Asylum seekers cannot work while their claim is being processed
  • There are a few programmes in some parts of the UK which provide opportunities for asylum seekers to get involved in volunteering for community activities or learning English and IT skills
  • Even qualified asylum seeking doctors cannot work while their application is being processed


  • Asylum seekers that have been successful in their application to the UK Border Agency and been given refugee status have the same right to work as UK citizens
  • They are entitled to receive income support or jobseekers allowance while seeking employment or if on a low income

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