Advice for overseas jobseekers

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By Dr. Catherine Armstrong

The advice contained in this whitepaper is aimed at academic jobseekers - people with postgraduate qualifications wishing to work in a UK University in teaching or research, or people educated to degree level who are interested in coming to the UK to do postgraduate study.

This whitepaper is not suitable for those who want to migrate to the UK to do manual, clerical or other non-academic jobs. For information on this please look for advice here:

If you are already in England and are not looking for academic or related work but have an immigration query, the Citizens' Advice Bureau can help:

Why academic work in the UK?

Some people see the British education system as one of the best in the world, and experience here can mean that you get noticed in many other countries too. Many overseas academics will already have experience of communicating in English, so the transferability of language skills is another attraction. UK Universities are for the most part dynamic and focussed places full of scholars enthusiastic about teaching and research. The sense of community is often strong, with your research cluster, department, faculty and college providing layers of networking and social opportunities.

University life here gives you the academic freedom to pursue research of your own choice although recently the job market and funding opportunities have become extremely competitive. Do not let that put you off from applying though. If you have something original to offer, and especially if you have connections to the UK already (e.g. have worked with a particular professor, visited a university for a while etc), then you have a chance of getting a job in the UK. At the moment there is a special focus on international collaboration due to the requirements of the Research Assessment Exercise: . Academic departments are rapidly becoming more ethnically diverse places.

Teaching loads are not often prohibitively heavy (unlike at some US universities for example) and a structure of sabbatical leave allows permanent job holders paid time off to do research. In the absence of paid leave, the three-term or two-semester system operated by universities allows staff members time in the summer months to undertake research and attend conferences.

Am I eligible to apply for a certain job?

You will be eligible to apply for many of the jobs on the website, provided they do not have special funding arrangements. You will usually have to declare your status on the application form, i.e. whether or not you already have a work permit. If you do not, do not worry, this does not automatically rule you out. If you are the ideal person for the job, the employer will help you get a work permit for the duration of your contract.

However, the situation is more complicated when job offers or scholarships have received particular private or public funding. Many of these positions are only open to European Union applicants only because that is a condition put in place by the funding body. This is true of many of the PhD and Masters scholarships advertised on the site. Many universities offer their own funding to applicants from a variety of countries, so if you are interested in a particular department check their website for details. 

As an academic, how can I find out about work permits and immigration?

For more general work permit and immigration advice, this section is divided into three parts:

1. for those from European Economic Area (EEA) countries
2. for those from outside the EEA but who are living in the UK
3. for those from outside the EEA who are living outside the UK

1. If you are a citizen of a country considered to be in the European Economic Area (EEA) then you do not need to seek special permission to work in the UK. These countries are included in the agreement: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

2. If you are from outside these countries and are already in the UK, you may not be eligible to apply for work at the moment, for example if you come into the country on some visitor or tourist visas. You may have to leave the UK in order to apply for permission to work. You can find out whether you can work on your current visa by looking at the passport stamp. These are some of the phrases there could be on your passport stamp:

Leave to enter is permission to come into the UK ("leave" means "permission" in this case)
Leave to remain is permission to stay in the UK
The holder is the owner of the passport
To enter employment means to get a job
Without recourse to public funds means without receiving money (welfare benefits) from the British government

Your stamp will also let you know if you need to register with the local police.(passport stamp definitions taken from:

3. For those entering the UK from outside the EEA.

In order to get into the UK first you need to be granted ‘entry clearance' also known as a ‘visa'. The exact requirements to achieve this will depend on where in the world you are coming from.

This official UK government webpage will determine whether you need a visa and if so, how to get one. You will apply to an office in your part of the world.

For the UK government's law and policy document issued by the Border and Immigration Agency, please check out this website:

Work Permits:

The most important point to know about work permits is that you, the employee, cannot apply for a UK work permit yourself. You first apply for a job and then if you are selected, your employer will apply for a work permit on your behalf. Your employer will have to prove that there are no suitable candidates within the EEA that are capable of doing the job.

Highly Skilled Migrant Programme: this is different to a work permit, because you do not need to have a particular job offer in order to join the programme.

This programme is judged on four criteria: qualifications, past earnings, age, UK experience. These are ranked on a points system. Your English language ability will also be taken into account.

If granted permission to stay you will be able to live in the UK looking for work for two years and may be granted leave to stay for a further three. After this time you are allowed to apply for ‘indefinite leave' to stay in the UK. Please see this website for more details:

How to search for jobs on

The best place to search for academic positions in the UK is undoubtedly It is the specialist website for jobs in academia, research and related professions and where every UK university advertises their academic vacancies.

The easiest way to see the latest available jobs in your field is by looking on the website itself. You would probably select your broad subject area, for example ‘Humanities' or ‘Physical Sciences' and then you get the opportunity to filter the jobs further by location, job type, salary and so on. However, if your field is an inter-disciplinary one, or it does not easily fit into any of the subject areas it is worth using the keyword search box.

The resulting jobs are listed with the most recently placed first. Make sure you save or print a copy of the advert if you are hoping to apply for a particular post because once the advert is removed cannot provide a copy of it for data protection reasons.

If you do not want to bother visiting to check whether any new jobs have arrived then you can sign up to the Jobs by Email service. This will allow you to register completely FREE of charge to receive the latest job adverts by email either daily or weekly. If you would like to do this please follow this link:

You will be asked to enter the email address that you want your bulletins sent to, and also to name up to four subject areas (or professional, clerical or manual positions) that you would like to receive. You can limit this by salary and location if you want to. It is possible to be sent these bulletins daily or weekly and in plain text or HTML. If you have any doubts about the capacity of your email system, then please choose plan text emails. guarantee that they will not distribute your email address to a third party or send you irrelevant material.

Make sure you read each advert carefully, contained within it will be all the information you need to make an application, but also details on whether there are any restrictions placed on overseas applicants. Unfortunately the members of staff at do not have the knowledge or time to respond to personal queries about jobseeking, but hopefully you will find plenty of information and advice to help you on the careers section of their website

in the advice articles,

There are also numerous websites run by ‘middle-men' claiming they can get you a visa in exchange for large sums of money. Some of these are reputable and some are not. They offer to help you with the visa application process in return for a fee (this is in addition to the fee you have to pay the UK government). Here is an example of this sort of website - this one offers some useful advice too:


This whitepaper was not written by an immigration expert. It is intended only as a guide to resources and information. cannot offer any personal advice on your eligibility for work permits or visas. Please do not contact them with such requests.

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