Exceptions to normal immigration controls

Exemptions for certain overseas nationals

The following categories of overseas nationals are exempt from immigration control, and therefore may enter and work in the UK without restriction:

  • Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA)*;
  • Swiss nationals;
  • Most citizens of British Overseas Territories;
  • Commonwealth citizens given leave to enter and remain in the UK on the basis that a grandparent was born here (i.e. those with a valid UK Ancestry Visa);
  • Overseas nationals given leave to enter and remain in the UK under Tier 1 of the Points-Based System;

In addition, spouses and partners of work visa holders, of students with permission to stay in the UK for 12 months or more, and of any of those covered above (provided that their passport is not endorsed with a restriction on employment) may work permit-free for as long as the spouse/ partner has leave to remain in the UK. If you wish to employ someone from one of these groups beyond the period of their leave to remain/enter, you may need to apply for a work visa for them. If this is the case, please be aware of the rules on switching immigration status which prevents dependants, visitors, and others from switching into Tier 2 without leaving the UK.

* Restrictions on Croatian nationals' rights to work in the UK ended on 1 July 2018, and restrictions for Bulgarian and Romanian nationals ended on 1 January 2014, hence, nationals of these former 'Accession States' are now exempt from immigration control and can work in the UK without restriction like other EEA Nationals.

UK Ancestry visas

People from Commonwealth countries, who are aged 17 or over and have a grandparent who was born in the UK, may be eligible for a UK Ancestry visa which would entitle them to come to the UK and work without restriction for an initial period of two years (this can be extended for a further three years). For more information on eligibility and how to apply please see the Home Office website