Skip to main content

As a Chinese passport holder, your rights to work in the UK vary depending on what type of visa you hold. In most cases, Chinese nationals working in the UK will be employed and will therefore hold a tier 2 visa, which is a long-term working visa. Chinese nationals starting their own business in the UK can obtain investor and talent visas – although because of their restrictive eligibility criteria, take up is low and therefore not addressed in this note. It is also possible for Chinese students who have entered the UK under a student visa to undertake some work. Both this student visa and the work visa are addressed in further detail below.

Tier 2 Work Visa

To successfully apply for this visa, the Chinese national must have received a job offer from a UK employer who is a sponsor licence holder. In the UK, businesses cannot sponsor workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) – or outside the UK from 1 January 2021 – unless the business has successfully applied to the Government office for a licence. The licence then allows businesses to employ or sponsor workers from outside the EEA.

As with other workers who successfully apply for a tier 2 work visa, the Chinese national will have the following rights in the UK:

  • Work for their employer or sponsor in the job for which the Chinese national has been recruited
  • Do voluntary work
  • Study as long as it does not interfere with their job
  • Travel to and from the UK
  • Bring their husband, wife, or partner with them to the UK
  • Bring children to the UK who are under 18
  • Bring children to the UK who are over 18 if they are currently a dependent

However, if in the UK on this visa, a Chinese national cannot:

  • Access public funds for example social security benefits
  • Apply for a second job, at least until they have started working for their sponsor
  • Own more than 10% of their sponsors shares (unless they earn more than £159,600 a year (which is the same as ¥1410000).

Student visa

In most cases, students who enter the UK to study in further or higher education can work in most jobs.

However, there is a restriction on the number of hours a student can work during term time. This is often initially capped at 20 hours per week, but in most cases is relaxed during term time. This is particularly useful when students finish their studies and start to work in post graduate jobs.

Student visas come with a few other restrictions: they don’t usually give access public funds, or the possibility to work in exceptional jobs, such as a professional sportsperson.

Changes to work visas from 1 January 2021

From 1 January 2021, the UK will implement a new immigration system to reflect its independence from the European Union. The Government plans to relax some of the rules around recruiting from outside the UK, lowering the skills and salary thresholds and removing some of the cumbersome requirements for sponsor licence holders to recruit from outside the UK. So Chinese nationals who are considering applying for jobs in the UK are likely to have more jobs to choose from, while maintaining their current rights.

Author: Capital Law

This content appears as a courtesy of Capital Law, a proud member of the China Collaborative Group (CCG Association). It is informational in nature and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship between you and its author, publisher or any member of CCG. For more information, please visit