New to the UK? What you will need before you start your first contract
The UK’s flexible labour market relies heavily on workers from other countries, particularly in industries such as care, construction and hospitality.
There are great opportunities for those coming into the country seeking contract work, but you need to plan ahead, so that when you get a contract, you are ready to start.
Here are the essential considerations for anyone new to Britain who is looking for contract work or due to start their first UK assignment:
Visa or work permit
To work in the UK you may need a visa or work permit, and you should check if this is the case before you approach an agency with a view to finding work.
Click here to find the visa and / or work permit requirements depending on your nationality as shown on your passport or travel document and the type of work you intend doing in the UK.
National Insurance Number
If you have a biometric residence permit (BRP), you may already have a National Insurance (NI) number printed on the back of it. If not, you will need to apply for one.
You should apply to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and you will be required to complete a form and attend a face to face interview.
You will also be asked to present certain documentation such as your passport or identity card, your residence permit, your birth certificate or driving licence.
You can start work before your NI number arrives, so long as you can prove you have the right to work in the UK.
Make sure you tell your agency or umbrella company that you have applied for an NI number and give it to them as soon as you receive it.
Find out more about applying for an National Insurance number here.
UK Bank Account
You will need a UK bank account so that you can be paid by electronic bank transfer when you start work.
The type of bank account you will be able to get will depend, among other things, on what documentation you are able to provide – you will certainly need some proof of address for example.
This short video explains the options well:
If you come to live in the UK you have to pay tax on your income. Everyone gets a personal allowance but you will have to pay income tax on anything over and above this.
If you are working for an employer, including an agency or umbrella company, you will have tax deducted directly from your wages under the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system.
If you are self-employed, including if you are working under the CIS (Construction Industry Scheme), you will need to complete a self-assessment tax return at the end of the tax year.
There is more information about paying tax in the UK here.
If you are just starting out contracting in the UK, an umbrella company is an easy and fast way to get paid.
This may be especially important if you have been delayed starting work because of the paperwork involved with your work permit, NI number or UK bank account.
When you are paid through an umbrella company, your tax and NI deductions are taken directly, so you do not need to worry about owing additional tax at the end of the tax year (unless you have an another source of income in the UK).
In addition, working through an umbrella company gives you access to statutory employment benefits, such as SSP (Statutory Sick Pay).
But always choose a reputable company. Your agency will most likely have a selected list of umbrella companies that they use, but it is always wise to check if they are members of the FCSA (Freelancer and Contractor Services Authority); the UK’s leading professional body for compliant umbrella companies.