Internships and Work Permits in United Kingdom




Internship - What is this?

An internship is a placement or time spent within an industry. For some students, this is a compulsory part of their further qualification, while others undertake an internship of their own accord.


So, why should you consider an internship?

An internship is a fantastic way to explore the industry you want to work in. You can gain an invaluable insight into the working environment as well as make all-important business contacts. There are certain industries where an internship or an unpaid work experience are effectively the only \'way in\' for most people.

Most employers value relevant work experience because it shows that you have a real interest in the industry, an understanding of what is required in the field and a strong determination to succeed. Having undertaken an internship gives you a higher advantage as opposed to someone with a similar qualification but no relevant work experience when applying for jobs. In some cases, an internship can lead directly to a paid employment. For some people, an internship offers the opportunity to live abroad for the first time, experiencing the work and social cultures of another country and meeting loads of new people.

A work experience placement is a little different to internships but a great life experience too. It offers too a good insight into the working world but does not necessarily require a relevant training from current employees as opposed to when you take an internship program.

If you know what skills you possess but are unsure of what kind of job you want, an internship can give you a great idea of what jobs are available within an industry. As an intern, you will often get an overview the corporate environment and how an organization operates. This can help you to shape the idea of what career path you want to develop.



What will you end up doing?

If your internship is in a small-sized company, you must expect to undertake a wider variety of tasks than if you are to work in a larger company. This is because larger companies often have predetermined roles for interns. This could even be the work delegated by other employees or your supervisor. Some larger companies have schemes where interns move from department to department every few months to gain an oversight of the whole business.

While the old cliché about the intern making endless rounds of tea and photocopying hundreds of pages is rarely true, you may well find yourself doing a share of the administration, and possibly acting as a first point of contact with clients. If you are unsure of what exactly an internship comprises of, you should contact companies directly and ask!


Money, money, money...

Again, this is something you should discuss with the company before accepting a position. Compensation varies from placement to placement. Larger companies will often pay interns somewhere around the national minimum wage (in the UK, this is around £5 per hour), while many smaller companies may only cover your transportation costs and/or lunch.

It is important to know that, while age discrimination is illegal, internships are generally offered to students above 18 years old and recent graduates.


Tips for applying to internships

If you have already found the internship program that is of interest to you, the first thing you should do is to follow all the instructions explained by the company. Here is a shortlist of things you need to do when applying for internships:

Apply by the deadline. A few months before the deadline is even better - a small organization might just take the first qualified intern who applies.

Follow the instructions! If you were asked to provide an academic reference, start talking with your university tutors right away.

Make sure your CV is up-to date and thoroughly spellchecked. If you have never written a resume or a CV before, go to your school career guidance center and ask for help. Make sure you ask an experienced professional or two to review your resume. If you are applying for internships in different fields, you may need to have more than one version of your resume underlining relevant experience and skills. Ensure that your most current contacts information is on the resume.

Don't ignore the cover letter. Make a persuasive case in your cover letter tailored to the things you want to do in your internship. Do your research on the company and be specific on your personal skills - and honest. Try to answer the question as to why you are the perfect candidate for this internship position. Again, make sure you carefully proofread the cover letter. Let a trusted friend or tutor read it as well.

Follow up. If you're really interested in the internship, there's nothing wrong by following a quick call or email after the application to let the company know how interested you are. However, don't pepper them with phone calls every day.


Carpe diem (lat. ‘Seize the day'). Be realistic: applying to Goldman Sachs before you started your university will not guarantee you the placement. However, many organizations would rather have a truly excited and motivated intern than one that just meets the qualifications on paper.

Take experience over money. Taking an internship is a great investment of your time and effort for your future career. If you cannot afford working without any payment, consider taking a part time job that might not exactly match your criteria but will guarantee you a better payment, try to choose something that will increase your other skills such as, for example, communication with customers etc.
References: Hamadeh, S., and Oldman, M., Vault guide to top internships, 2008, Vault career library, USA Work permits and new point based system


The new system will have 5 categories:
Tier 1: Highly skilled individuals; Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer; Tier 3: Low skilled workers (to fill temporary labour shortages); Tier 4: Students; Tier 5: Youth mobility and temporary workers

For each Tier, applicants will have to score enough points to qualify. Points will be given for attributes such as qualifications, age, earnings etc.

The system will be introduced gradually. Tier 1 was launched on 29 th February 2008.


This category is not job lead and as a result a sponsor is not required. The process will involve filing only one application whether the applicant is applying in or out of the UK. Applicants, except for post study, will be granted 3 years extendable for a further 2 years.

Tier 1 has 4 subcategories which are:
General (Highly Skilled): this is very similar to the current HSMP scheme; Entrepreneurs: applicants will have to show that they have access to at least £200 000 - this subcategories will not be rolled out until 2008; Investors: applicants will have to show that they have a minimum of £1million in their possession - successful applicants will not be able to work whilst in the UK under this subcategory; Post-Study Work: this subcategory will replace the International Graduates Scheme (IGS) - successful applicants will be able to remain in the UK for 2 years - the time spent in the UK under this subcategory will not count towards ILR.

Applicants applying under Tier 1 will need to prove sufficient knowledge of the English language and they have enough funds to maintain themselves and their family in the UK without having recourse to public funds (these requirements do not apply to Investors).


To qualify applicants will be required to score 50 points. Points will be awarded based on a combination of the following attributes:

Tier 2 Required Attributes:
qualifications, prospective earnings; and whether the role is on the shortage list or passed the resident labour market test or the applicant is an intra company transferee.

Tier 2 is a job led category which will replace the work permit scheme. To qualify the applicant will need to show that he has a job offer from a UK employer registered with the Home Office.

The role will need to be on the shortage list. If it is not, the employer will need to have advertised it and satisfied itself that there were no resident workers available to fill the position (this is often referred to as the resident labour market test). The applicant will need to be able to show that he has the relevant qualifications and experience to carry out the tasks required by the role. The salary will have to be in line with market rates. The applicant will also have to demonstrate that he has sufficient knowledge of the English Language.

The role will not need to be on the shortage list or to have been advertised when the applicant qualifies as an intra company transferee. To qualify the applicant will need to show that he has worked for the employer abroad for at least 6 months, the role requires someone with at least NVQ Level 3 qualification/or equivalent experience and that the salary offered is in line with UK market rates.

Applicants will be allowed to come to the UK for the duration of their contract up to a maximum of 3 years. This may be extendable to a further 2 years.

Tier 2 is expected to be rolled out in the fall of 2008.


This Tier is not expected to be introduced until the end of 2008. It is likely that there will be a quota in place and that it will be limited to certain countries with which the UK has arrangements with. It will only apply to temporary shortages.


Under this Tier the educational institutions will have to sponsor the students. Only institutions on the list of approved sponsors will be able to sponsor students.

This Tier will replace the current schemes (Working Holidaymaker, BUNAC, au pairs..etc.). This route will allow applicants to come to the UK for a period of 2 years. Applicants will not be able to extend their leave in the UK or switch into a different category. It is not clear yet as to when we can expect this Tier to be rolled out.