For the last two years, the UK has been an important hub for remote professionals due to COVID-19 restrictions and improvements in technology at the workplace. According to an Office For National Statistics report, as of January 2022, 30% of UK workers are working remotely.
You can work remotely while living in the UK as an expat, but you most likely will need a work visa. However, citizens of commonwealth countries or British Overseas Territories don’t require a visa to work remotely in the UK. Moreover, EU and EEA citizens can work from the UK for up to 6 months.
This article looks into how you can work remotely in the UK. It gives you all the details regarding visa and permanent residency requirements, social contributions, and payment of taxes. Additionally, it goes through what working remotely for a US company entails in the UK.
Can you live in the UK while working remotely?
You can legally live in the UK and work remotely regardless of whether you are a UK citizen or a foreigner. For a stay shorter than 90 days, none or only limited restrictions apply; hence, one can perform a remote job from the UK.
If you decide to stay longer, your nationality and current residence status will determine which further steps to take.
Nonetheless, remote work became increasingly popular both among locals and foreigners. The graph below shows the numbers of people working remotely in the UK and how the number has increased over the last few years:
Before choosing to work remotely in the UK, there are numerous factors that you ought to consider. If you are a non-EU citizen planning to work remotely in the UK, even if it’s for a short period of fewer than six months, you need to have a work visa.
However, if you are an EU or EEA citizen, you can work remotely in the UK for up to six months without a work visa.
If a UK company employs you, the easiest way to work remotely is requesting to work from home. This method has become very common, especially for tech-related jobs which only require you to have a laptop and internet connection to complete most tasks.
To work remotely in the UK, you require the following:
- Fast internet connection
- A workspace
- A means of connecting with the employer and other employees, such as a valid email address
The most common part-time or full-time remote jobs to take in the UK include:
- Affiliate marketing
- Virtual assistant
- Web developer
- Social media manager
- Content creator
- Data entry specialist
- Customer service
- Web designer
Below is a graph showing professions that are most and least likely to work remotely in the UK:
Consequently, manual workers and laborers have a smaller chance of working remotely in the UK. The more knowledge or management-based your job is, the better are remote opportunities.
Freelancing in the UK
The most common and best way to work remotely in the UK is freelancing. According to The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), as of 2022, the UK has over 1.9 million freelancers.
Freelancing allows you to find clients, bill them independently and work for multiple companies simultaneously instead of being an employee of one specific company.
If you have an EU passport, you are free to perform any professional freelancing activities in the UK. If you are a non-EU, you will need a visa to stay and work in the UK.
If you’re a freelancer working from home, you need insurance for your business activities. There are numerous freelance insurances available in the UK, such as:
- Professional indemnity insurance which covers you if you give faulty advice to a client, which causes them financial loss.
- Public liability insurance covers you if a member of the public gets injured and blames your business.
- Business equipment insurance that protects you if your items are stolen or get lost.
Some of the top platforms for freelancers in the UK include:
Payment for remote workers in the UK
Setting up a payment process as a freelancer is essential when working remotely in the UK. If you work for a foreign company, they often will deposit money in your bank account. You can open an affordable account with European bank Bunq.
Your UK visa and residence permit when working remotely
Remote work employment doesn’t qualify for gaining UK residence status. However, if you wish to live in the UK as a remote worker, you need a work visa. To acquire a work visa, you need sponsorship from a trading UK company, one that the UK Visas and Immigration Agency approves.
As a visitor in the UK, you can undertake activities in the UK relating to your remote job employment, such as sending emails and taking phone calls. However, you must prove that you are not planning to live in the country through successive and frequent visits.
If you are a US citizen or from an EU country, you don’t need a visa to visit Europe. You can stay in any EU country for 90 days in a 180-day window, but if you plan to stay there for more than three months, you need to apply for a visa.
Types of work visas for remote workers in the UK
There are three types of UK work visas, and each one consists of numerous subcategories.
Here is a table showing various types of work visas that remote workers can apply for, their subcategories, and when they are issued:
|Work visa type||Subcategories||When it’s issued|
|Short-term||– UK Charity Worker visa |
– UK Youth Mobility Scheme visa UK
– Graduate visa
– Government Authorized Exchange visa
– UK Government Authorized Exchange visa
|Issued for temporary work placements in the UK, and they last approximately six months to two years.|
|Long-term work||– Intra-company Transfer visa|
– Health and Care Worker visa
– Skilled worker visa
– Specialist Worker visa
– Representative of an Overseas Business visa
|For remote workers who want a longer residency in the UK, mainly with the chance of finally applying for UK citizenship or permanent residence.|
|Entrepreneur, business start-up, and talent||– Innovator visa|
– Global Talent visa
|Granted to remote workers who are interested in freelancing.|
Visa options for freelancers in the UK
As an expat, you need a long-term visa to work as a freelancer in the UK; a visitor or tourist visa will not work.
You can consider a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa. This visa requires proof that you have access to £200,000 to invest, either independently or assisted by other individuals. Nonetheless, the amount may reduce to £50,000 if a few specific organizations support your investment.
If you don’t have the capital for the Entrepreneur visa, consider applying for a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa. For this visa, you only require a two-part application process that demonstrates that your work is of “outstanding quality.”
You also need to prove that it has been published (away from magazines and newspapers), performed, and distributed internationally.
Requirements for UK work visa
To acquire a UK work visa, you can apply through UK visa application centers or through the available online platforms.
To make a successful visa application, have the following:
- Proof of savings through bank statements
- Valid photo ID
- Proof of investment capital if starting a business on an Investor visa
- Health insurance
- Evidence of minimum English language requirements, if you are from a non-English-speaking country
- Tuberculosis test results if you are from a country where you have to take the test
- Biometric data
- Scanned copy of your ID documents
Health insurance for remote workers in the UK
All remote and normal workers need health insurance while staying in the UK. Our top recommended provider is Cigna Global. With more than 100 million trusted customers, it’s one of the largest international insurance providers in the world.
Working remotely in the UK for a US company
In the UK, there are no restrictions on whether you can work remotely for a company in another country, including the US. However, you have to pay income tax to the UK and meet tax liability requirements.
When working for a US company, you have two options:
Work as an independent contractor
This method is the fastest and easiest way to contribute to the US company. As an independent contractor, you work for an organization under a contract for a specific service.
The disadvantage of working as a contractor in the UK is that you’ll not have any protections and benefits available for employees in the UK.
Work as an employee of a US company
This technique is more challenging, and it requires the US company to register you as an employee in the UK. This process is pretty intense for US companies and exposes them to additional tax liabilities. The advantage of this method is that you’ll have legal employee protections from the UK government.
When working for a US company in the UK, be clear on whether you are an independent contractor or employee. The UK government can penalize the US company for misclassifying an independent contractor as an employee.
As an employee or independent contractor of a US company in the UK, you’ll receive your pay in pounds; the company is not permitted to pay you in dollars.
To be consistent in payment, the company should set your salary in pounds in the employment contract, then gain or absorb depending on changes in currency values.
If you are working remotely for a German company, read this guide on how to do it right.
Where do you have to pay taxes?
When working remotely in the UK, there are two issues to consider regarding tax payment: your liability and your employer’s. Regardless of your employer’s residence, as long as you are a resident of the UK, you are required to pay UK taxes.
If your employer has a “base” in the UK, they must pay NI and deduct PAYE from your salary. If you are working from home and your employer doesn’t have a specific location in the UK, you should not be subjected to PAYE deductions.
If there is no base to collect the tax from your salary, you’ll be under ‘PAYE Direct Payments Procedures‘ or be issued with Direct Collection Assessments. Either way, you’ll receive information that you’ll need to calculate your NI and tax and then pay it when due.
To receive and make payments, you need a European bank account. Bunq works in all the EU and the UK.
Previously, if you lived in the UK and worked remotely for a US company, the US company would deduct tax before paying you a salary. US taxes varied depending on the state; therefore, one had to choose the state with the lowest tax burden when applying for a remote job.
Today, the UK HMRC has a double taxation relief treaty with countries like the US. Therefore, if you have dual citizenship, you’ll pay taxes in the country you are residing in, which is the UK.
If you have dual citizenship in the UK and a country that doesn’t have double taxation relief, you are liable to tax in both countries. For example, if you have dual citizenship for the Netherlands and UK, you must pay taxes for both countries.
Social contributions for remote workers
As a remote worker in the UK, you need to consider social security in addition to income tax. It’s mandatory for you to pay social security taxes in the UK, and failure could lead to hefty fines.
If you are remotely working for a company abroad, you are required to pay the required social contributions in both countries.
Some countries, such as Switzerland, have policies that protect you from paying double social security. You, therefore, need to consider whether there is a bilateral or multilateral social security agreement between the UK and the country you are considering.
If you are working remotely for a European company
Similar to the double income tax agreement, there is an agreement about social security between EU or EEA countries. It protects you from paying social security in the UK and other EEA or EU states.
According to the agreement, an employee is responsible for paying social security if the employer sends them to the UK. However, it’s not clear where you need to pay social security if you decide to move to the UK by yourself.
If you are an American citizen living in the UK
There is an agreement between the UK and the US that exempts you from paying social contributions in both countries. Before the deal, remote workers needed to pay social security taxes to both the US and the UK.
Under the agreement, if you are a remote worker in the UK, you usually will be covered by the UK, and you will only be required to pay UK’s social security taxes.
If your employer sends you to work in the UK for five years or less, you will continue to be covered by the US, and you will be exempt from coverage in the UK.
If you are a self-employed remote worker who resides in the UK, you are to be taxed and covered by the UK.
Related: How to work remotely and live in Germany.
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