Working as a teacher in the United Kingdom

The UK Government has announced that it will be making changes to the immigration system.

Who needs a visa to work in the UK?

Teachers who are citizens of a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland who do not have settled or pre-settled status now need a visa to enable them to work in the UK.

However, Irish citizens do not need a visa and continue to have a right to enter, live and work in the UK.

What are the visa routes for teachers wanting to work in the UK?

There are three main visa routes that overseas trained teachers can use to come and teach in the UK:

  1. Skilled Worker visa.

  2. Youth Mobility visa. Currently, this route is open to people under the age of 30 from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea, San Marino, Taiwan and British Overseas Territories.

  3. Graduate visa.

Graduate visa

People who graduate from a UK university, including those who graduate from a postgraduate initial teacher training course, can work in the UK for up to two years after graduating (three years for those who have a PhD). Graduates can work in any job, including working as a teacher, during this period. Teachers who work on a graduate visa will be able to switch to another visa, e.g. skilled worker visa, without leaving the country.

Skilled worker visa route

There are three essential criteria that the teacher needs to meet:

  • a job offer from an approved sponsor;

  • an appropriate level of fluency in English; and

  • the job meets the pay threshold for teaching or the pay threshold for skilled workers.

The Government has set a minimum salary threshold for skilled worker visa.

In Spring 2024, the salary threshold for skilled workers other than those in specified skilled occupations will be £38,700. However, this general salary threshold will not apply to teachers as they are treated differently for skilled worker visa purposes.

The salary threshold for teachers will continue to be the minimum national pay rate for teachers.

This requirement recognises that there are different pay rates for teachers in England, including inner and outer London rates, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It means that the threshold will depend on where in the UK the job is located and whether the teacher is working as a qualified teacher or an unqualified teacher.

If a teacher works part-time, their pay will need to be prorated against the relevant national pay range. It will also need to meet the Home Office’s absolute “floor” threshold. In December 2023, the absolute floor threshold was £20,940.

While no announcement has been made about increasing the floor threshold, it is possible that it will be increased in spring 2024.

The visa rule changes will affect support staff roles such as teaching assistants, as these roles are not covered by the special considerations. This means that somebody applying for a skilled worker visa to enable them to work as a teaching assistant would need to meet the general salary threshold of £38,700.

Working as a qualified teacher or an unqualified teacher

Teachers who hold a recognised teaching qualification may be able to work as a qualified teacher in the UK. The relevant UK jurisdiction will determine whether the teacher’s qualifications are recognised.

In the case of Northern Ireland, applications should be made to the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI) via their web page Registration Process.

Applications for registration in Scotland should be made to the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) via their web page Qualified Outside Scotland.

In England, teachers need to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in order to work in state-maintained schools. Some academies and independent schools may also require teachers to have QTS.

Teachers who qualified overseas can use the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) Professional Recognition Service to check whether their qualifications and experience makes them eligible for QTS in England. If a teacher’s qualifications and experience are not recognised for QTS, the teacher will need to undertake training or assessment in order to gain QTS. Further information about routes into teaching can be found on the website. 

In England, overseas qualified teachers who are not eligible to apply for QTS can work for up to four years as an unqualified teacher in a maintained school or non-maintained special school. Teachers would need to gain qualified teacher status in order to continue working as a teacher after this period or meet other criteria that allows them to continue working in the UK. While it is not necessary to have QTS to work in an academy or independent school, many academies and independent schools look to recruit teachers who have QTS.

In Wales, overseas qualified teachers need to apply to the Education Workforce Council to see whether they are recognised as a qualified teacher in Wales. Further information is available from the Education Workforce Council via their web page Practitioners Trained Outside Wales.

Overseas qualified teachers who gained their teaching qualification in the UK may be recognised for QTS in Wales. However, teachers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA who were awarded Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England and teachers in England who have QTLS are not recognised as qualified teachers in Wales.

Summary of changes to the visa system

  • Teachers will be exempt from the increased salary threshold of £38,700 for skilled worker visas;

  • to be sponsored for a skilled worker visa, a teacher needs to earn at least the minimum of the relevant teacher pay scale/range, not the Home Office’s salary threshold. This applies to all teachers regardless of the type of school they teach in or whether they are paid on national pay ranges or not;

  • independent schools and academies in England will need to pay a teacher at least the national pay scale/range rate in order to obtain a skilled worker visa;

  • the national pay scales do not apply to support roles. For example, teaching assistants would need to earn the general Home Office salary threshold of £38,700 from March 2024;

  • the Immigration Health Surcharge will increase from £624 to £1,035 from spring 2024. This increase will apply to teachers.

Issues and the NASUWT position

Pay and progression

The NASUWT believes that teachers who have Skilled Worker visas should be subject to the same pay and conditions as other teachers. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) finds that migrant workers tend to be clustered around existing salary thresholds. The MAC concludes that this indicates that employers would like to pay migrant workers less if they were able to do so.

The lack of national pay scales in England and Wales and inequitable performance management policy and practice mean that many teachers struggle to move up the pay range. There is also an increased risk that some groups of teachers will encounter particular difficulties in securing pay progression. The NASUWT is concerned that teachers who have a visa are at particular risk of such practice. Such teachers should contact their NASUWT Representative for advice and support if they believe that they are being treated unfairly or differently to other teachers in the school.

The NASUWT will continue to press the governments in England and Wales to introduce national pay scales for teachers and for these to be linked to clear pathways that recognise teachers’ experience and responsibilities.

Recognition of qualifications

While the qualifications and experience of qualified teachers from some countries are recognised, the NASUWT remains concerned that highly qualified and experienced teachers who gained their qualifications and experience overseas may not be given this recognition.

Working as an unqualified teacher may make the teacher more vulnerable to exploitation by an unscrupulous employer.

The NASUWT will continue to press UK governments to recognise qualifications from a wider range of countries.

Unqualified teachers should contact the NASUWT for advice and support if they believe that they are treated unfairly.