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Can you work in the UK with limited English language skills?

So, you have decided to move to the UK to work. It is probably a good idea, if you consider that the UK has the 6th largest economy in the world and many international companies operate there. Already 3.55 million non-UK nationals are currently working in the country, according to Prospects.ac.uk. As a non-UK citizen there are two basic questions to ask yourself before making the big decision: can you get a work permit for the UK and will your English language skills play a role?

jobs for limited English speakers

A UK Work Visa for non-EU citizens is necessary

We could not stress enough that to be able to work in the UK you should acquire the appropriate UK Working Visa. EU citizens don’t, for the time being, need a special visa, as they can freely move and work in the EU zone, but they should keep an eye on the Brexit developments for what will apply in the future. The most common visa to apply for as a non-EU citizen is the General or Tier 2 Visa. You should already have a job offer for a skilled job by an employer to be able to get this type of Visa.

The UK applies a points-based system to determine if you are eligible for a work permit. Points are allocated for:

  • your qualifications
  • your future expected earnings
  • level of English language skills
  • self-provided funds.

You can find more details about Immigration and Work Visas in the UK here. Carefully look at the details to decide which option is the best for your circumstances.

The language factor when it comes to working in the UK

Most of the people around the world nowadays speak English at some level but there are some that have some basic knowledge only. How will your English language skills affect your chances to get a job in the UK?

jobs for limited English speakers

If you want to acquire a visa, as discussed above, the level of your English language skills will give you valuable points. The basic requirement will be to have at least CEFR level B1 in reading, writing, speaking and listening. In some cases, you might need to take an IELTS exam to prove the level of your English. You will not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’re a national of specific countries such as Canada, Australia, the USA or New Zealand,

Your perks when speaking other languages

Being a native or very good speaker of another language rather than English might actually give you good leverage when searching for a job in the UK. For example, you could aim for companies that do business with China, if you speak Chinese, or you could take up a job as a modern foreign language teacher, if you are a fluent speaker of French, German, Italian, Mandarin or Spanish.

According to the World Economic Forum in 2016 there were 6,800 job openings for Arabic speakers, 6,149 for French speakers and 3,106 for Spanish speakers in the UK:

jobs for limited English speakers

According to CEOWORLD magazine, in 2018 the Top 10 Highest Paying Languages In The UK included Arabic, Spanish, French, Dutch and German.

jobs for limited English speakers

What are other job ideas when my English is limited?

If your English is not at a very good level, but you still have found yourself living in the UK, fear not! We have suggestions for jobs you can take up to earn some good money until your English improves and can possibly lead to more job opportunities.

Pet sitting

With platforms like Pawshake, Holidog, Rover or Gudog will require basic English to communicate with pet owners and just the language of love to interact with all the adorable, fluffy pets!

Check out pet sitting opportunities with AppJobs in the UK:
In Liverpool, Manchester, London, Leeds and Birmingham.

Cleaning jobs

With platforms like Helpling, TaskRabbit or Care can earn you a lot of money, and, believe us, no floors or kitchens will want to engage in a deep philosophical conversation with you in English during the cleaning process.

Check out cleaning jobs opportunities with AppJobs in the UK:
In Liverpool, Manchester, London, Leeds and Birmingham.

You could also take up house sitting, with TrustedHouseSitters taking care of people’s homes, watering the plants and collecting their mail, while they are away.

Check out HouseSit Match in London

Hospitality jobs

You could also opt for a job like a kitchen porter in the field of hospitality or take up warehouse jobs, where your body strength and swiftness will be more appreciated than your perfect English, with platforms like Syft or Rota!

Check out Syft in Liverpool, Leeds, London, Manchester and Birmingham.
Check out Rota in London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.

I don’t like these kinds of jobs… Are there any other alternatives?

Of course! You can always take up remote freelance jobs and work with clients from your country. With this kind of job, it doesn’t matter where you live – you can totally handle them online and as a digital nomad, you can speak your own language to work with your customers from home. You could take up IT freelance jobs, marketing jobs, design jobs, virtual assistance, web development or writing jobs, for example.

Check out freelance platforms on AppJobs like Hubstaff Talent, TheONE, PeoplePerHour, Freelancer, Upwork or Codester, for example.

Find out more online remote jobs opportunities!

One final advice…
If you wish to improve your English language skills, AppJobs can help you! We prepared for you the list with best online courses where you can also find courses that help you improve your English.

Looking for job opportunities where knowing the language doesn’t matter? Check out the following blogs:

Do I need to speak a local language to work abroad?
How to find a job in Sweden without speaking Swedish
How to find a job in Amsterdam without speaking Dutch

Read also
Looking for a job in the UK?
Working visa in the UK
Are you an EU citizen in the UK concerned about Brexit?
Work in the UK without a work permit
Freelance in the UK
Work as a chef, waiter, waitress or barista in the UK?
Sustainable ways to make money in the UK
I am an international student in the UK and I want to work. Can I?

Barbara is a trained journalist, working in the field of media since late 2009. She holds a master’s degree in Communication Studies and Cinema Studies and has attended several freestanding courses as she believes in lifelong learning. Her passion for (audiovisual and written) content has led her to work on projects related to film programming, content production and management, social media management, event management, and project management. She enjoys doing research and sharing the acquired knowledge with others.