Log in to personalise your experience and connect with IOP.

Working and studying abroad

Now the post-Brexit transition period has come to an end, rules on international collaboration, immigration and the rights to study have changed for many. 

The UK’s physical science sector is part of a global network of researchers and innovators, collaborating on projects with colleagues from across the world.

Our physical sciences expertise is built upon the talent we host from around the globe, and we have always been open to researchers and innovators studying and working in the UK, as well as providing UK physicists the opportunity to work and learn elsewhere in the world, such as the European Union.

However, rules on international collaboration, immigration and the rights to study abroad have changed for many as the UK’s transition period with the EU has come to an end.

This section signposts members of the physical science community from both the UK and EU to the information they need to continue, or adapt plans for, working, teaching or studying abroad now freedom of movement between the UK and EU has ended.

Seeking residence in the UK to work in the physics sciences

There are two main visa routes available to those from the EU seeking to work in the UK in the physical sciences. 

Visa route 1 – immigration

Since 1 January 2021, the UK has implemented a points-based system for immigration (excluding Ireland), which welcomes skilled workers in the physical sciences. To emigrate to the UK, applicants must have a job offer from an approved employer sponsor

Visa route 2 – Global Talent visa

Leaders and future leaders in science and research can apply to work in the UK through the Global Talent visa.

In the fields of science, engineering, medicine, the social sciences or the humanities, or for other academic and research roles, applications the Home Office receives will be referred to the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society or UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

These bodies will then make an endorsement decision based on whether the evidence provided shows the applicant is a leader, or a potential leader, in academia or research.

Holders of international prizes and winners of scholarships and programmes for early promise will soon also automatically qualify for this route.

Find out more about the Global Talent visa.

Visa route 3 – Innovator visa

If you are looking to set up a new UK-based innovative business in physics or a physics-related sector, you can apply for an Innovator visa.

This must be different to existing innovative businesses in the UK, and the business or business idea must be endorsed by an endorsing body.

Find out more about the Innovator visa.

Visa route 4 – High Potential Individual

If you’ve graduated from an eligible global (non-UK) university within the last five years, you can go through the High Potential Individual route. This route will give you a two-year visa, or a three-year visa if you’ve got a PhD.

Find out more about the High Potential Individual visa.

UK citizens seeking residence in the EU to work in the physical sciences

You’ll need a work permit to work in most EU countries if you’re a UK citizen. You will need a job offer from the organisation you will be working for in order to get a visa to move there. Check the country’s living-in guide for more information and updates.

If you moved to the EU before 1 January 2021, your right to work will be protected as long as you carry on living there as you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

Find out more about moving to a country in the EU for work.

UK physical sciences departments, institutes and businesses seeking to employ an EU citizen

Since 1 January 2021, freedom of movement between the UK and the EU has ended, meaning that rules on hiring from the EU have changed. If you want to employ someone from the EU, they must first have permission, through the form of a visa (excluding the Republic of Ireland). Companies will be able to sponsor an employee to move to the UK for work.

Find out more on how to become a sponsor.

A new Global Business Mobility visa will be available by Spring 2022, to allow staff mobility between countries, and business growth between countries.

UK citizens seeking to study physics in the EU

If you’re a UK citizen and are planning to study in the EU, you may need a study visa from the destination country. To find out the new rules for studying and living in the EU, and for information on tuition fees, read the government guidance, visit the UCAS website, and check the relevant information on the destination country’s website.

The UK will no longer be participating in the Erasmus (now Erasmus+) scheme. The UK has created an alternative Turing scheme, which allows exchange to participating universities around the world, including those in the EU. Organisers can apply to take part in the Turing scheme, which began in September 2021.

EU citizens seeking to study physics in the UK

If you’re a citizen of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland and are planning on studying in the UK, you may need a UK visa. To find out the new rules for studying and living in the UK, and for information about tuition fees, read the government guidance on studying in the UK.