What Is a Work Visa?

Work visas are permits that allow individuals to travel to another country to work there.

In most cases, a work visa or permit is mandatory to accept employment in a foreign state. There are some exceptions, such as in blocs of countries with a policy of freedom of movement (like the EU).

Work visas are usually temporary, but may be renewed. Some countries issue permanent work permits or allow holders to change to a residence visa after a certain period of time.

Various countries have a different system in which foreign nationals must first apply for a long-stay visa and then obtain a work permit once they arrive in the country.

Work Visa Definition

A work visa is a type of visa that grants the holder authorization to accept employment in a foreign country. It may be issued as a stamp in the passport or as a separate document.

It is needed to enter the country for the purpose of performing paid work.

Work visas may also be needed for volunteering and unpaid internships.

The rules regarding work visas vary depending on the country of issue.

Terms of Work Visas

In some cases, work visas are highly specific and are granted for a particular job. Under the terms, the holder might not be able to take any other job in the same country apart from the one authorized by the visa.

In these cases, the prospective employer based in the destination country usually has to sponsor the visa application and send a cover letter.

Some countries issue more general work visas that permit the holder to take any job in the country and work for the duration of the visa’s period of validity.

How to Get a Work Visa

Generally, applicants need a job offer to apply for a work visa.

In most cases, work visas can only be obtained by applying at a diplomatic mission (embassy or consulate) or other official offices belonging to the destination country.

The application must usually be submitted in person, along with all the necessary supporting documents.

It may be necessary to make an appointment beforehand.

A small number of countries have made it possible to obtain an electronic work visa through an online visa system, which makes the whole process quicker and easier. Examples include New Zealand and Canada.

These applications can be submitted using any computer or device connected to the internet. This means that traveling to an embassy or consulate may not be necessary. However, the traveler may still have to go to a center to have their biometrics taken (as is the case with Canada).

Supporting documentation for a work visa application usually includes:

  • Letters from previous employers
  • Letter from the prospective employer in the destination country
  • Qualifications
  • Signed contract (if applicable)