My advice for Java developers considering moving to UK

The London UK market is currently fantastic for developers with extensive Java development experience. There are lots of jobs and therefore lots of opportunity to find a really good position with a good salary. Of course you will need a visa, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone come to the UK without the right to work in this country, but if you do have that visa, then there hasn’t been a better time all year than now.

Coming to work in the UK can be an exciting, challenging and rewarding career choice that will give you an international experience that can’t get anywhere else in the world, and will shape your career for the rest of your life; however if you aren’t properly prepared you will struggle to get what you want.

What you will need:

The right to work in the UK
It is still next to impossible to be sponsored by a company in the UK, as such if you do not have the right to work here, it is advisable to not relocate to the UK.

The technical skills
Check on the English job websites that you have the right technical skills for a role in the UK. Some countries tend to still be using the old “EJBs and app server” model which is generally (although not totally) defunct in the UK today. Unless you have extensive low level core Java (think writing your own threads, TCP/IP sockets etc) you will also need at least basic Spring. If you don’t have it, getting an online certification will be very useful. In general you should brush up on all your technical skills and make sure there is nothing on your CV that you would not be prepared to be grilled on in that first interview. One good tip is starting your own blog and posting some of your best bits of code / ideas on there, this can be very helpful to candidates without an established track record in the UK

The English
The London IT market, especially in finance, is probably the most international job market in the world – it is not simply that you will often find yourself in a team where everybody comes from different countries, but its not uncommon to find teams without a single British developer in the team. So communication skills are EXTREMELY important. Basically if you can’t understand spoken English and speak it easily and fluently, you will not find a programming job easily and if you do, it won’t be very good. A good rule of thumb is whether you can answer a set of technical Java questions reasonably easily. If the standard of your spoken English is poor, you should either take a course before you leave or one better – if you can afford it – relocate to the UK and don’t start your search until you have improved it.

A Curriculum Vitae
(The word Resume is American, and is best left on that side of the Atlantic) Globally there are roughly 2 types of CV, the Curriculum Vitae that many of us know and love and the “Europass” CV – hated by all in London. Hated of course because it is completely useless as a professional document in this country. As a recruiter I need to know what companies you have worked for, what dates you were there for, what you were doing for each company and which technologies you used. Instead the Europass is a hideous piece of bureau-bum designed EU-construct aren’t-we-so-different cr@p which is genuinely completely useless and many a good developer has been over-looked simply because their experience was delivered in the utterly indecipherable format of the dreaded Europass. If you have one AVOID, REWRITE or FORGET it

Most hiring managers can get through the first and often the second stage interview in their process on the telephone or through Skype. However no-one is going to employ someone they haven’t met and therefore an appetite for coming over to the UK for interviews and being flexible about it will be very helpful. Today it is rare occurrence that a British company will pay for a candidate to fly over to the UK for an interview. Any good recruiter should help to arrange the process to make it as easy and cost effective for you as possible but you have to realise you are competing with developers who are already in the UK – afterall what is the point of companies paying to see you when they don’t have to pay anyone who is already in the UK. You will also need to have made up your mind that you really do want to relocate to the UK and be prepared to move over as soon as possible once you secure that dream job. Talking it through with wives / girlfriends / Cuban-US-visa-seeking-lovers before hand will be a very good idea.

It is a good market in the UK for good Java developers and its rare that I hear of foreign candidates who have the right to work in the UK, the marketable technical skills, good English communication skills, a proper Curriculum Vitae and flexibility to attend interviews going home having failed to find a job. However, nothing good comes easy in this world, and no matter how active the market is you will always take a couple of weeks or maybe even months to find the right position for you. So be brave, be tenacious about your applications and have patience that the right role will come along.


7 responses to “My advice for Java developers considering moving to UK

  1. Really? I look at JobServe regularly and the number of Java jobs has dropped considerably over the last year – some of ex colleagues are having to take substantial rate cuts to find work. The only roles being advertised seem to be fake ones that some agents use to build up their candidate database.

  2. Hi Willy,
    You’ve got a good point for experienced contract Java developers, but this article is really aimed at permys who are looking for that first job in the UK, especially junior ones. In fact I can’t get enough junior permys at the moment and its proving hard to find them. More experienced contract developers on the other hand are having a hard time of it, and you’re right that many contractors are having to take a rate cut to find a position. But this is a recession and short term contracts provide labour market flexibility but not career stability.
    Best wishes,

    • why on earth would anyone move to
      the UK , damp , rabbit hutch homes …
      the class system …. and everything is overpriced, there are zero deals …check the facts prices in the UK are inflated ….

  3. I do understand that the blog post is from last year. Considering the position of this year. I would post based on my personal experience. I am a foreigner (Java developer) who came to UK to study (I have work permit now) & got 1st class bachelors (scoring highest in the dissertation) in Computer Science. I did manage to get some commercial experience during my studies (travel & lunch expenses paid internship) After that I did get some experience in a role which is more of administration rather than development. The development is very much limited which makes me frustrated since I have to do administration. I have been looking for a pure development role & i tell you even though I do get interviews & reach up to final stages I have had no success knowing that the interview went great & the salaries for developers here are a joke (no offense). Recently I interviewed at a high profile company with the salary of 22k. Interview process was quite long & exhausting. Some of the questions included:
    Design Patterns
    Solving deadlocks! (yes for 22k)

    Then I interviewed at another place. Everything went well until I was told that the role will be outsourced. Then came another company, for 22k salary, questions being not too difficult but still nothing since the number of people applying for the role were too many hence the standard increased.

    Problem according to me is this:
    There are many development jobs however there are too many candidates which increases the competition & entry standards as well not to forget employers also tend to outsource the role since it’s cheaper.

    On the other hand, my fellow course mates who went to other countries have had much better luck. One (having equal experience as me & lesser marks than me) finding a developer job in a matter of few weeks. I would not suggest anyone who is interested in development role (junior/graduate) to come to UK. Roles are being outsourced & the salaries are way too low.

  4. Hi Khan,

    It sounds like you had a tough time of it here, I’m sorry to hear that.

    I do wonder if there is a simple explanation to your experience though, you said you came to the UK to study and that you “have a work permit now” – I wonder if that was a student visa? The UK simply isn’t offering Tier 1 visas now, and if your visa was a student visa you would still have had lots of trouble getting a position in the UK. With a student visa although you can work in the UK for a couple of years (at most), after that your employer is either going to have to sponsor your visa or let you go… neither of which are very enticing prospects.

    I have seen a lot of good developers having a hard time of it in the UK because they were on a student visa and it really is not an easy career choice. If you are desperate to live in London/the UK then I can see why you would want to go through the “student visa to sponsored visa” route (perhaps with ultimate goal of staying long enough to receive Permanent Residency) but as you said, there are lots of other countries out there who will give you an easier time if you wish to settle there.

    Best wishes,


  5. Hats off to you, Sir!
    I have 20 years’ work experience and for the first time in my life, I have to put my CV in the Europass format. The template was clearly prepared by someone who had no clue about 1) templates 2) formatting and 3) filling it afterwards.
    It is so bad that it is not possible to add more than 1 line of additional info without screwing all the formatting up.
    If this is a “Passport” to EU quality… someone got it totally wrong!

  6. A short premise about my background first:
    Java since 1999, I work now for internet of things with: Tomcat + JAVA SE + REST + Postgresql + Cassandra + some queue solutions. Simple html and js for clients.
    I never used EJB and spring. Never used “EJBs and app server”.

    Question: Considered that we are in 2015. What is according to you the model of choice that involves Java on the backend?

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