How to immigrate to the UK
If you wish to immigrate to the UK, it is important that you meet the eligibility requirements for your chosen route.
Here is a step-by-step guide of how to immigrate to the UK (for the majority of people):
- Visit the government’s UK visas and immigration guide
- Identify the visas that you qualify for based on your circumstances
- Read the guidance around your chosen visa
- Ensure that you meet all the stated requirements of your chosen visa or immigration route
- Decide whether you would benefit from working with an immigration lawyer
- Prepare your application by gathering all necessary documents
- Submit your visa application
- Pay the visa application fee
- Wait for a decision on your application
- If you are successful, you can book your travel to the UK and present your visa to the UK border agency
A large percentage of the UK’s foreign-born population is made up of EU citizens and migrant workers from outside the EEA area.
With the introduction of the UK’s new points-based system for international migration, EU migrants are now required to apply for an initial visa if they wish to come to the UK for work purposes.
Immigration applications can be complex and there is often a high chance of an application being rejected or refused if it is not completed accurately.
While it is not essential to hire an immigration lawyer, many people find that they can rest easier knowing that their case is being taken care of by a qualified professional.
The visas in the UK Business Visa category include:
- UK Investor Visa
- UK Innovator Visa
- UK Start-up Visa
These visas will often require significant financial investment and/ or an approved business plan or existing investment project. They are known as the Investor, Business Development, and Talent Visas.
The visas are outlined in further detail below:
UK Investor Visa
Who can apply? You can apply for this visa if you intend to invest at least £2 million in the UK and you meet the additional eligibility requirements
How much does it cost? The application fee is £1,623 plus additional costs (e.g., healthcare surcharge at £624 annually)
How long can you stay? You can stay in the UK for up 40 months, and you may extend it for another two years (Read more about Investor Visa Extension)
UK Innovator Visa
Who can apply? This visa is designed for individuals who want to set up and run an innovative UK-based business that is unlike another existing business
What are the conditions? The applicant’s business idea must have been endorsed by an approved body (endorsing body) and must meet all other requirements. Additionally, the idea must be innovative, viable, and scalable
How much does it cost? The visa costs £1,021 if you apply from outside the UK, or £1,277 if you apply from inside the UK
How long can you stay? If approved, you can stay in the UK for three years. This can be extended for an additional three years if you came to the UK while on an Innovator Visa, or alternatively, if you switched to this visa from another in the UK
Global Talent Visa
Who can apply? This visa is for current or potential leaders in the fields of academia and research, arts and culture, and digital technology
How can you apply? There are two possible routes: one is to get endorsement from an approved endorsing body. The other route is to be the recipient of a recognised prestigious award, such as a Nobel Prize
How long can you stay? If successful, you will be permitted to stay in the UK for up to five years. This can be extended an unlimited number of times
UK Start-up Visa
Who can apply? This visa is for individuals who intend to establish an innovative business in the UK which is different from any other type of existing business
How much is it? The visa costs £363 if applying outside the UK, or £493 if switching to this visa in the UK
How long can you stay? If granted, you can stay in the UK for up to two years. This visa cannot be extended, but it may be possible to switch to the Innovator Visa
Skilled Worker Visa
This visa replaced the old Tier 2 (General) Work Visa. There are a number of visas within this category that you can apply for. These UK Skilled Worker Visas are outlined below.
Skilled Worker Visa
What is this visa? The Skilled Worker Visa allows individuals (including EU workers) to come to the UK to undertake certain forms of work with approved UK employers. Applicants must normally meet 70 points and have a minimum salary guaranteed for their skilled job offer in order for the visa to be granted.
How much does the visa cost? The UK Skilled Worker Visa application costs between £610 and £1,408 depending on your circumstances. You must also normally pay the healthcare surcharge (£624 annually). You may also be required to hold £1,270 in savings when you arrive
UK Sponsor Licence Application
Who needs a UK Sponsor Licence? Any UK business that wants to hire workers from outside the UK or Ireland will be required to apply for a Sponsor Licence which is permission from the UK Home Office to abide by the terms and conditions of hiring overseas nationals. The Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence application can be extremely complex and the UK government strictly upholds the conditions of licenses.
How can you apply for a Sponsor Licence? Use the UK government sponsor application page to register and learn more about the documents required for your application
Intra Company Transfer Visas
Who is this visa for? The intra-company transfer visas are designed for two groups: the first is workers in a UK-based multinational company, and the second is for graduate trainees in a UK-based multinational company
What are the Intra-Company Transfer Visa requirements? The visa requirements include the following:
- Applicants must be an existing employee of a UK business with a UK Sponsor Licence
- Applicants must obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship from their employer
- Applicants must complete a job on the list of eligible occupations
- Applicants must be in receipt of a salary of at least £41,500 (or at least £23,000 for the Intra-Company Graduate Trainee Visa)
International Sportsperson Visa
Who can apply for this visa? You must meet the below conditions of this visa to be considered:
- You are an elite sportsperson/ qualified coach from a foreign country and recognised by your sport’s governing body as being at the highest level of your profession internationally
- Your sport’s governing body endorses your application
- Your work will contribute to the development of the sport at the highest level
- You meet other eligibility requirements
How long can you stay? This visa allows you stay for up to three years and it is possible to extend it. After five years, you may be eligible to settle permanently in the UK
Minister of Religion Visa
Who can apply? This visa is for overseas individuals who have been offered an eligible job within a faith community in the UK
How long can you stay? Successful visa holders can stay in the UK for up to three years plus one month, or the time indicated on the Certificate of Sponsorship plus 14 days, whichever period is shorter.
UK Family Visas
There are a number of UK visas that allow foreign nationals come to the UK via family or partner reunification routes. Some of these visas are outlined in more detail below.
Spouse Visa UK
Who can apply? To apply for a Spouse Visa, both partners must be aged over 18 years old, and one is an Irish or UK citizen or holds valid leave to remain in the UK. They must also meet individual and relationship requirements
How much is the UK Spouse Visa? If applying to join your partner in the UK, the application fee is £1,523 (or £1,033 from inside the UK)
UK Fiancé Visa
Who is this visa for? This visa is for a fiancé, fiancée, or proposed civil partner with a UK-based spouse
Is there a time limit for getting married? Partners must have formal intentions to marry within six months of the foreign national arriving in the UK
Some other Family Visas include the following:
- UK Unmarried Partner Visas
- UK Ancestry Visa
- Dependent Child Visa UK
- Adult Dependent Visa UK
UK Student Visa
What are the Student Visa requirements? To study in the UK, students aged 16 years or over may study in a British educational institute if they meet the following requirements:
- The student was offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor
- They have sufficient finances to pay for the course and support themselves
- Can speak, ready, write, and understand English
- Have obtained consent from their parents (if aged 16 or 17)
How much is the UK Student Visa fee? The cost of the fee is £348 if you apply outside the UK, or £475 from inside the UK
Can you extend the UK Student Visa? Yes, you can apply for a Student Visa extension if you meet the eligibility requirements. These include:
- You are in the UK on a valid Student Visa
- You have an unconditional offer on a course run by a licensed student sponsor
- You have been issued with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) document
- You can demonstrate that your studies will take place at a level higher than your current course
UK Child Student Visas
Who can apply for this visa? The Child Student Visa is for children aged between four and 17 years old who intend to study at an independent school in the UK.
What are the conditions of the visa? Applicants must be able to show that they have an unconditional offer of a school place at an eligible independent school. As well as this, they must have enough money to pay for the course and for maintenance. Additionally, the child student must have the consent of the parents or guardians.
Although in most cases, temporary visas cannot be used as a way to immigrate to the UK, it may be possible in some cases.
Below are some of the most common Temporary Work Visas in the UK.
- Charity Worker Visa: For individuals who wish to do unpaid voluntary work for a charity
- Creative Worker Visa: For people who have been offered work in the UK as a creative worker
- Government Authorised Exchange Visa: For those who wish to come to the UK for short-term work experience, do research or a fellowship. Applicants must have a sponsor
- International Agreement Visa: This visa is for those coming to the UK for the purposes of temporary work covered under international law or treaty
- Religious Worker Visa: Religious workers are those who wish to undertake religious work in a non-pastoral role or religious order
- Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme: For individuals undertaking temporary seasonal agricultural work
UK Visitor Visas
The majority of UK Visitor Visas cannot be used to immigrate to the UK. However, along with the Standard Visitor Visa, there are some different types of visitor visas that allow people to visit the UK.
Previously, visitors from the EU were not required to apply for a visit visa to come to the UK, and this is still the case. However, it is possible that visitors will be required to apply for an electronic travel authorisation document (similar to the U.S.). This is likely to supplement the International Passenger Survey taken to monitor migration to the UK.
Business Visitor Visa
Who can apply for this visa? Eligible foreign businesspeople may apply for a Standard Visitor Visa and clearly state their intentions for the limited forms of work they will carry out in the UK
What types of work can you do on the Business Visitor Visa? Individuals may be permitted to visit the UK to attend interviews, sign contracts, give once-off training or a talk, advise on equipment, and some other business functions
Youth Mobility Scheme
Who can apply for this programme? Individuals who can apply include those who:
- Want to live and work in the UK for up to two years
- Are aged between 18 and 30 years old
- Have at least £2,530 in savings
- Come from a certain country or has British nationality
- Meets other eligibility requirements
Can you work in the UK on this route? Yes, you can work in the UK if you are issued the Youth Mobility Scheme visa. However, there are some restrictions.
Many people who wish to immigrate to the UK will want to apply for permanent residence, also known as settlement, and also known in the UK as indefinite leave to remain (ILR).
The route to ILR is outlined in detail below.
Indefinite Leave to Remain
How can you get ILR in the UK? There are numerous routes towards ILR in the UK. The best route will depend on your circumstances.
Below are some of the ways to qualify for ILR:
- Live and work in the UK on an eligible visa for at least five years (some visas may qualify after two or three years)
- Meet the minimum salary/ financial requirements depending on your visa
- Have a partner, parent, child, or eligible relative based in the UK who holds ILR
- Live in the UK for ten years (the long residence basis)
- Live in the UK for five years on a UK Ancestry Visa
- Apply as a refugee or person with humanitarian protection or discretionary leave
- Return to the UK having previously held ILR
- Have served in the UK armed forces
How much does ILR cost? The current cost of an indefinite leave to remain application is £2,389. There may be additional costs included, for example, if you are required to have official translations of your documents.
How long does ILR last? If you are granted ILR, you are considered settled in the UK and in most cases, ILR status will not expire. However, there are some instances where it can. For example, if you stay outside the UK for two years or more, your ILR may be revoked.
The final step for any individual who wants to immigrate to the UK is applying for British citizenship through naturalisation.
Depending on your existing nationality, you may be able to hold dual citizenship, as this is acceptable under UK law.
Who can apply for British citizenship? British citizenship may be granted to individuals who meet the eligibility requirements. These may include:
- You were born in the UK to British parents and automatically qualify as a citizen
- You were born in the UK and you are eligible for citizenship but not automatically entitled to it
- You are the spouse of a British citizen and you hold ILR or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
- You have held ILR for five years (or three years under some routes) and you are eligible to apply for citizenship
- You were granted settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
- You have a British parent
- You have another form of British nationality
- You are stateless
- You have previously renounced your citizenship
- You are an eligible Commonwealth citizen
Can I get a British passport when I have citizenship? Yes, for most people, once you have been naturalised as a British citizen and attended your citizenship ceremony, you should be able to apply for your first UK passport.
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The answer to this question depends on your circumstances and whether you meet the eligibility criteria. There are routes available via work, study, family, humanitarian, and citizenship.
If you are unsure about whether you qualify, it is recommended to consult the UK immigration information page to find out more about each route.
The best way to understand your eligibility is to speak with an experienced immigration lawyer who can advise you based on your personal circumstances.
At Total Law, our lawyers work tirelessly on your behalf to assist you with your immigration goals, including moving to the UK.
Our lawyers are all qualified and accredited by the OISC and have handled numerous cases in their careers.
Some of the support we can provide includes the following:
- Assess your eligibility for your chosen route and make recommendations on another UK visa that may be better suited for your needs
- Assist with the preparation of a personalised document checklist
- Advise on what you should do at each stage of the process
- Support you and your family members, gathering the appropriate documentation for British citizens and non-British citizens
- Prepare a letter of representation for the Home Office outlining the merits of your case
- Liaise with the Home Office on your behalf while your application is pending
- Give you the most accurate and up-to-date legal advice about coming to the UK
Call us on 0333 305 9375 to find out more about our services and how we can help you.
The route to living permanently in the UK will depend on your circumstances.
Some of the options include:
- Some people settle permanently by coming to the UK on a work visa and waiting until they have reached the residence requirements before applying
- Others travel to the UK for the purpose of joining a family member. If your family member has ILR or citizenship, it may be easier for you to settle permanently
- Additionally, you may qualify on the basis of your nationality (for example, on an Ancestry Visa)
- Another option is to invest money in a UK business or to come to the UK to work on an innovative business idea
If you are unsure whether you qualify, you may benefit from speaking with an experienced immigration lawyer about your case. They can advise you on the most suitable options based on your circumstances.