Overview of Immigration to the UK
The United Kingdom has a number of visas and immigration routes for people wishing to immigrate and settle here.
These range from business visas, work visas, family-based visas and other visas that target more specific and niche routes to immigration.
The main way of settling in the UK involves applying for one of these long-term visas and eventually applying for permanent settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain). Indefinite leave to remain will allow you to live, work and study in the UK without restriction without having to apply to change or extend your immigration status..
It’s important to note that not all UK visas will allow you to apply for permanent settlement. For example, visitor visas or temporary visas are usually not eligible pathways for indefinite leave to remain.
Immigrating to a new country is made easier with the help of a team of professional lawyers to help guide you through the process. Take the first step in getting expert help for your situation today. Call us on 0333 305 9375 or use the online contact form to get in touch.
How to Immigrate to the UK
In order to immigrate to the UK, you will first have to obtain an eligible visa from the UK government.
Which visa you’ll want to apply for will depend heavily on your own personal circumstances, needs and suitability. It’s essential that you meet all of the eligibility requirements for your chosen route in order to have your application accepted.
Below is a basic step-by-step guide of how to immigrate to the UK that may fit most people’s experiences when applying:
- Identify the visas that you qualify for based on your circumstances and confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria, or take action to meet the criteria (such as acquiring an eligible UK job offer if your visa requires you to do so).
- Gather your supporting documents and apply for your chosen pathway through the UK government website.
- Prove your identity as part of the application process. Depending on your circumstances, this may be through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ mobile app or in person at a local visa application centre.
- Pay the visa application fee and submit your visa application.
- Attend your visa appointment to prove your identity and give your biometrics, if you were asked to do so.
- Wait for a decision on your application.
- If your application has been refused, organise plans to re-submit with additional assistance, or lodge an appeal or administrative review.
- If your application has been approved, start making preparations to come to the UK such as booking your travel, organising accommodation and sorting logistics.
- If you have any dependents who wish to come to the UK with you, organise separate visa applications for each of them (if you haven’t already done so as part of your main application).
- Travel to the UK with your documents.
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. Getting the assistance of an immigration lawyer ensures that you can get your application right the first time and maximise your chances of being able to immigration to the UK without any issues. Call us on 0333 305 9375 for help with your application today, or use the online contact form to get in touch.
If you wish to travel to the UK and set up your own business, you’ll be able to do so using one of the UK’s business visas.
These visas will often require significant financial investment and/or an approved business plan or existing investment project.
What is this visa? 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 requirements? Your business idea must have been endorsed by an approved body (endorsing body) and must be innovative, viable, and scalable. You must also have at least £50,000 in investor funds.
How much does it cost? The visa costs £1,036 if you apply from outside the UK, or £1,292 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.
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.
What are the requirements? Your business idea must have been endorsed by an approved body (endorsing body). You must also meet minimum English language and financial requirements (at least £1,270 in personal savings).
How much is it? The visa costs £378 if applying outside the UK, or £508 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 if you’re eligible.
Skilled Worker Visa
Skilled Worker visas are the primary way that most foreign nationals will come to the UK to work with. There are a couple of visas within this category that you can apply for, which are outlined below.
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.
What are the requirements? You must normally meet 70 points on the points-based immigration system and meet certain minimum salary, financial and English language requirements. You must also have an eligible job offer from a Home Office-approved sponsor.
How much does it cost? The Skilled Worker visa application costs between £625 to £1,423 depending on your circumstances. You must also normally pay the immigration healthcare surcharge (£624 annually).
How long can you stay? If approved, you’ll be able to stay in the UK for up to 5 years, after which you may extend it or apply for indefinite leave to remain.
What is this visa? The Health and Care Worker visa is specifically for applicants who wish to come and work in the UK for the NHS, an NHS supplier, or in adult social care.
What are the requirements? You must be a qualified health or adult social care professional with a valid job offer in the UK. You must also meet minimum salary and English language requirements.
How much does it cost? The Health and Care Worker visa costs £247 for up to 3 years, or £479 for more than 3 years.
How long can you stay? If approved, you’ll be able to stay in the UK for up to 5 years, after which you may extend it or apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Other UK Work Visas
In addition to the Skilled Worker and Health and Care Worker visas, there are a range of other work and business-oriented visas available that will allow you to immigrate to the UK long-term.
What is this visa? The International Sportsperson visa is a work visa specifically aimed at elite international sportspersons or qualified coaches to enable them to come and live and work in the UK.
What are the requirements? You must be an internationally established elite sportsperson or qualified coach. You must also have a valid certificate of sponsorship for your UK-based job and meet minimum English language and financial requirements.
How much does it cost? This visa costs £259 if you’re staying in the UK for up to 12 months. If you’re staying longer than this, it will cost £625 to apply for this visa from outside the UK.
How long can you stay? Up to 3 years initially, though you will be able to extend this visa if you’re still eligible. After 5 years, you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
What is this visa? This visa is for overseas individuals who have been offered an eligible job within a faith community in the UK
What are the requirements? You must have an eligible job offer with a faith community in the UK, such as as a minister of religion, missionary, or member of a religious order. You must also have a valid certificate of sponsorship for your UK-based job and meet minimum English language and financial requirements.
How much does it cost? It costs £625 to apply for this visa from outside the UK.
How long can you stay? You will be able to stay in the UK for up to three years and one month, or the time indicated on the certificate of sponsorship plus 14 days, whichever is shorter. You can extend this visa beyond this time if you’re eligible, however. After 5 years, you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Scale-up Worker Visa
What is this visa? The Scale-up Worker visa is for workers who wish to come to the UK and work for a fast-growing UK business.
What are the requirements? You must have a confirmed job offer from an approved fast-growing, scale-up business. Your job must also be in the list of eligible occupations and meet minimum salary requirements.
How much does it cost? This visa costs £715 to apply for.
How long can you stay? Two years initially, after which you can extend your visa for another three years. After 5 years, you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Global Talent Visa
What is this visa? The Global Talent visa allows leaders in academia or research, arts and culture and digital technology to come and live and work in the UK.
What are the requirements? You must have endorsement from a valid endorsing body that you are a leader or a potential leader in your field. Alternatively, you may apply if you’ve won an eligible internationally-recognised award.
How much does it cost? A Global Talent visa costs £623 to apply for.
How long can you stay? You’ll be able to stay in the UK for up to 5 years at a time, after which you may extend your visa. You can apply for indefinite leave to remain after either 3 or 5 years with this visa.
If you have an eligible family member who is a UK citizen or person with settled status in the UK, you may be eligible for a Family visa.
These are visas that allow individuals who are related to, or in a relationship with, eligible UK residents to come and live in the UK long-term. There are a range of Family visas available, each with similar eligibility criteria.
What is this visa? The Spouse visa allows spouses of UK citizens or people with settled status in the UK to come and live in the UK. There is also the Civil Partnership visa or the Unmarried Partner visa for those who are in civil partnerships or eligible unmarried relationships, respectively.
What are the requirements? You must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship with a UK citizen or someone with settled status in the UK, and intend to live with them in the UK. You must also meet a range of financial, English language, accommodation and relationship requirements.
How much does it cost? If applying to join your partner in the UK, the application fee is £1,538.
How long can you stay? An initial 2 years and 9 months, though this can further be extended for another 2 years and 6 months. After 5 years, you’ll be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
What is this visa? The Fiance visa is aimed at couples who wish to get married or enter into a civil partnership with the aim of then settling in the UK with a Spouse visa afterwards.
What are the requirements? You must be in a genuine and subsisting relationship with a UK citizen or someone with settled status in the UK, and intend to get married or enter into a civil partnership with them in the UK. You must also meet a range of financial, English language, accommodation and relationship requirements.
How much does it cost? The Fiance visa costs £1,538.
How long can you stay? A Fiance visa will allow you to stay in the UK for up to 6 months, during which you will be expected to marry or enter into a civil partnership with your partner. After that, you will be able to apply for a Spouse visa.
What is this visa? Unlike other types of Family visa, this visa relies on you having a grandparent who was born in the UK in order to then claim long-term residency in the UK.
What are the requirements? You must be a citizen of certain countries, such as one of the Commonwealth countries, one of the British Overseas Territories, or be a British national (overseas), for instance. You must also prove one of your grandparents was born in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and meet minimum financial requirements.
How much does it cost? This visa costs £531 to apply for.
How long can you stay? You can stay in the UK for up to 5 years, after which you can either extend it or apply for indefinite leave to remain.
Other Family Visa Types
In addition to the Family visas already mentioned in this section, there are also dedicated Family visa types for different family links. These include the following:
Most Family visa types share similar financial, English language and relationship requirements. All Family visas will also allow you to settle permanently in the UK.
Family visas cost £1,538 when applying outside of the UK, except the Adult Dependent Relative visa, which costs £3,250.
Although not a direct pathway to permanent settlement in the UK, Student visas are still one of the most popular visa categories in the UK, and hundreds of thousands of people come to the UK to study every year.
What is this visa? The Student visa is the main study visa the UK offers. It allows individuals to come to the UK and enrol in courses provided by a Home Office-approved sponsor.
What are the requirements? You must have been offered a place on a study course from a Home Office-approved sponsor. You must also meet minimum financial and English language requirements. If you’re aged 16 or 17, you’ll need consent from your parents in order to apply.
How much does it cost? Student visas cost £363 to apply for from outside the UK.
How long can you stay? If your course is degree level, you’ll be able to stay for up to 5 years. If it’s below degree level, this will be 2 years. You may be able to extend your visa if necessary, or apply for a Graduate visa.
What is this visa? The Graduate visa allows you to stay in the UK for 2 or 3 years after completing a course in the UK. You’ll be able to work without most restrictions in the UK.
What are the requirements? You must currently be in the UK on a Student visa and have successfully completed a bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or other eligible course in the UK.
How much does it cost? It costs £715 to apply for a Graduate visa.
How long can I stay? If you completed a PhD or Doctoral qualification, the Graduate visa will last 3 years. All other courses will last 2 years. You won’t be able to extend this visa, though you may be able to apply for another visa if you’re eligible if you wish to stay in the UK.
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 Worker visa: For individuals undertaking temporary seasonal agricultural work
UK Visitor Visa
What is this visa? Visitor visas allow visa-required nationals the ability to come to the UK temporarily and see friends and family, engage in tourism or take short-term study courses.
What are the requirements? Your plans in the UK must be allowed by the standard visitor rules. You must also leave the UK at the end of your visit and prove that you can support yourself financially.
How much does it cost? Visitor visas cost £100.
How long can you stay? You can stay up to 6 months on a Visitor visa.
What is this visa? The Youth Mobility Scheme visa allows eligible young people to come and live and work in the UK temporarily.
What are the requirements? To be eligible for this scheme, you must be aged between 18 and 30, have at least £2,530 in savings and are from one of the eligible countries.
How much does it cost? It costs £259 to apply for this visa.
How long can you stay? You can stay in the UK for up to 2 years.
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).
There are numerous routes towards ILR in the UK, but many people become eligible for it by spending a qualifying amount of time in the UK with an eligible visa.
In the case of the Spouse visa and Skilled Worker visa, for example, this period of time is normally five years.
The specific requirements for ILR will vary with each individual pathway. But there are some general requirements that all or most applicants will have to adhere to when applying for ILR, such as the following. You must:
- Have no record of previous criminal offences or immigration law breaches
- Pass the Life in the UK test
- Meet the English language requirements
- Meet the financial requirements or demonstrate that you can support yourself and your dependents financially
- Continue to meet eligibility criteria for your chosen visa pathway, or intend to fulfil the conditions of your visa after applying for ILR in some instances
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
As of March 2023, the cost of an indefinite leave to remain application is £2,404. There may be additional costs included, such as if you are required to submit official translations of your documents and if you need to take an approved English language test.
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.
After moving to the UK, you may wish to become a naturalised British citizen.
Depending on your existing nationality, you may be able to hold dual citizenship, as this is acceptable under UK law.
British citizenship may be granted to individuals who meet the eligibility requirements. These may include the following situations:
- 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 have waited the additional 12 months to become eligible for citizenship
- 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
Once you have been naturalised as a British citizen and attended your citizenship ceremony, you will be able to apply for your first UK passport.
How Can Total Law Help?
The UK has a significant foreign-born population of EU citizens, citizens from non-EU countries, asylum seekers and other individuals looking to start a new life in the UK.
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
- Assisting with issues with the UK Border Agency and other issues that might arise when immigrating to the UK
- Give you the most accurate and up-to-date legal advice about coming to the UK
Take the first step in joining millions of British nationals already in the UK. Call us on 0333 305 9375 to find out more about our services and how we can help you.
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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 pathways, and citizenship.
If you are unsure about whether you qualify, speak with an experienced immigration lawyer who can advise you based on your personal circumstances. Reach out to us on 0333 305 9375 today, or use the online contact form to get in touch with us.
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.
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) from International Passenger Survey questionnaires, long-term international migration into the UK was estimated at around 1.1 million in the year ending June 2022. The majority of this figure was from nationals outside the European Union, with EU migrants comprising approximately 21% of total immigration numbers.