March 29, 2021

U.K. Immigration 101

There are various types of visas for the U.K. They are designed for different purposes and lengths of stay. U.K. visas are available under many diverse categories. This article gives a high-level overview of some of the key immigration categories that allow individuals to enter the U.K.

STANDARD VISITOR VISAS

BUSINESS VISIT VISA

The Business Visitor visa allows foreign nationals to travel to the U.K. to perform certain business activities. There are a range of business visas available for U.K. travel, but the business visitor visa specifically falls under the standard visitor visa category. This means that individuals can travel to the U.K. for a short term stay for the purpose of undertaking business activities, usually for a period of no longer than six months.

Visitors are typically not permitted to work in the U.K. on a paid or unpaid basis.

Requirements for a Business Visit Visa

In order to be granted a Business Visit visa, foreign nationals will need to satisfy the Home Office that they are a genuine visitor. This means that they:

  • Will leave the U.K. at the end of their visit
  • Will not live in the U.K. for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the U.K. their main home
  • Are genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes and will not undertake any prohibited activities
  • Have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit without working or accessing public funds

Business Visit visa holders may undertake a wide range of business activities in the U.K., including but not limited to:

  • General activities: attend meetings, conferences, seminars and interviews; give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser; negotiate and sign deals and contracts; attend trade fairs for promotional (not sales) work; carry out site visits and inspections; gather information for an employer overseas; be briefed on the requirements of a U.K. based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside the U.K..
  • Intra-corporate activities: an employee of an overseas company may advise and consult, troubleshoot, provide training, and share skills and knowledge on a specific internal project with U.K. employees of the same corporate group, provided no work is carried out directly with clients.
  • Prospective Entrepreneur: a visitor who can show support from a registered venture capitalist firm regulated by the FCA, an approved seed funding competition or a U.K. government department may come to the U.K. for discussions to secure funding to join, set up or take over a business in the U.K..
  • Creative: an artist, entertainer or musician may give performances as an individual or as part of a group; take part in competitions or auditions; make personal appearances and take part in promotional activities; and take part in one or more cultural events or festivals on the list of permit-free festivals. Personal or technical staff or members of the production team of an artist, entertainer or musician may support the above-mentioned activities, providing they are attending the same event as the artist, entertainer or musician, and are employed to work for them outside of the U.K. Film crew (actor, producer, director or technician) employed by an overseas company may visit the U.K. to take part in a location shoot for a film or programme that is produced and financed overseas.
  • Sport: a sportsperson may take part in a sports tournament or sports event as an individual or part of a team; make personal appearances and take part in promotional activities; take part in trials provided they are not in front of a paying audience; take part in short periods of training provided they are not being paid by a U.K. sporting body; and join an amateur team or club to gain experience in a particular sport. Personal or technical staff of the sports person, or sports officials, may support the activities mentioned above if they are attending the same event as the sports person and are employed to work for them outside the U.K.

What else do foreign nationals need to know about the Business Visit visa?

Most visitors will need to make an application for a visit visa from their country of residence before travelling (known as “visa nationals”). However, nationals of some countries are exempt from this requirement and can simply apply for leave to enter as a visitor at the U.K. border (known as “non-visa nationals”).

A Business Visit visa will allow visitors to stay in the U.K. for up to 6 months. Within the period for which their visit visa is valid, they may enter and leave the U.K. multiple times unless the visit visa is endorsed as a single or dual-entry visa.

VISITOR VISA

In addition to business visits, the standard visitor visa category also permits an individual to visit friends and family and/or come to the U.K. for a holiday. They may also undertake a maximum of 30 days of incidental study and access private medical treatment, providing that they satisfy the additional requirements in the Private Medical Treatment Visit visa section.

If the foreign national plans to get married or enter into a civil partnership in the U.K., then they cannot do so as a standard visitor. Rather, they should apply for a Marriage Visitor visa. If they intend to undertake a Permitted Paid Engagement, then they should apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa.

As a visitor (of any kind), the foreign national will not be permitted to work, receive payment from a U.K. source for any activities undertaken in the U.K. or undertake more than 30 days’ non-incidental study in the U.K.. They must also have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit without working or accessing public funds. This includes the cost of their return or onward journey, any costs relating to dependants and the cost of planned activities.

WORK VISAS

SKILLED WORKER VISA

The Skilled Worker visa is open to foreign nationals of all nationalities (except Irish nationals) who have an offer of an eligible skilled job in the U.K. from a Home Office-approved sponsor company (i.e., a company that holds a suitable Sponsor Licence).

In order to secure a Skilled Worker visa, the foreign national will need to be sponsored to do a specific job, which meets certain skill and salary requirements, by an employer that has been licensed by the Home Office.

There is no cap on the number of people who can enter the U.K. on the Skilled Worker route.

The route can lead to settlement and applicants can be joined in the U.K. by dependent partners and children.

Requirements for a Skilled Worker Visa

In order to qualify for a Skilled Worker visa, the foreign national will need to satisfy the Home Office that:

  • They are aged 18 or over
  • They have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the job they are planning to do
  • Their job offer is a genuine vacancy
  • Their sponsor has paid any required Immigration Skills Charge
  • Their job is at an appropriate skill level
  • They are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B1
  • They will be paid a salary which equals or exceeds both a general salary threshold and the ‘going rate’ for the occupation
  • They have enough money to support themselves without relying on public funds
  • They have provided a criminal record certificate, if required
  • They have provided a valid TB certificate, if required

The exact requirements the foreign nationals will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

INTRA-COMPANY TRANSFER VISA

The Intra-Company Transfer visa is open to foreign nationals of all nationalities (except Irish nationals) who are employees of global companies who need to be transferred to a U.K. branch of their company to do a skilled role in the U.K., and that U.K. company is a Home Office-approved sponsor company (i.e., a company that holds a suitable Sponsor Licence).

The foreign national will need to have worked for their employer overseas for at least 12 months, unless they will earn £73,900 or more in the U.K.

The route does not lead to settlement, but applicants can be joined in the U.K. by dependent partners and children.

Requirements for an Intra-Company Transfer Visa 

In order to qualify for an Intra-Company Transfer visa, the foreign national will need to satisfy The Home Office that:

  • They are aged 18 or over
  • They are currently employed by an organisation that has been approved by the Home Office as a sponsor
  • They have worked for their sponsor, or a business linked to their sponsor by ownership, outside the U.K., for at least 12 months, unless they will earn £73,900 or more in the U.K.
  • They have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship issued by their sponsor for the job they are planning to do
  • The job they are planning to do is genuine
  • The job they are planning to do is at an appropriate skill level
  • The foreign national employee will be paid at least £41,500 or the ‘going rate’ for their job, whichever is higher
  • Their sponsor has paid any required Immigration Skills Charge
  • They have enough money to support themselves without relying on public funds
  • They have provided a valid TB certificate, if required

The exact requirements the foreign national will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

REPRESENTATIVE OF AN OVERSEAS BUSINESS VISA

The Representative of an Overseas Business visa category is for businesses that wish to send a senior employee to the U.K. in order to establish a commercial presence for the overseas company in the U.K. 

What is a Representative of an Overseas Business visa?

The Representative of an Overseas Business visa allows a senior employee of an overseas business to come to the U.K. to set up and run a U.K. branch or wholly owned subsidiary of the overseas parent company.

Requirements for a Representative of an Overseas Business visa

In order to qualify for a Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa, the foreign national employee will need to satisfy the Home Office that their overseas company:

  • Is an active and trading overseas business
  • Has its headquarters and principal place of business outside the United Kingdom
  • Has no other active branch, subsidiary or representative in the U.K.
  • Intends to establish a registered branch or wholly owned subsidiary in the U.K. that will actively trade in the same business activity as the overseas business
  • The overseas business will not be established, or the sole representative appointed, mainly for the purpose of facilitating the entry or stay of the sole representative
  • Intends to maintain the centre of its operations overseas.

The foreign national employee will also need to demonstrate that they:

  • Are a genuine Representative of an Overseas Business
  • Are an existing senior employee of the overseas business
  • Have been recruited and taken on as an employee of the overseas business outside of the U.K.
  • Have the skills, experience and knowledge of the business necessary to undertake the role of sole representative of the overseas business in the U.K.
  • Have full authority to negotiate and take operational decisions on behalf of the overseas business
  • Intend to work full-time as a representative of the overseas business
  • Do not intend to engage in business of their own or work for any other business
  • Do not have a majority stake in, or otherwise own or control, a majority of the overseas business, whether that ownership or control is by means of a shareholding, partnership agreement, sole proprietorship or any other arrangement
  • Can show English language ability to at least CEFR Level A1 (speaking and listening)
  • Can show they can adequately maintain and accommodate themselves and their dependants in the U.K., without recourse to public funds

The route can lead to settlement and applicants can be joined in the U.K. by dependent partners and children.

The exact requirements that they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

FRONTIER WORKER PERMIT

Frontier Worker Permits are available to EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who are not primarily resident in the U.K. but who are, or fall to be treated as, working or self-employed in the U.K. (also known as cross-border commuters). From 1 July 2021, it will be mandatory for all Frontier Workers (except Irish citizens) to hold a Frontier Worker Permit in order to enter the U.K. as a Frontier Worker. 

The family members of Frontier Workers may apply for an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit.

Requirements for a Frontier Worker Permit

In order to qualify for a Frontier Worker Permit, the foreign national will need to satisfy all of the following:

  •  They are an EEA, EU or Swiss national
  • They are not primarily resident in the U.K.
  • They are either a worker or self-employed person in the U.K. or a retained worker or self-employed person in the U.K.

They must meet these criteria immediately before 31 December 2020 and have been met continuously since.

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

YOUTH MOBILITY SCHEME VISA

The Youth Mobility Scheme visa is for young adults from participating countries and territories who wish to experience life in the United Kingdom for a period of up to two years.

Requirements for a Youth Mobility Scheme Visa

In order to qualify for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa, the foreign national will need to satisfy the Home Office that:

  • They are aged between 18 and 30 on the date of the application
  • They are a citizen of Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, Monaco, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, or San Marino or are a British overseas citizen, a British Overseas Territories citizen or a British national (overseas)
  • They have funds of £2,530 which they have held for a 28-day period within the 31 days before their application
  • They do not have any children under 18 who are living with them or are financially dependent on them
  • They have not previously been in the U.K. on the Youth Mobility Scheme route
  • They have paid the visa application fee and Immigration Health Charge and provided any required biometric information
  • They have taken a tuberculosis test, if required
  • They do not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

TIER 5 TEMPORARY WORKER VISA

The Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa category is for certain types of temporary workers whose entry to the U.K. will help to satisfy cultural, charitable, religious or international objectives. The foreign national will need to have an offer of a position from a Home Office-approved sponsor company (i.e., a company that holds a suitable Sponsor Licence) before applying for a visa.

What are the main eligibility requirements for a Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa?

Each subcategory has its own eligibility requirements:

Creative and Sporting: 

Creative: The Creative and Sporting subcategory of the Tier 5 Temporary Worker route is for individuals who have been offered work as a creative worker (including, but not limited to, actors, dancers, musicians and film crew) or sportsperson.

If the foreign national applies for a Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa as a creative worker, they will need to demonstrate that they can make a unique contribution to the U.K. labour market and that they will be paid the minimum salary as set by Equity, PACT or BECTU.

Sporting: If the foreign national applies for a Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa as a sportsperson, they will need to be endorsed by the governing body for their sport and demonstrate that they will make a significant contribution to that sport at the highest level in the U.K.

Charity Worker: 

The foreign national can apply for a Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa in the Charity Worker sub-category if they wish to undertake unpaid voluntary work for a charity. The work that they intend to undertake in the U.K. must relate directly to the charity which is sponsoring them, and the position must not be a permanent position.

Religious Worker:

If the foreign national would like to undertake religious work, for example preaching or working in a religious order, they may be able to apply for a Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa in the Religious Worker sub-category. The salary and conditions will need to be at least equal to that received by settled workers in the same role. The employer may need to conduct a Resident Labour Market Test and advertise the role to ensure that there are no suitable settled workers who could undertake the position, which in some circumstances will entail providing evidence of a national recruitment search.

Government Authorised Exchange: 

The Temporary Worker Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) route is for individuals who wish to come to the U.K. for a short time (for up to 12 months) for work experience or to complete training, an Overseas Government Language Programme, research or a fellowship through an approved Government Authorised Exchange scheme.

International Agreement: 

Foreign nationals can apply for a Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa in the International Agreement sub-category if, while in the U.K., they will be contracted to undertake work that is covered by international law. For example, working for a foreign government or as a private servant in a diplomatic household. The foreign national will normally need to have professional experience in the relevant sector before they can apply under this route.

TALENT VISAS

START-UP VISA

The. Start-up visa is for foreign nationals who are new entrepreneurs and want to establish a business in the U.K. for the first time. They do not need to be a graduate or have secured any initial funding. However, they will need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which has been approved by an endorsing body.

Start-up visas are one-off visas, valid for two years, and the category does not lead directly to settlement in the U.K. However, Start-up visa holders may extend their stay in the Innovator visa category and then qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain three years later. Start-up visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the U.K.

For whom is the Start-up visa suitable?

The Start-up visa category is suitable for early stage, but high potential, entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business in the U.K. for the first time.

Generally, Start-up visa applicants will not already have started setting up their business in the U.K. However, where they have, the new business should not yet have started trading. The only exceptions to this are if the applicant has already been granted leave under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) categories, or under the Tier 4 doctorate extension scheme.

If the foreign national is an experienced businessperson seeking to establish a business in the U.K., then the Innovator visa may be more appropriate. If they wish to join an already trading business, then the Skilled Worker visa may be more appropriate. If they wish to invest in an already trading business, then they may wish to consider the Tier 1 Investor visa route.  If they are a senior employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the U.K., then they may like to consider the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

Requirements for a Start-up Visa

In order to qualify for a Start-up visa, foreign nationals will need to satisfy the Home Office that:

  • They are at least 18 years old
  • They have not previously established a business in the U.K. (unless they previously held leave as a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur)
  • They have been endorsed by an approved U.K. endorsing body that has assessed their business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and is satisfied that they will spend the majority of their working time in the U.K. on developing their business venture
  • The endorsement letter was issued not more than three months before the date of the Start-up visa application
  • They genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the U.K. stated in their application
  • They are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2
  • If they are outside the U.K. or have been in the U.K. for less than 12 months then they have at least £1,270 to support themselves, plus £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child

The exact requirements that they will need to satisfy may vary depending on the circumstances of their case.

INNOVATOR VISA

The Innovator visa category is for foreign nationals who are experienced businesspersons seeking to establish a business in the U.K. In most cases the foreign national will need to have access to at least £50,000 to invest in their business (or have already invested £50,000 in their business), but certain exceptions apply. They will also need to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea which is approved and supported by an endorsing body.

Innovator visas are valid for three years and can lead directly to indefinite leave to remain in the U.K. at the end of this period. Innovator visa applicants can bring their partner and any children under the age of 18 to the U.K..

For Whom is the Innovator visa suitable?

The Innovator visa category is suitable for experienced businesspersons who are looking to set up a new business in the U.K. which is innovative, viable and scalable. Foreign national applicants are expected to present a new business idea. Generally, the business will not already exist. However, where it does, the new business should not yet have fully started trading.

The foreign national can work on their own as a sole founder or together as part of an entrepreneurial team. Joint venture arrangements may also be acceptable.

The business idea may relate to any sector, provided the business idea is sufficiently innovative, viable and scalable.

If the foreign national wishes to join an already trading business, then the Skilled Worker visa may be more appropriate. If they wish to invest in an already trading business, then they may wish to consider the Tier 1 Investor visa route.  If they are a senior employee of an overseas business looking to establish a commercial presence in the U.K., then they may like to consider the Sole Representative of an Overseas Business visa.

Requirements for an Innovator Visa

In order to qualify for an Innovator visa, the foreign national will need to satisfy the Home Office that:

  • They are at least 18 years old
  • They have at least £50,000 available to invest in their U.K. business or have already invested £50,000 in the U.K. business
  • If applying to set up a new business venture, they have been endorsed by an approved U.K. endorsing body that has positively assessed their business idea for innovation, viability and scalability and is satisfied that they will spend their entire working time in the U.K. on developing their business venture
  • If applying to continue the same business venture as in their initial application, they have been endorsed by an approved U.K. endorsing body that is satisfied that they have shown significant achievements judged against the business plan assessed in their previous endorsement, they are registered with Companies House as a Director or Member of their business, their business is actively trading and appears sustainable for at least the following 12 months, they have had an active key role in the day-to-day management and development of the business and they will spend their entire working time in the U.K. on developing their business ventures
  • Their endorsement letter was issued not more than three months before the date of their Innovator visa application
  • They genuinely intend to undertake, and are capable of undertaking, any work or business activity in the U.K. stated in their application
  • They are competent in the English language to at least CEFR Level B2
  • If they are outside the U.K. or have been in the U.K. for less than 12 months, they have at least £1,270 to support themselves, plus £285 for a dependent partner, £315 for a first child and £200 for each additional child

The exact requirements that they will need to satisfy may vary depending on their circumstances of the case.

GLOBAL TALENT VISA

The Global Talent visa is for talented and promising foreign nationals in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology, arts and culture wishing to work in the U.K.

For whom is the Global Talent visa suitable?

The Global Talent immigration category is open to talented and promising foreign nationals within the science, engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology, the arts and culture (including film and television, fashion design and architecture) sectors. ‘Talent’ applicants will already be leaders in their respective field, while ‘promise’ applicants will be able to show the potential to become leaders in their field. The Global Talent category is not subject to a cap on the number of applicants, does not require a job offer and can lead to settlement in the U.K.

Global Talent Visa Requirements

In order to apply for a Global Talent visa, the foreign national will first need to receive an endorsement from an appropriate endorsing body. The foreign national can be endorsed in the fields of science, engineering, medicine, humanities, digital technology, the arts and culture (including film and television, fashion design and architecture).

The relevant Home Office approved endorsing bodies are as follows:

  • The Royal Society — for natural and medical science applications
  • The Royal Academy of Engineering — for engineering applications
  • The British Academy — for humanities and social science applications
  • Arts Council England — for arts, culture, fashion, architecture, film and television applications
  • Tech Nation — for digital technology applications
  • U.K. Research and Innovation (UKRI) — for science and research applications 

Each endorsing body has its own set of criteria, but in each case, they will need a substantial body of work and support from experts in their field. The application process for a Global Talent visa is split into two stages. Stage one is applying for endorsement as a leader or an emerging leader in their particular field. The application must be made to the Home Office.

However, it is the actual endorsing body that will assess whether to issue them with an endorsement. Among other things, they will consider their skills, abilities and achievements, and advise the Home Office whether the endorsement should be granted. Stage two is applying for the Global Talent visa. During stage two, the Home Office takes into consideration immigration-related aspects, including whether any of the general grounds for refusal apply. Once the foreign national has been endorsed, they will be able to apply for a Global Talent visa.

INVESTOR VISAS

INVESTOR VISA

The Investor visa category is for foreign nationals who are able to make a substantial financial investment in the U.K. In order to qualify for an Investor visa, they will need to have access to at least £2 million and be willing to invest their funds in actively trading U.K. companies.

What is an Investor visa?

The Investor visa category is for high net worth foreign nationals who are willing and able to make a substantial financial investment in the U.K. Investor visa holders are permitted to work, study and engage in business activities. They can also be accompanied or joined by their dependants. The Investor visa typically leads to settlement in the U.K. after a period of five years. Accelerated settlement is available to Investor visa holders who invest higher amounts at specified levels in the U.K.

What are the main Investor visa requirements?

In order to qualify for an Investor visa, the foreign national will need to satisfy the following requirements:

  • Have funds amounting to at least £2 million belonging to them, their partner or both jointly
  • The money is held in a regulated financial institution
  • The money is freely transferable to the U.K. and able to be converted to pounds sterling
  • They have opened a bank account with a U.K. regulated bank for the purpose of investing not less than £2 million in the U.K.

If the foreign national has held their investment funds for less than two years, they will need to prove the source of their funds and, in every case, the Home Office will need to be satisfied as to the provenance of these funds.

If applying for an Investor visa from overseas, the foreign national and any adult dependants will need to provide an overseas criminal record certificate for any country that they have lived in for at least 12 months in the last 10 years.

As an Investor visa applicant, they will not need to satisfy any English language or maintenance funds requirement.

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

FAMILY VISAS

SPOUSE/PARTNER VISA

The Spouse/Partner visa category is for partners of British citizens, persons with indefinite leave to remain in the U.K. or limited leave to remain under Appendix EU or Appendix ECAA, who wish to join or stay with their spouse or partner in the U.K. The foreign national can also apply for a Spouse/Partner visa if their Spouse/Partner is outside the U.K. but intending to return to the U.K. with them.

Requirements for a Spouse/Partner Visa Application

In order to qualify for a Spouse/Partner visa, foreign nationals will need to satisfy the Home Office that they meet the following requirements:

  • Their spouse/partner is British, holds indefinite leave to remain, limited leave to remain under Appendix EU or limited leave to remain under Appendix ECAA
  • They are both over the age of 18
  • They have met in person and are legally married/in a civil partnership
  • Their relationship is genuine, and they intend to live together permanently in the U.K.
  • Any previous relationships have broken down permanently
  • They will be adequately maintained in the U.K. without recourse to public funds
  • There is adequate accommodation for them and any dependents
  • They speak and understand English to the required level

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

UNMARRIED PARTNER VISA

The Unmarried Partner visa category is for long term partners of British citizens, persons with indefinite leave to remain in the U.K. or limited leave to remain under Appendix EU or Appendix ECAA, who wish to join or stay with their partner in the U.K. The foreign national can also apply if their partner is outside the U.K. but intending to return to the U.K. with them.

Requirements for a U.K. Unmarried Partner Visa Application

In order to qualify for a U.K. Unmarried Partner visa, foreign nationals will need to satisfy U.K. Visas and Immigration that they meet the following requirements:

  • Their partner is British, holds indefinite leave to remain, limited leave to remain under Appendix EU or limited leave to remain under Appendix ECAA
  • They are both over the age of 18
  • They have met in person and have lived together in a relationship akin to marriage or civil partnership for at least two years
  • Their relationship is genuine, and they intend to live together permanently
  • Any previous relationships have broken down permanently
  • They will be adequately maintained in the U.K. without recourse to public funds
  • There is adequate accommodation for any dependents
  • They speak and understand English to the required level

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

FIANCÉ(E) VISA

The Fiancé(e) visa category is for engaged partners of British citizens, persons with indefinite leave to remain in the U.K. or limited leave to remain under Appendix EU or Appendix ECAA who wish to enter the U.K. and marry within 6 months of their arrival. An application for a U.K. Fiancé(e) visa must be made from outside the U.K.

Requirements for a Fiancé(e) Visa Application

In order to qualify for a Fiancé(e) visa, the foreign national will need to satisfy the Home Office that:

  • Their partner is British, holds indefinite leave to remain, limited leave to remain under Appendix EU or limited leave to remain under Appendix ECAA
  • They are both over the age of 18
  • They have met in person
  • They are both free to marry
  • Their relationship is genuine, and they intend to live together permanently in the U.K.
  • They intend to marry within six months of their arrival in the U.K.
  • Any previous relationships have broken down permanently
  • They will be adequately maintained in the U.K. without recourse to public funds
  • There is adequate accommodation for them and any dependents
  • They speak and understand English to the required level

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

ANCESTRY VISA

If the foreign national is a Commonwealth citizen and has a grandparent who was born in the U.K., they may be able to live and work in the U.K. based on their U.K. Ancestry. An Ancestry visa can only be obtained from outside the U.K. 

Requirements for an Ancestry Visa

In order to qualify for an Ancestry visa, the foreign national will need to satisfy the Home Office that:

  • They are a Commonwealth citizen
  • They are aged 17 or over
  • They are able to provide proof that one of their grandparents was born in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, on a British-registered ship or aircraft or in the Republic of Ireland before 31 March 1922
  • Any such grandparent is their blood grandparent or grandparent by reason of an adoption recognised by the laws of the United Kingdom relating to adoption

In addition to satisfying a maintenance and accommodation requirement, they will also need to satisfy the Home Office that they are able to work and intend to take or seek employment or self-employment in the United Kingdom.

The route can lead to settlement and applicants can be joined in the U.K. by dependent partners and children.

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy when applying for an Ancestry visa will vary depending on their circumstances.

EU NATIONALS LIVING IN THE U.K. BEFORE 31 DECEMBER 2020

EU SETTLEMENT SCHEME: SETTLED STATUS

The EU Settlement Scheme is open to resident EU, EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who started living in the U.K. by 31 December 2020, and who wish to remain in the U.K. after 30 June 2021.

Eligible persons who have already completed a continuous five-year period of qualifying residence in the U.K. at time of application will be granted indefinite leave, also known as Settled Status. If they are not eligible for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme solely because they have not completed a continuous qualifying period of residence of at least five years, then they will be granted Pre-Settled Status.

Requirements for Settled Status

In order to qualify for Settled Status, the EU, EEA or Swiss national will need to satisfy at least one of the following:

  • They are a relevant EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or
  • They are a family member of a relevant EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or
  • They are a family member who has retained the right of residence by virtue of a relationship with a relevant EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or
  • They are a person with a derivative right to reside, or
  • They are a person with a Zambrano right to reside

Additionally, the applicant must have started living in the U.K. by 31 December 2020 and have completed a continuous qualifying period of residence of at least five years.

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

EU SETTLEMENT SCHEME: PRE-SETTLED STATUS

The EU Settlement Scheme is open to resident EU, EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who started living in the U.K. by 31 December 2020, and who wish to remain in the U.K. after 30 June 2021.

Eligible persons who have not completed a continuous five-year period of qualifying residence in the U.K. at the time of application will be granted a period of five years’ limited leave, also known as Pre-Settled Status. An application for Settled Status can be submitted once the five-year period of qualifying residence in the U.K. has been completed.

Requirements for Pre-Settled Status

In order to qualify for Pre-Settled Status, the EU, EEA or Swiss national will need to satisfy at least one of the following:

  • They are a relevant EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or
  • They are a family member of a relevant EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or
  • They are a family member who has retained the right of residence by virtue of a relationship with a relevant EEA citizen, or
  • They are a person with a derivative right to reside, or
  • They are a person with a Zambrano right to reside

Additionally, the applicant must have started living in the U.K. by 31 December 2020, and they must not be eligible for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme solely because they have not completed a continuous qualifying period of residence of at least five years.

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

EEA FAMILY PERMITS

An EEA Family Permit is a document issued to non-EEA nationals living outside the European Union who would like to travel to the U.K. with an EEA national family member or join an EEA national family member in the U.K.

What are the main eligibility requirements for an EEA Family Permit?

In order to qualify for an EEA Family Permit, foreign nationals will need to satisfy the Home Office that:

  • They are a citizen of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • They are the relevant family member of a relevant person, within the meaning of regulation three of the Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020
  • The relevant person must have been lawfully resident in the U.K. by 31 December 2021, under the EEA Regulations 2016 or have a right of permanent residence in the U.K. and have not been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme prior to the specified date.

What else do I need to know about the EEA Family Permit?

An EEA Family Permit is valid for six months. EEA Family Permit holders are free to leave and enter the U.K. as many times as they wish within that six-month period.

There is no fee payable to apply for an EEA Family Permit and the application will be given priority by the Home Office.

However, after 30 June 2021, no one will be able to apply for or enter the U.K. using an EEA Family Permit.

STUDENT AND GRADUATE VISAS

STUDENT VISA

The Student visa category is for foreign nationals who are aged 16 or over and who wish to study on a further or higher education course in the U.K.

Requirements for a Student Visa

In order to qualify for a Student visa, the foreign national will need to satisfy the Home Office that:

  • They are aged 16 or over
  • They have been offered an unconditional place on an approved course with a licensed student sponsor
  • They can read, write, speak and understand English to at least CEFR Level B2 (if studying at degree level or above) or CEFR Level B1 (if studying at below degree level)
  • They have enough money to support themselves and pay for their course without relying on public funds
  • They have the consent of their parent(s) or legal guardian if they are 16 or 17 years old

If the foreign national is between four and 17 years old and wish to study at an independent school in the U.K., they should apply for a Child Student visa instead.

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

GRADUATE VISA

The Graduate Immigration Route will allow international students who have completed an eligible U.K. degree to stay in the U.K. to work, or look for work, for two years (three years for those being awarded doctorates) after they have completed their studies.

The Graduate Immigration Route will not lead directly to settlement, but graduates on the route will be able switch into other work-based routes which can lead to settlement. The Graduate Immigration Route will open for new applications from 1 July 2021.

Requirements of the Graduate Immigration Route

In order to qualify for permission to stay on the Graduate Immigration Route, the foreign national will need to satisfy the Home office that:

  • They have successfully completed a U.K. degree, or another eligible course
  • They have studied at a Higher Education Provider which is a student sponsor with a track record of compliance
  • They have spent a minimum period of time studying in the U.K.
  • They are applying from within the U.K. and have valid leave as a Student or Tier 4 Student at the date of application
  • They have not previously held permission on the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES), or the Graduate route
  • They do not fall for refusal on grounds of suitability

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

OTHER VISA CATEGORIES

HONG KONG BN(O) VISA

The Hong Kong BN(O) visa is an immigration route for Hong Kong British National (Overseas) citizens and their close family members (including non-BN(O)s) to live, work and study in the U.K.

The Hong Kong BN(O) visa route opened on 31 January 2021. Applications can be made from outside or within the U.K. and there is no quota on the number of visas issued.

Requirements for a Hong Kong BN(O) Visa

The requirements for a Hong Kong British National (Overseas) visa are as follows:

  • BN(O) Status: The main foreign national applicant must be a British National (Overseas).
  • Dependency: The following family members are eligible to apply as dependents of the main BN(O) visa applicant, if they normally live with them: a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, a child (under the age of 18), an adult child born on or after 1 July 1997 (and their spouse, or child under the age of 18), and other family members (parent, grandparent, brother, sister, son or daughter) in exceptional circumstances where there is a high level of dependency.
  • Residency: If applying from outside the U.K., the main applicant and any family members applying at the same time must normally live in Hong Kong. If applying from within the U.K., the main foreign national applicant and any family members applying at the same time must normally live in Hong Kong, the U.K., Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man.
  • Financial: Unless the main foreign national applicant has been living in the U.K. with valid leave for 12 months or more, the main foreign national applicant and dependents must be able to demonstrate their ability to accommodate and support themselves in the U.K. for at least six months.
  • Character: The main foreign national applicant and dependents must have no serious criminal convictions, no behaviour not conducive to the public good, and not be subject to other general grounds for refusal.
  • English: The main foreign national applicant and dependents must be committed to learning English in the U.K.
  • TB: The main foreign national applicant and dependents must each have a valid TB Certificate from an approved clinic, where necessary.
  • Fees: The main foreign national applicant and dependents must pay the visa application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge fee.

The exact requirements they will need to satisfy will vary depending on their circumstances.

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