Relocating to the UK: a brief guide

There are many visa options available to individuals or families looking to relocating to the UK. The best route for each person will depend on the main purpose of their relocation and their long term plans.

Individuals may have an link to the UK already, either through marriage or ancestry, and these routes can allow people to relocate to the UK without significant investment or sponsorship from a company.

Pre-existing links are:

  • Married to a British citizen – if your partner is a British citizen it may be possible to obtain a visa to reside in the UK with them. As part of this application, you need to demonstrate that your relationship is genuine, that you can speak English, and, that either your partner earns at least £18,600 per year and has a job in the UK, or, that you have at least £62,500 in savings.
  • Ancestry – if you are a Commonwealth citizen and have a grandparent who was born in the UK you may be eligible for this visa. You also need to demonstrate that you intend to work in the UK.
  • European – at present, European nationals and their families have a right to reside in the UK, work in the UK or study in the UK. However, this is likely to end should the UK leave the EU.

Most people will not have an established link to the UK and therefore have to rely on other visa routes. One of these options to invest in the UK and apply for a visa on this basis. The types of visas available are:

  • Tier 1 (Investor) – if you have at least £2 million available for investment in the UK then this visa allows you and your family to live, work or study in the UK. You will need to invest in share or loan capital in UK active and trading companies and the investment must be held for the duration of the visa.
  • Start-up/Innovator visa – these categories are relatively new and require the applicant to have an innovative, viable and scalable business idea that is endorsed by a Home Office registered endorsing body. Under the innovator route you also need to demonstrate that you have £50,000 available for investment in your business.
  • Sole representative of an overseas business – if you are looking to open a branch or subsidiary of your current business you may be able to obtain a visa to allow you to do this. You need to be able to demonstrate that the business currently has no UK presence and that the main office will remain outside of the UK.
  • Exceptional talent – if you are recognised as a leader or future leader in technology, science, humanities, the arts or engineering you may be able to apply for this visa. You will need an endorsement from a Home Office appointed body.

Alternatively, if you are highly skilled and have a job offer in the UK or your current company is sending you to a UK branch, you may be able to apply under the Tier 2 sponsorship route. The employer in the UK will need to have a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence and your employment must be in a graduate level role. To obtain a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence the UK company will need to demonstrate to the Home Office that it is active and trading, has appropriate systems in place to monitor migrant workers and comply with the Home Office sponsorship duties. Once the Tier 2 licence is obtained the UK company may then be able to issue a Certificate of Sponsorship to an individual to allow them to apply for a Tier 2 visa to work in the UK.

Many of the above visa categories will allow you to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK (“ILR”) after five years of residence in each visa category. To be eligible for ILR you will need to demonstrate that you have complied with all your visa conditions over the five year period and that you, and any partner, have not been absent for more than 180 days in any 12 month period.

Finally, if you are studying in the UK or have a child under the age of 12 that is studying in the UK you may be able to obtain visas to reside in the UK:

  • Tier 4 (General) – if you plan on pursuing a degree or post-graduate course you may be able to apply for a Tier 4 visa. Depending on the level of the course you may bring family members and can work for a set number of hours a week. You will need to demonstrate that you can pay all your course fees and living costs.
  • Tier 4 (Child) and Parent of Child – if your child is studying in the UK at an independent fee paying school they may be eligible for a Tier 4 (Child) visa. If you child is under 12 years old then one parent can apply for a visa to remain with them, provided that the other parent will remain based outside the UK.

The above is a short summary of some of the options available and does not cover all the requirements for each category. We often work with individuals and families to tailor visa options to their specific needs and long term plans.

For more information, please contact Jessica Good.