Guide to UK immigration


Immigration can be a tricky topic. Especially if you don’t know where to start. But a little bit of knowledge can go a long way, which is why we’ve put together this guide to UK immigration.

If you’re planning to move to the UK then you will probably need a visa. With such a wide range of visas to apply for though it can seem overwhelming. And most likely, the right visa will depend on your circumstances.

A good starting point is to think about why you want to move to the UK. Is it for work? Do you want to study? Will you be joining family? Or is it for love?

There are different routes for almost every situation, so this guide will go into the main visa pathways to give you an overview of what’s available. As well as take a look at some immigration trends.

That way, you can narrow down your options and find a pathway to suit you.

UK Visas and Immigration

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is a department of the Home Office. It’s responsible for making decisions on around 3 million visa applications each year.

Basically, UKVI decides who is allowed to visit and stay in the country. So, if you want to move to the UK, it will be UKVI that has the final decision on your application.

Work Visas

Work is one of the most common reasons that people move to the UK. And getting a Tier 2 Skilled Worker Visa is how a lot of people make it happen.

There are four types of Skilled Worker Visa:

  • General Visa – most common work visa
  • Intra-company Transfer Visa – for global companies with a UK office
  • Sportsperson Visa – for high-level sports professionals
  • Minister of Religion Visa – for preaching, pastoral or missionary work

Applying for a Tier 2 Skilled Worker Visa involves being sponsored by a British employer. This allows companies to fill positions in skilled occupations like healthcare, accounting and teaching. Especially for roles that can’t be filled by the resident workforce already living in the UK.

It’s not as simple as just being offered a job though. The employer has to pass the Resident Labour Market Test to show that no one else locally can do the role. And the salary offered has to meet the minimum threshold set by the government.

A Skilled Worker Visa isn’t the only work-based route though. Other immigration pathways include entrepreneurship, establishing a start-up and being considered a global talent.

Study visas

Education is another popular reason for people to move to the UK, with around 460,000 international students enrolled at British universities each year.

As a result, the student community in the UK is very multi-cultural with Chinese and Indian nationals making up more than 50 per cent of all international students.

For people looking to move to the UK to study, there are three types of student visas to apply for:

  • General Student Visa – the most common type issued
  • Child Student Visa – for children aged four to 17
  • Short-term Study Visa – for English language students and short courses

All of these categories come under the umbrella of the Tier 4 Student Visa, but you can only apply if you have a confirmed place on a course at an accredited educational institution.

Family visas

Many families around the world live in different countries. But there often comes a time when people either want, or need, to live closer to each other again. And this usually means someone moving to another country.

For people with family living in the UK, there are ways to join them through the Family Visa route, which is divided into four categories:

  • Partner/Spouse Visa
  • Parent Visa
  • Dependent Children
  • Dependent Adult Relatives

The right category will depend on your relationship to the family member in the UK and your own personal circumstances. For example, if you’re retired, engaged or need your family to take care of you.

However, it could be that you want to join family in the UK but don’t qualify for one of the Family Visa categories. In this case, it could be worth pursuing other pathways, like work or study.

Who moves to the UK?

Last year, more than 600,000 people migrated to the UK. That’s a lot of applications for UK Visas and Immigration to process.

A big trend in recent years has been an increase in people from Asia moving to the UK. This is mostly for work, but many people also move to study English or to do a degree course at a British university.

And it’s currently estimated that there are more than two million EU nationals working in the UK. As well as many students from across Europe studying at British universities.

Then there are the commonwealth countries with some citizens eligible to move to the UK with an Ancestry Visa.

The result is a multi-cultural society that attracts people from all over the world.

UK immigration next steps

As you can see, there are many different types of immigration options to move to the UK. The above examples are just a selection of the most common types of visas issued.

But if you’re considering an overseas move, it’s a good idea to research further into the types of visa routes available. That way you can find out which one is best and what you will need to apply.

Immigration Experts is a great place to start with our archive of articles, as well as the UK government website. It can also be useful to speak to an immigration advisor before planning your next steps.

Article Created By Hayley Maguire

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