UK Immigration & Nationality Lawyers

An overview of the UK immigration system

An overview of the UK immigration system

“I would like to immigrate to the UK, can you help me with the visa?” – this is one of the most typical questions we hear and this page is to help you understand in general terms how the UK immigration system works.

What type of visa do I need in order to work in the UK?

If you want to work for an employer, the employer has to “sponsor” you as a skilled worker unless you fall into one of the categories which do not require sponsorship (for which see below).

The visa you will be applying for is called Tier 2 General visa.

The first step in the process is to find a prospective employer. If the employer is happy to offer you a job, they will have to follow certain procedures in order to meet the Home Office requirements related to sponsorship of non-British workers.

Only the jobs which require professional skills or are at a managerial level can be sponsored.  However, they do not have to be on the shortage occupation list. The employer has to demonstrate that they have a genuine vacancy and have been unable to find a local candidate for this position. Employers sponsoring a foreign worker should hold a Tier 2 sponsorship licence. If they don’t, they have to apply for the licence first. On average, an application for a sponsorship licence takes from two to three months.

We can help the employer with the resident labour market test and sponsorship licence application, but the first thing you should do is book a consultation so that we can confirm that the job will be supported by the immigration rules with regard to the level of skills, job title and salary.

Who does not need a sponsorship?

If you are a Commonwealth citizen and have a UK born grandparent you do not need a sponsor. You can apply for an ancestry visa which will give you the right to take up employment or set up a business. You can also come to the UK to look for a suitable position as long as you have sufficient funds to support yourself during this process. This visa will allow you to settle, or apply for indefinite leave to remain, after five years of residence.

Some types of temporary work are authorised under the so called Tier 5 system. However, this route does not lead to settlement.

Entrepreneurs and Investors

Entrepreneurs and investors are immigration categories for high net-worth individuals who wish to invest into their own business (normally an amount of not less than £200,000) and actively run this business in the UK (this is called Entrepreneur visa) or to invest into the British economy an amount of at least £2 million (this is called Investor visa).

Investors enjoy certain privileges in comparison with entrepreneurs. For example, they have the right to take up employment in the UK, while entrepreneurs can only be self-employed or be employed in their own business. Investors are not responsible for the creation of jobs and do not have to be actively involved in the business where their money is invested.

Other immigration categories

Spouse or unmarried partner visa

This is a visa for the partners of British citizens or persons with indefinite leave to remain. Partner visa holders have the right to work in the UK without restrictions. Indefinite leave to remain is normally granted after five years of residence.

Dependents of non-settled migrants

Dependents of Points-based system migrants (sponsored workers, entrepreneurs, investors, working holiday-makers) or of the holders of other work permitting visas are allowed to work without restriction. For example, if a sponsored worker is only allowed to work for the employer who sponsored him or her, the partner of a sponsored worker can take up any job, set up a new business or work as a free-lance.

Other types of visa and immigration categories

  • visitor’s visa (usually for visits of up to 6 months);
  • student visa under Tier 4 of the Points Based System for those who wish to study in the UK;
  • Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) and their family members are free from immigration restrictions but now need residence documents to prove their status – see EEA applications

If you are a non-visa national visiting the UK as a tourist or to see your friends and family you do not normally need a visa.

If you are coming to the UK to work or study, or to settle in the UK with your partner, parents or children, you do require a visa even if you are a non-visa national.

If you have lived lawfully in the UK for a continuous period of 10 years you can apply for indefinite leave to remain on the basis of long residence independently of the type of visas you have held over this period of time.

We are experts in UK immigration law and will be happy to offer you advice, guidance and representation. This page is a general outline of the immigration field, for details, book a consultation with one of our lawyers.

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