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FAQs: Immigrating to the UK


Is permission needed to immigrate to the UK?

British citizens living abroad do not need permission to immigrate to the UK. Some people might have British citizenship even if they have never lived in the UK (for example, they may be British by descent). Citizens of the European Economic Area and Switzerland, and their dependant family members, have very few restrictions on their right to immigrate to the UK.
Citizens of other countries need permission from the Home Office to immigrate to the UK. This normally involves applying for a visa (sometimes known as “entry clearance”) from the UK Border Agency and, subsequently, for further permissions to extend their stay.

What are the requirements to get a UK visa?

There are a number of visa categories, each with its own requirements. People wishing to immigrate to the UK need to apply for a visa that allows them to live and work here on a long-term basis. These include visas for partners of British citizens and people settled in the UK; for people with a job offer from an employer licensed to sponsor migrant workers; potential investors and entrepreneurs; and Commonwealth citizens with UK ancestry.

How long does a visa let you stay for?

This largely depends on the visa category. Long-term visas such as the examples above would typically be valid for two or three years.
When a visa expires, it is necessary to apply for an extension (known as an application for “leave to remain”). After a certain period, normally five years, the individual may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. However, not all visa holders are able to extend their stay in the UK or to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain. For example, foreign employees of an international company who are sent to work for the UK branch can only stay for a set period after which they have to leave the UK for a 12 month “cooling off period”.

How about British Citizenship?

Immigrants to the UK may be able to naturalise as British citizens once they lived here for a certain amount of time.  This is normally five years, including one year with Indefinite Leave to Remain.
If you would like to obtain legal advice on immigrating to the UK, Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local solicitors please call us on 0800 177 7162 or complete the web-form above.
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