If you want to move to the UK from abroad, you must be eligible for a visa under British immigration rules. There are several different types of visas that allow entrance to the UK. In order to facilitate the immigration process – each one will depend on your personal circumstances and will have different time limits as well as conditions attached. For example, if you wish to come to the UK on a business visit or study at one of our universities, you may be granted leave for six months or even longer. This type of visa is called ‘temporary entry clearance’. Alternatively, if you are moving to the UK with your family and intend to settle here permanently, then you can apply for settlement – this is also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
For immigration purposes, the UK is divided into three regions: England, Wales and Scotland. These share some immigration policies, but there are also key differences depending on where you wish to settle in the country. For instance, if you live in Northern Ireland, then immigration policy may be different from that applied in England or Wales due to agreements with the Republic of Ireland. Remember also that immigration rules vary according to your nationality – EU citizens will have more flexibility than those who come from outside Europe.
If you’re a highly skilled migrant looking to move here, then it’s important for you to find an immigration adviser (or solicitor) who can help ensure that your application goes smoothly. The Home Office oversees immigration and visas for foreign nationals wishing to move to the UK. For more details, including immigration policy relating to specific countries and visa categories, visit our immigration page.
If you’re in an actual relationship with a British or settled person and wish to move here with them, then you may be able to apply for settlement after living together for two years. If one of those years is spent in marriage (or civil partnership), you can qualify immediately. This immigration route is known as ‘family life’ immigration. ‘Families with pre-existing relationships’ immigration applies if you are moving here from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and will allow you to join your spouse, partner or parent who lives permanently in the UK without having lived together beforehand.
However, this route has different immigration rules depending on your nationality: non-EEA nationals must live together for two years to gain settlement in the UK, while EEA citizens must only have lived together one year before applying. For more details about immigration policy relating to this type of immigration, visit our same-sex relationships immigration page.
If you are thinking about bringing members of your family or a loved one over from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland – permanently or temporarily – there are different immigration routes depending on their relationship with you and on which country they are moving from. You can find information about visas associated with particular countries on our immigration page. It is always advisable to speak with a team of immigration solicitors before planning a move to the UK to make sure that all your documents are in order and you are eligible to move there with no issues. Also, it is advisable that you start planning your immigration process as soon as possible. There is significant demand for visas, and immigration systems are complex. To ensure that your application is successful, you should first seek advice from an immigration lawyer or solicitor specialising in immigration law.