A UK Immigration Solicitors Guide on Moving to the UK banner


A UK Immigration Solicitors Guide on Moving to the UK

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In this article, our specialist immigration lawyers guide you through the basics of your UK visa options if you want to live, work or study in the UK.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors 

For immigration law advice call London-based OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

UK entry clearance

If you want to move to the UK from overseas you will probably need a visa unless you are a returning British citizen. Even if you previously lived in the UK and secured indefinite leave to remain you may need a return visa if you have been absent from the UK for over two years.

If you are interested in moving to the UK permanently it is never too early to take some immigration legal advice on your visa options and to gain an understanding of how the UK points-based immigration system works. That way our immigration lawyers can assess which visa best meets your settlement goals and if you meet the eligibility criteria.

Immigration status

You will find that UK immigration lawyers talk about ‘immigration status’. In the UK having lawful immigration status is crucial as without that you will not have the right to live in the UK or the right to do some other things, such as open a bank account, rent a property to live in, or work.

Not all visas allow you to work in the UK. Some visas do not allow you to work at all whilst others restrict your right to work to employment with a sponsoring employer with a sponsor licence or to restricted part-time hours or to specified job roles.

The right to rent and right to work rules are enforced against landlords and employers so they will be wary of the civil and financial consequences of renting a property to you or employing you unless you have the right immigration status.

It is important to talk to your immigration solicitor about your plans so they can make sure that you can apply for the visa that is right for you. For example, if you want to set up a business in the UK the innovator founder visa may be your best option. Alternatively, if you are an international student wanting to study in the UK it is important to understand the student visa work conditions to ensure you know the extent to which you will be able to work in the UK whilst studying.

UK immigration routes

The UK has adopted a points-based immigration system with a whole range of different visas that can be categorised into four main types:

  • Family visa: spouse visa, dependant visa, partner visa, civil partner visa, and adult dependant relative visa
  • Study visa: student visa
  • Work visa: skilled worker visa, health and care worker visa, graduate visa, senior or specialist worker visa, high potential individual visa, and scale-up visa
  • Business visa: global talent visa and innovator founder visa
  • Temporary visa: visitor visa, seasonal worker visa

The UK immigration system is more complicated than set out above and you have potentially numerous visa options, such as the ancestry visa or one of the five routes under the global business mobility visa. If you are an EU national, or the family member of an EU national, you may still be entitled to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Family visas

Family visas cover a range of different family applications but the most popular is the dependant visa as every family member accompanying a main visa applicant will require a dependant visa unless they qualify for a visa in their own right. A dependant visa lasts for as long as the main visa applicant’s visa. If the main visa applicant’s visa is curtailed (ended early) anyone in the UK on an associated dependant visa will need to leave the UK at the same time as the main visa applicant.

The positive about a dependant visa is that a dependant will normally qualify for indefinite leave to remain at the same time as the main visa applicant, provided that they have met the ILR residence requirement and general eligibility criteria.

Another popular family visa is the spouse visa. Partner visas are also gaining in popularity as people realise that they do not have to be married to a sponsoring partner to qualify for a partner visa. However, you do need to be in a relationship akin to marriage and the relationship must have been ongoing for at least two years.

To qualify for a spouse or partner visa you or your sponsoring partner need to meet a financial requirement as well as meet other eligibility criteria. However, if you do qualify for a spouse visa you can work whilst in the UK and your employment is not limited to jobs where an employer holds a sponsor licence. In addition, your permitted hours of work are not limited.

Work visas

The most popular type of work visa is the skilled worker visa. The health and care worker visa is part of the skilled visa route but offers advantages if you fall within the criteria of an eligible health or care job. Both visas require you to have sponsored employment with an employer who holds a Home Office-issued sponsor licence to sponsor your employment.

For a job to qualify for a skilled worker or health and care worker visa, it must be on a list of government-approved jobs and be allocated a standard occupational classification code. The job also needs to meet the minimum skills and salary threshold criteria.

Whilst a work visa isn’t reliant on the continuation of a personal relationship (unlike the spouse visa) it is reliant on your continuing in sponsored employment. If you lose your sponsored job your visa will be curtailed (normally to sixty days) giving you sixty days to find another job with an employer who can sponsor your employment. If that isn’t possible you will need to switch visa or leave the country.

Business visas

A business visa involves setting up a business in the UK. The government has recently introduced the innovator founder visa replacing the start-up visa and the innovator visa. To qualify for the innovator founder visa, you do not need a minimum level of funding but your business idea must be innovative, viable, and scalable. The innovator founder visa can lead to accelerated settlement in the UK so it is an attractive option for some entrepreneurs.

 How OTS Solicitors can help

With so many visa options it is important to drill down and work out what is important to you. For example, if you are already in the UK on a student visa and want to stay and work in the UK you have lots of choices including the skilled worker visa and the graduate visa. The graduate visa may be the better option for you if you want flexibility. That’s because, on a graduate visa, you don’t need a sponsoring employer and can work in any type of job. However, unlike the skilled worker visa, time spent on the graduate visa does not lead or count towards the residence requirement to apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Our specialist immigration solicitors can talk you through the full range of visa options and assess which visa is likely to be the best fit for you to achieve your goals.

UK Online and London-Based Immigration Solicitors 

For immigration law advice call London-based OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.

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